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In the name of love (pride)

As Orlando prepares for Come Out With Pride, we highlight some reasons to be proud of our LGBT community

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The ensuing years have seen monumental growth in the enterprise – by 2009, attendance estimates were around 55,000; last year it jumped to 70,000 – taking the event from its original niche status to that of a bona fide, cross-cultural attraction. This year, addressing concerns that the finances of Come Out With Pride had grown unmanageable, the group behind the event reformed its leadership by creating a new position, executive director, and handing the finances over to the president of the Come Out With Pride board (and the MBA board), Gina Duncan. According to executive director Mikael Audebert, that’s allowing him more time to work on the product itself.

“It is taking a new direction,” he says. “First, it’s getting much better. It’s attracting people from all over the state and of course the U.K. Every year we get a huge amount of people coming from abroad to celebrate Orlando Pride. And this year, more than before, we actually are focusing more on the community.”

Since its inception, the city has been supportive of the endeavor, partially waiving fees for the use of Lake Eola Park (an average of $3,000 in rental fees was offset in 2006 and 2007; the city’s parks department threw in $850 this year; Sheehan’s discretionary district budget assists; the Downtown Development Board routinely allocates thousands, as well). But Come Out With Pride is still an expensive affair, with the Orlando Police Department commanding an estimated $16,000 for its necessary detail and park rental hovering around $13,000. According to Duncan, the event typically needs to bring in at least $150,000 in revenues in order to continue its youth scholarship and grant programs. Audebert insists the costs will come down from “six figures” to “five figures” this year, thanks to some aggressive sponsorship seeking and major tweaks in programming. Instead of employing national live track acts – an entertainment option that became as limiting in space available at Lake Eola’s Walt Disney Amphitheater as it was in taste considering the breadth of the community – Come Out With Pride will now feature a fireworks display for everyone. A certain universality is necessary when dealing with 100,000 people.

“Obviously, the accomplishments of the LGBT community over the past years have opened the doors for people to be not only supportive, but also to come out of the closet,” Audebert says. “And those people who are proud of coming out of the closet and proud gays, they want to celebrate. They really think that it’s their right to celebrate, and it’s their duty to celebrate and inspire others. One thing I think Orlando has over other pride events is we also attract a very large crowd of straight allies. If you look at the parade route, you’ll see a lot of families with kids. About 25 percent of our attendance is straight allies.” (That means no throwing condoms at babies, Audebert adds).

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