It all begins Saturday morning and it’s the first big pride festival in Tampa since before the pandemic started.By Casey Albritton

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Restaurants and bars in Ybor City are gearing up for the 2021 Pride Festival.

It all begins Saturday morning and it’s the first big pride festival in Tampa since before the pandemic started.

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Lisa Lawson, owner of CerealHolic Cafe and Bar, says it’s been a difficult year.

“We’ve been kind of up and down. We are a new kind of place,” said Lawson.

Ilya Goldberg, owner of Stone Soup Company, says “Probably been one of the most challenging years we’ve ever had.”

Over the last year, Ybor City restaurants have struggled.

“The federal mandates would be different from the local mandates and the state mandates are different. Some people just didn’t go out because they just don’t know what the mandates are,” said Lawson.

“It was a year to reset, a year to see what we were all about and what’s going to be the future,” said Goldberg.

After losing customers and business, Goldberg says he’s looking forward to the Pride Festival this weekend.

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“This will obviously make up for a lot of the losses we had last year, not just with the parades, even the sporting events. We had so many championships come and go but we weren’t able to get people indoor,” said Goldberg.

Lawson also hopes to regain some customers.

“Before the pandemic, Ybor City was always very busy with the cruise industry, with all the businesses down here, but now it is a ghost town,” said Lawson.

Lawson opened her restaurant in January and says she’s excited to finally see some normalcy again.

“I’m brought to tears just being able to see us be ourselves again, you know. We’ll still follow cautious measures but I just can’t put into words how wonderful it is,” said Lawson.

Goldberg and Lawson are getting ready by putting up rainbow decorations and celebrating the first festival in Ybor City in 14 months.

“It’s a really wonderful time to come out and celebrate the diversity of Tampa and the entire pride experience,” said Goldberg.

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Pride Festival events start at 11 a.m. on Saturday and the parade starts at 4 p.m.