Philly Pride Festival to take place in September

This year’s LGBTQ pride festival will take place at Penn’s Landing

A revamped LGBTQ Pride Festival is moving to September at Penn’s Landing, organizers told PGN. 

“We’re going to do a pride event because we know people will be itching to get out, but it won’t be like the traditional pride events we’re used to doing because of the city guidelines,” said Fran Price of Philly Pride Presents. “We’re calling it ‘Pride Lite,’ and that should explain a lot.”

The festival, which has historically taken place during June’s LGBTQ Pride Month, is set to take place Saturday, September 4 without the normal parade lead-in. Parades are not currently allowed due to city guidelines, though Price said the option is open if restrictions are relaxed.

While earlier dates for the festival at Penn’s Landing were unavailable, having the later date will allow organizers to watch and learn from other large-scale events, including the Philadelphia Flower Show and the July 4th celebrations, both of which will take place outdoors.

“They’re going to be the big examples of what’s going to be lifted and enforced,” Price said. “We have the whole summer to see what changes.”

The city resumed taking special events applications in March, but with added requirements and restrictions due to COVID-19. Current requirements for events include mask wearing, social distancing, capacity limitations, and physical barriers between vendors and attendees. Events that feature food and drink will be even more regulated, and it remains unclear whether crowds will be allowed to gather in front of a stage at Penn’s Landing or if “roving entertainment” will have to be used. Organizers hope that by September at least some of the restrictions will be lessened.

“We’ve got to be as fluid as we can,” said Chuck Volz, senior advisor of Philly Pride Presents. “It’s a lot of moving parts. And sometimes we don’t even know what the parts are yet, let alone how they’ll factor into the various restrictions. But we’ve got to do it. We realize we have to do something for the community.”

Organizers are considering several changes this year to help maintain social distancing and capacity restrictions. These changes include asking vendors to share booths with one another, pre-selling entry wristbands to avoid long lines on the day, and setting up a separate food court away from the main vendor area. Another change will be omitting the traditional kickoff party that traditionally takes place. However, there may be a smaller event at the Penn’s Landing Summerfest as well as opportunities to buy wristbands at locations in the Gayborhood in the weeks leading up to the festival.

“We’re going to feel things out,” Price said. “We want to be proactive this year, and then hopefully in 2022 everything will be the way it was.”

Pride at Penn’s Landing, pre-pandemic 2019.

Just as they were last year, Price and the other organizers are in constant communication with the city managing director’s office and the health department to keep updated on any changes that will affect the event.

“This is something we’ve been trying to make happen for a year and a half in every way possible,” Price said. “Any time I saw something public I got on the phone [with the city] right away, ‘I hear you’re at 50 percent now, I hear you’re doing the flower show.’”

Both Price and Volz expressed the importance of doing some sort of in-person Pride event this year after missing out on all of 2020.

“We’ve been kept in for over a year and a half,” Price said, “and we want to celebrate who we are and what we are and how we are. I think everybody will be looking forward to this.”

“We have to do something this year and we have to keep momentum to hopefully build back to both [Pride and OutFest],” Volz said. “As far as plans go now, we are a rarity for a pride group to try to do something. Nobody’s doing anything [in person]. Philly once again wants to be first in trying to lead the comeback.”