OURfest celebrations in Philly gave the LGBTQ+ community time for joy

Crowds of people attended the inaugural OURfest parade and festival Oct. 7-8. (Photo: Kelly Burkhardt)

Vibrancy filled the streets of Philly’s Gayborhood last weekend when it became host to two National Coming Out Day events: the very first OURfest parade, as well as a huge festival and resource fair. The parade featured floats, musicians, drag performers, community leaders and organizers, a 200-foot rainbow flag and a lot of queer and trans joy. The “OUR” of OURfest stands for “our uniting resilience.”

“When you see — at the end of these events — the excitement that people have about being back together, being in community together, that’s what goes well,” said Tyrell Brown, executive director of the organization galaei, and the main organizer of the OURfest parade and festival as part of galaei’s Pride 365 program.

At the parade, the Out in Celebration float featured five grand marshals: Celena Morrison, executive director of the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs; City Council candidate Rue Landau, who’s on track to become the first out LGBTQ+ person to hold a Council position in the city; community activist José de Marco, who co-founded the health advocacy group Black and Latinx Community Control; TikTok personality Legendary; and Robert Drake, DJ and host at WXPN. 

Hundreds of LGBTQ+ community members watched other themed floats roll down the streets, including Out in Youth, Out in Community, Out in Career, Out in Culture and Out in Sports floats. The Philadelphia Freedom Band played some tunes; Cheer Philadelphia performed a routine; Members of Free Mom Hugs and the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus were in the parade, and the spirit of LGBTQ+ togetherness filled the air. 

“Seeing smiles on people’s faces, the dancing, the silliness, the fun, all of that stuff is [what] went well at the end of the day,” Brown said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked on social media over the last day and a half and seen pictures from people at the event smiling with their friends. A couple of times, it’s made me choke up because that’s what this is about — bringing people together, giving them a reason to celebrate, giving them a reason to build family, to bond with one another, and to share in the story of our lives and our collective existence as queer and trans folks.” 

“Looking at these pictures of people and they’re laughing — it reminds me of a huge family reunion,” Brown added. 

The festival and resource fair took place in the heart of the Gayborhood from 12th and Spruce streets to 13th and Walnut streets. It featured art and music on multiple stages, youth and family programming; a Bailar Con Amor space dedicated to Afro-Latinx heritage, art, dance and expression; KiKi Alley, which showcased performances that encapsulate the history of Philly’s ballroom scene; a decompression zone; and community services including medical tents and linkage to health care, housing and employment resources. 

A ton of LGBTQ+ community organizations and organizations that are inclusive of queer and trans communities were out there tabling to get the word out about what they do and the resources they offer. Community members came out in droves as they did for the 2023 Pride festival.  

The festival also included a memorial for Maso Mutt, galaei’s “dearly departed sibling.” Mutt was part of PHL Pride Collective and died by suicide in 2022. The space offered resources, workshops on kink and consent, as well as leather items for sale and safe sex items for free. 

In terms of any OURfest-related mishaps, Brown said, “What went wrong? Probably a thousand things, but at events of this scale and this magnitude, there’s going to be things that happen. It’s just the imperfections of work and the imperfections of people.”

Brown and the Pride 365 team intend to produce more OURfest events next year, they said. 

“For sure, the events are going to happen again next year. But at what scale? I think we can go bigger.”