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Pensacola Beach Pride Weekend Boosts Local Economy

Another Pensacola Beach Pride weekend is in the books.

This Memorial Day weekend, people from all across the country came out to Pensacola Beach to celebrate Pride. People in the LGBT community have flocked to Pensacola Beach since the 1980s to celebrate this event.

“Back then you had to kind of be repressed a little bit,” said longtime Pensacola Beach Pride attendee Jeff Paramore. “The deal was that when you entered Gulf Island National Seashore, you had to drive two miles down. It was a private place to be, and when we all came here, it was only about 500 people.”

Today, Pensacola Beach Pride draws in thousands of people, with some years reaching over 100,000 attendees. But how does this event affect the local economy?

As expected over a holiday weekend such as Memorial Day weekend, many local hotels see an increase in reservations. Manager of Paradise Inn Tracy Bednar stated that roughly 70% of her patrons during Memorial Day weekend are from the Pride event.

“We enjoy it,” said Bednar. “It brings a lot of revenue to our hotel.”

Attendees of Pensacola Beach Pride admitted to paying anywhere from $700 for the weekend to $4,200 for six nights for their lodging. These expenses do not include food, alcohol, or other Pride-related items that attendees might purchase.

Attendee Chris Martin of Atlanta spoke candidly about how much he would spend on other related items during Pride weekend.

“We’ll probably spend $500 by the end of the trip,” he said. “The clubs are kind of expensive.”

Other local businesses, such as bars and restaurants, are also directly impacted by the Pride event. Owner of Sneaky Tiki Bar Jennifer Jackson-Keating spoke about how the Pride event has impacted her business.

“When we look at revenue and who’s coming in, we’re looking at two different demographics,” said Jackson-Keating. “We have people who are traveling because it is a holiday, but we also have the demographic of people who are coming in specifically to celebrate Pride. We typically see a much bigger uptick for Memorial Day weekend than we normally would on any other weekend in May.”

With tourists vacationing and people celebrating Pride, the economies of Pensacola Beach and Northwest Florida are positively affected. According to Visit Pensacola, the Pride event brought in $17 million to Escambia County in 2019.

Attendees of Pensacola Beach Pride weekend are looking forward to the future of this event.

“The locals have become more and more accepting and kind over the years,” said Paramore. “We spend money, and we’re not here to disrupt, we’re just here to have a great time. We appreciate that, and when we find someone who reciprocates that, we reward them in loyalty. That’s why we keep coming here.”

Hunter joined WUWF in 2021 as a student reporter.