Tens of thousands flocked to the Gayborhood on Sunday to network, educate and celebrate at the world’s largest National Coming Out Day celebration.
Philly Pride Presents president Franny Price said the crowds exceeded expectations.
“You can usually see little gaps in the crowd and there were no gaps this year,” she said. “At one point, I said, ‘I am going to walk around and say hello to all the vendors, time me to see how long it takes me.’ It took me 28 minutes to walk around one block.”
Price said only six vendors did not show up, out of more than 130, but said it evened out with seven non-registered vendors who showed up for a spot.
Representatives of the police Civil Affairs Unit were on hand to oversee relations with antigay protestors from Repent America, and Price said the group was handled differently than in the past two years.
For instance, Price said, the protestors were originally directed by the officers to stand at a vendor spot that was open, and were then going to be moved near the stage at 13th and Locust, until Price intervened, as she said protestors are not allowed to disrupt the entertainment.
Price said the Philly Pride Presents board hopes to conduct meetings with the Civil Affairs Unit in the future so there is a shared understanding of protocol.
“We don’t know this group of Civil Affairs officers and I think we need to start having meetings with deputy commissioners and the captain of Civil Affairs before events,” she said.
Despite the protestors’ presence, Price said the beautiful weather, popular entertainment and successful new parties made this year one of OutFest’s best since its inception.
“I was praying that it wouldn’t rain and I read the day before there was a 50-percent chance of rain, and I tried to not get depressed over it because everybody in our community worked so hard on the event,” she said. “A couple hours later, it was down to 20 percent, then at midnight, it went to zero-percent chance.”
Price said 100 volunteers helped at OutFest from 7 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. and that she’s extremely grateful for those who lent their time, including senior director Chuck Volz.
“I am proud of our Philly Pride committee and coordinators. They work their butts off and they make sure things run smoothly, especially with set-up and break down. It takes a lot of people to put OutFest on. I am the one that is more visible but I am nothing without them.”
Price said new events like the Women’s Party on Chancellor Street and Oktoberfest at Tavern on Camac were packed, as was the Bazaar on Quince, now in its second year.
“We love it because these events add to OutFest because all these people contribute and come up with wonderful ideas,” she said.
Price said the only disappointment from the day came from a blown generator from Wired 96.5 at the Youth Dance Party. Also, the new volleyball court was set up for recreational volleyball and not competitive volleyball.
Despite those snags, Price said she has received a wealth of positive feedback about this year’s OutFest.
“You couldn’t ask for a better event. I can’t tell you how much personal gratitude we received. People would come up to us the day after and say how much fun they had. So when you get a personal thanks, it really means something.”