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Skateboarding during Florida Power Pierfest
Florida Power Pierfest features Xtreme games competition in skateboarding. Photo: Festival of States Archives

Saint Petersburg Festival of States

The city's annual two-week civic celebration dates back to its 1896 forerunner, the George Washington Day's Birthday Celebration Parade, which typically marked the end of the winter season. In 1917, a week-long spring civic celebration, featuring the Parade of the States, was organized by the mayor and a Philadelphia Phillies baseball scout to encourage winter residents to stay in town longer, and to attract tourists to the area. The mayor, Al Lang, also played a leading role in bringing Major League Spring Training Baseball to Florida's West Coast. Eventually 24 teams trained in the state. Sports celebrities were often in the parade, and sometimes served as grand marshals.

During the 1900s, seasonal residents were organized into societies by their home states, primarily for social gatherings. At the societies' peak in 1925, state society organizations, including the country of Canada, had more than 12,000 members. These groups served as the focal point for the springtime celebration, and each society provided a float for the parade and a young woman to compete for the festival queen title.

Since St. Petersburg was founded in 1888 by Peter Demens, when he brought a narrow gauge railroad to the East side of the Pinellas Peninsula, the city has worked to publicize the area to attract new residents and visitors. After a physician and land holder promoted the area's sunny climate at medical conventions and publications, St Petersburg became known as "Health City." The beautiful beaches and Tampa Bay were also major draws. St. Petersburg took the unique step of dedicating 5.3 miles of downtown waterfront exclusively for the public. Now the area has extensive parks, boating facilities, dining areas, and museums. This waterfront provides the site for most of the festival events. Night and day parades march along Bayshore Drive, which runs the full length of the downtown waterfront. In this area, the festival holds street dances, 5K runs, bike races, Shakespeare in the Park, hydroplane and runabout boat races, water ski shows, wind surfing competition, jet ski races, and a rubber duck race.

Bands are a major part of the Parade of States, In 1960, the parade of states featured the world's largest and longest float at 150 feet long. In 1961, a festival parade highlight was a shaggy buffalo ridden by a bearded cowboy. Two years later, the festival began the tradition of inviting out of state bands to compete for the title of best marching band. At its peak the festival had 20 bands competing in the parade and field show competitions. The festival's band and music emphasis led to the establishment of the Florida Tournament of Bands competition in 1974. The winner represents Florida in the Champions on Parade competition with out-of-state bands.

Documentation includes a report, photographs, newspaper clippings, a 1985 pictorial program, a video and posters.

Originally submitted by: C.W. Bill Young, Representative (10th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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