First Ever Philly WinterPride Honors Johnny Weir
On Feb. 22, the City of Brotherly Love will launch WinterPride, an event aimed at keeping the community connected and enlivening the usually dreary winter months. The event will feature ice skating at the Blue Cross RiverRink, and special guest U.S. Figure Skating Champion Johnny Weir will be awarded the first WinterPride Award.
"It will be the cure for cabin fever," said Fannie Price, executive director of PhillyPride, the organization behind the city’s two largest LGBT events, the PrideDay Parade and OutFest. But more importantly, she added, the event will be an opportunity to strengthen relationships between LGBT organizations and community groups that usually only get to meet twice a year.
With OutFest taking place in October and PrideDay in June, there is currently a large gap between when the community can reunite and celebrate. The upcoming event will take place almost halfway between the fall and summer events.
This is especially important for PhillyPride, which also serves as an umbrella organization over the numerous LGBT groups in the city.
"Our events have always been huge networking days," said Price. "If we have 150 vendors, I guarantee you at least 100 of them will be organizations."
The Mazzoni Center, Philadelphia’s largest LGBT health and wellness center, uses Pride events as a chance to network, market themselves, recruit staff and even administer care such as HIV and syphilis testing.
Mazzoni Center Director of Development and Communications Perry Monastero said that PridePhilly events offer the best opportunity for organizations to gain visibility in the greater Philadelphia community.
"A lot of the organizations, I can say, have leveraged the opportunity to grow their membership from year to year," said Monastero. "Its also a great opportunity for organizations that are much smaller to be making money."
Additionally, organizations from Camden and the Philadelphia suburbs use the events to maintain a connection with the city’s denser and more organized LGBT community, said Mazzoni and Price.
And while WinterPride will be a much more casual event, PhillyPride is still trying to use the opportunity to develop ties with the community by allowing organizations and civic groups to sell tickets for the event and keep half of the proceeds. This way, they can either raise money for themselves or at least discount their own admittance.
"We always try and reciprocate and keep money in the community," said Price.
PhillyPride has also extended its network beyond the boundaries of the gayborhood. In recent years, Pride events have had the full cooperation of city officials and local businesses. In certain cases, outside organizations have even reached out to PhillyPride to work with them on events.
In fact, Price told EDGE that the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) suggested the original idea for WinterPride.
The DRWC manages the Blue Cross RiverRink, where the majority of WinterPride will take place, and has worked with PhillyPride in the past on PrideDay events along the waterfront.
Originally, the organizations were going to partner in promoting a public "gay family night," but PhillyPride decided to make it private for the safety and comfort of their community. An open event, said Price, would make attendees less comfortable and less willing to be themselves, even in regard to simple activities such as holding hands on the skating rink.
Price stressed that DRWC was very accommodating in this transition.
"I can honestly say after working for at least 22 of the 25 years we have worked with them, I’ve never experienced any discrimination," said Price.
Jodie Milkman, vice president of marketing at the DRWC, noted that PhillyPride has been a great partner in the past due to their experience promoting and organizing high quality events. She also stressed that they have helped draw more diverse demographics to the waterfront.
"We are committed to making sure that the waterfront is a place that all audiences and demographics can be comfortable," said Milkman.
The relationship between the DRWC and PhillyPride exemplifies how a reputation for a strong organizational capacity goes a long way toward building the LGBT community and connecting with groups outside of its community.
Price noted that it has gotten much easier making these kinds of connections outside of the LGBT community since PhillyPride got started in the late 1980s.
"We work well with everybody now," said Price.
WinterPride will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Feb. 22 at the Blue Cross RiverRink at Penn’s Landing, 101 South Columbus Blvd. along the Delaware River. Tickets are $20 and includes two hours of ice skating and skate rental. Shuttle buses will run between the rink and the gayborhood to take attendees to numerous after parties at the BikeStop, Sisters, Tabu, ICandy, Westbury and Venture Inn. For more information, visit http://www.phillypride.org/