The annual OutFest scored a perfect 10 this year — with tens of thousands converging on the Gayborhood for the world’s largest National Coming Out Day festivity, this year held on 10/10/10.
About 40,000 people participated in the 20th annual celebration, which stretched from Walnut to Pine streets along 12th and 13th.
The streets were filled with 147 vendors, selling rainbow-themed goods and crafts and offering information about community agencies, said Franny Price, executive director of Philly Pride Presents, which stages OutFest and June’s Pride festival.
“It was a wonderful day,” she said. “The weather was great, the attendance was great and the participation was great. We had over 70 community groups who had tables, and lots of local businesses so it was definitely a huge, huge networking day and we’re proud we were able to offer that to the community.”
The stage, at 13th and Locust, offered a constant flow of entertainment, starting with the traditional singing of “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Gayborhood” by Michael Byrne, who was followed by such acts as magician Dale Varga, Cher impersonator Steve Andrade, Miss Philly Gay Pride 2010 Alexis Cartier, singers Ariel Aparicio and Juan Lords and several area drag performers.
Community members were invited on stage for the annual high-heel race and penis-shaped bagel-eating contest, and brought up their rainbow-clad animals for a pet contest.
Out youth also took the stage for a special recognition that stemmed from the recent rash of suicides by LGBT teens.
“We had 72 kids up there,” Price said. “Our stage manager was amazed and said, ‘Fran, do you realize that there are 72 of them up there?’ We asked earlier in the day how many the stage could fit and they said about 100 with no problem, and when we started inviting them up there were probably only 30 at first and then I looked again and it was just filled.”
Two other youth were also recognized during the annual awards presentation, with the OutStanding Youth Award going to Kristen Thomas and the Gilbert Baker National OutProud Award to Joey Kemmerling, who launched an online initiative to curb anti-LGBT bullying. Steve McCann, founder of PhillyGayCalendar.com, was this year’s recipient of the OutProud Award.
There were no reported arrests at the events, and Price said festival-goers largely stayed away from the antigay protesters from Repent America, who set up shop at their usual spot on 13th Street near Locust and, new this year, used songs at times to communicate their messages.
Later in the day, Price said she spotted children sporting antigay signs, which she called “disturbing,” although she was unsure if they were connected to Repent America.
A group of OutFest volunteers stood in front of the protesters throughout the day to encourage attendees not to engage them in confrontation.
“I really felt sorry for them that they had to hear all day that they were going to hell from the protesters,” Price said. “I give them a lot of credit for standing there the entire day and putting up with it.”