There will be two large gay events on Sunday, May 1, 2011. So as not to cause any additional confusion, we, the coordinators, the Pride committee and the staff of the Philadelphia Gay Pride organization, decided to inform our LGBT community of the dilemma we were facing and the decision we were compelled to make.
For years, we have coordinated the two largest gay events in the City: the June Gay Pride Parade and Festival as well as OutFest in October. In the early 1990s, another group, originally called “PrideFest,” organized a weeklong series of events in May. We tried very hard, both privately and publicly, to have “PrideFest” move to June and culminate with our parade and festival. We believed, and still believe, that it would be a spectacular series of events for our community and really put Philadelphia on the gay map. Indeed, in 1994, we moved our pride parade and festival to May to demonstrate how it could be done. That same year, we also created “OutFest,” the National Coming Out Day Block Party, and it was the largest attended community event ever organized in Philly. The following year we decided to return to June (Gay Pride Month), and “PrideFest” advertised a new event — Sunday Out — “because there would be no Gay Pride Parade and Festival.” Of course, that was a slight prevarication as there indeed was a parade and festival, albeit not in May. And, although we were promised that Sunday Out would only be a craft fair, it quickly became a copy of OutFest, and in the very same location as OutFest.
It has long been a bone of contention between our two organizations that one month prior to our festival there is another festival with most of the same vendors and community groups. Philly Gay Pride had to contend itself with doing the two best events we could as we could not convince “PrideFest,” now “Equality Forum,” that this was confusing to the LGBT community and vendors alike. We frequently had many ask, “Didn’t you already have your pride event in May?” when we sought their applications. This year, however, Equality Forum has outdone itself because, after our 20-plus years in making the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing the best Gay Pride Festival location in the United States, Equality Forum has decided to move Sunday Out to Penn’s Landing!
We are now faced with an event that mimics our Gay Pride Festival — entertainment, community groups, vendors — in our long-established location ... and one month earlier. This could not be more catastrophic to Philly Gay Pride, as the festival is the event that pays for itself as well as the parade and, if any funds are left over, provides seed money for OutFest.
June is officially National Gay Pride Month and we are not the only LGBT Pride event in the greater Philadelphia and tri-state area. People will want to go to D.C., Baltimore or Pittsburgh for their pride events on our date because they already “did” Philly’s pride festival at Penn’s Landing in May. The only way to have our traditional attendees, volunteers and vendors at our event in June is to make sure they are not participating at the same type of event and location (Penn’s Landing) in May. Therefore, on Sunday, May 1, we will be having a May Gay Day block party in the Gayborhood. Our event will be free to participants (as is OutFest); however, it will also be free to community groups and vendors if they have applied for the Gay Pride Festival in June. It should be spectacularly successful, as OutFest 2010 drew approximately 40,000. Vendors are getting two events for the price of one, so they will certainly be present. The bars and various Gayborhood businesses will participate and will offer special events. We will have entertainment, a dance area, food, spirits, a pet zone, a family area and at least 20,000 celebrating Gay May Day in the Gayborhood.
Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but we can ill afford to be flattered into nonexistence. Our choice is either to have Gay May Day or be financially compromised, and we have all worked too hard for too long to not fight back.
We look forward to our 80-plus community organizations and 50-plus vendors joining with us on Gay May Day because we are an umbrella organization that depends on the full support of our community for the success of our events. We apologize for any confusion, but it was not a confusion of our making. For more details or an application, feel free to check our website, www.phillypride.org.
Philly Pride Presents Inc.