City of Tampa Celebrates Seventh Annual Pride Festival

By Emma Lynch

The city of Tampa celebrated the seventh annual pride festival Saturday, March 26, in Ybor City. 

The festival started at 11 a.m. and went late into the night as locals celebrated diversity and inclusivity. At 11, the street festival began and included food trucks, artisans, and health booths. Attendees enjoyed drinks and live music to prepare for the street parade on 7th avenue at 4 p.m. 

“I’ve never been ashamed of my sexuality necessarily, but attending a pride parade has always felt daunting,” said Maria Colombo, freshman at The University of South Florida. “I’ve lived in Florida my whole life and have always been surrounded by these celebratory events, but being able to attend was definitely different. I’m really happy I was able to experience such a high-energy scene of inclusivity.”

The parade occurred for two hours and was a loud, exhilarating flow of rainbows, beads, music, and excitement. After the parade, the city continued to celebrate at local bars, clubs, and the Cuban Club’s parking lot and first floor. This involved sponsored food, liquor, and beer, and local and national performers with music from DJ Matt Suave. Performers included Kandy Muse, Aja Labeija, Kezra Leon, House of West, and more. Surrounding bars and clubs like Showbar and Southern Nights were open for parade-goers to continue their celebration. 

“I attended pride for the street festival, parade, and nighttime celebrations and it definitely didn’t disappoint,” said James Houlahan, senior at The University of Tampa. “I was able to celebrate and feel proud of who I am alongside all of my close friends while even seeing a few famous drag queens.” 

UT junior Kayla Santopietro walked in the parade alongside grand marshals Joy and Lael for Empath Partners in Care (EPIC), and an Empath Health float. EPIC is a member of Empath Health and is a non-profit for those suffering from HIV and AIDS. 

“I was thrilled to be able to walk with my family and promote such a great nonprofit while celebrating equality,” said Santopietro. I haven’t participated in many events like this before so it was definitely a new experience, but I had a ton of fun and it seemed like the people around me did too.”

EPIC provides free HIV testing, LGBTQ services, medical case management, HIV medical home, counseling, and housing assistance to name a few. The non-profit aims to “improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities, regardless of HIV status, gender or sexual identity, by addressing the social determinants of health,” according to their website. 

“Even though I was just walking, throwing beads, and celebrating, it felt so good to walk for a good cause and keep fighting for healthcare needs,” said Santopietro. “EPIC helps people in so many different ways whether that be assisting in how to use an at home HIV test or supporting LGBTQ elders. It’s so comforting that we are able to come together and help people in the way that they deserve.” 

“As someone used to pride up north, it wasn’t world pride in New York but it was an absolute festival,” said Houlahan. 

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