Tampa Pride sets ambitious fundraising program to prepare for its inaugural 2015 festival

By : Steve Blanchard
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Tampa – $70,000. That’s the amount of money Tampa Pride must raise before Feb. 1, 2015, to make the return of Tampa Pride a reality. And Tampa Pride president Carrie West is optimistic the organization will reach that goal through the generosity of the LGBT community and its supporters, not only locally, but nationally.

“We’re already getting a lot of smaller donations from outside of the area, and we haven’t really advertised,” West said.

Currently, Tampa Pride Inc., which is a completely different organization run by different people than its 1990s predecessor, is operating under the 501c3 paperwork of the GaYbor District Coalition, which formed in 2007 and transformed Ybor City into a safer, LGBT-friendly entertainment destination. West is hopeful that the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County will remember the impact the coalition had on the area during the recession, and help with some of the expense of the inaugural pride, which is set for Saturday, March 28.

Tampa Pride is comparing itself to the Rough Riders St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and has even modeled its 1 p.m. parade to follow the same route along 7th Avenue. A vendor festival is planned from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on 8th Avenue between 14th and 17th streets.

“We told [the City of Tampa] what we’re doing and used the St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s numbers,” West explained. “They got back to us with the price point of $70,000 that we have to come up with before we can have the parade in Tampa. It’s going to take a lot of effort.”

That money must be given to the city up front—and doesn’t include expenses for tents and other items associated with a large festival.

“We’re trying to work with the city or even the county, which has finally looked in our direction in recent months, to see the impact GaYbor has had on the area and what we’ve been trying to promote since 2007,” West said. “We’ve been here for seven years and front and center with both the city and county.”

With 258 GaYbor members, West hopes both governmental organizations will offer some kind of assistance—but so far, neither has offered any.

The March 28 day is set, and when asked about a contingency plan in case the money isn’t raised, West said he’s remaining optimistic.

“It’s been a long 14 years of waiting [for a Pride event to return to Tampa,]” West said. “Right now we’re looking at some donors that have the money and would help bring Pride back and make it happen.”

Much of the community, when it learns about Tampa Pride, immediately think it’s a spin-off of St. Pete Pride. West wants to correct that misunderstanding.

“This is a separate, new entity,” West said. “And we picked the spring so it doesn’t conflict with other large prides. It’s four months before St. Pete Pride, and that is four months before Come Out With Pride in Orlando. We’re doing cross promotion with both.”

Tampa Pride will hold an official launch party on Friday, Sept. 26, at The Honey Pot on 7th Avenue from 6-10 p.m. A $10 donation requested at the door will gain entry and access to some provided food, West said.

“Out of the Storm” is the name of the event, and when asked if it referenced former County Commissioner Ronda Storms, who helped push through a resolution prohibiting county recognition of LGBT Pride in the early 2000s, West laughed.

“People will take from that title what they want,” West said. “But September is the beginning of fall, and we’re out of the windy, Hurricane season and heading into much better, calmer weather.”

Hurricane season, interestingly, ends on Nov. 30.

Anyone interested in donating to Tampa Pride may do so through the Tampa Pride Facebook page, where a link to a Go Fund Me account is available. Those interested in helping with planning of Tampa Pride 2015 can attend the open board meetings held the first Tuesday of every month at the Hampton Inn in Ybor City. Those meetings begin at 6 p.m.

A website with more information will hopefully be up and running by the first of October, West added.

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