Although its official title is the “Gay Ghetto,” the term “Gayborhood” is one that has grown on its residents and is consistently used when referring to the area in Center City.
Whatever you call it, this popular locale hosts OutFest, one of the city’s most popular events of the year. OutFest is Philadelphia’s National Coming Out Day block party, where people from the city and beyond gather for this festival of growing proportions.
The celebration kicks off Sunday, Oct. 8, with tons of food, games, dancing and shopping in the booths of more than 50 vendors in an old-fashioned flea market setting.
“The National Coming Out Day block party started in 1991, and in 1995 we moved it to the area we called the ‘Gay Ghetto’ and changed its name to ‘OutFest,'” said Franny Price, executive director of Philly Pride Presents, a group of volunteers that organize and promote similar events throughout the year in the city.
In the 14 years since its prolific beginnings, OutFest has become increasingly popular among individuals of all sexual orientations.
The event once received 500 to 1000 visitors in a given day. OutFest now welcomes 25,000 to 40,000 people daily, Price said.”It is the largest coming out day event in the world,” Price said.
“[OutFest] is not like the usual [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] pride event. It is really just like an old-fashion block party. We close off 10 city blocks. All of the bars, restaurants and businesses have cookouts [and] outdoor cafes.”
A new event this year is the chili cook-off. All the restaurants in the Gayborhood take part in this appetite-swaying event. These include Valanni Restaurant, Bump Lounge and Sisters Restaurant & Nightclub. OutFest has become a huge part of not only the gay community, but also Philadelphia as a whole. The involvement of the local businesses has grown drastically since it first launched 14 yeas ago.
The Village Coffee House, although relatively new, is a major sponsor of OutFest, according to co-owner Gary Tidmore.
“[We are the] official coffee house for OutFest, and the only coffee house in the Gayborhood,” said Tidmore. Since opening two years ago, The Village Coffee House has been a proud sponsor of OutFest, and is excited to continue its involvement for years to come – especially after last year’s success.
“We had a blast last year,” Tidmore said.
“We were so busy we had lines out the door.” The coffee shop also adds a separate booth on Locust Street during OutFest to keep the lines down, and the customers rolling in.
To the businesses of the Gayborhood, it is the busiest day in the year, but for the LGBT community of Philadelphia, it is a chance to celebrate and be proud of who they are.
Amy Khadr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.