150K revelers pack Lake Eola for Come Out With Pride’s 10th Anniversary

By : Jamie Hyman
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Orlando – The final numbers won’t be in until later this week, but early estimates from the Orlando Police Department show about 150,000 people crowded Lake Eola for the 10th anniversary of Come Out With Pride. Oct. 11.

It’s the highest number yet, up from last year’s estimate of 120,000 in attendance, according to COWP executive director Mikael Audebert.

“I think we’ve outgrown our space,” he said. “People were coming earlier and staying longer which is always a great thing.”

Audebert mentioned that in previous years there have been some nearly empty spots along the parade route but “this year, it was packed,” and some of the crowd even overflowed onto the road along Central Avenue.

COWP this year featured an expanded schedule, including a week’s worth of concerts that kicked off Oct. 7, the Tuesday before the Saturday main event. Performers included Clean Bandit, Meghan Trainor, Capital Cities and Lil’ Kim who took the stage at Parliament House Saturday night after the parade and festival. The Pride in Concert series was sponsored by XL 106.7.

The Capital Cities’ show was Oct. 9, the night of the official COWP opening ceremony.

“Opening night was well-attended and fantastic,” Audebert said. “It was our 10th anniversary, no way we could go with a little party.”

LGBT activist—and previous COWP grand marshal—Jonathan Lovitz emceed the event, which featured Power Chords, Orlando Rep Theatre’s young vocal group. Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer took the stage.

“Orlando is at the forefront, fighting for equal rights for everyone in Central Florida, because that’s the kind of community we are,” Dyer told the crowd. “We have taken the lead with domestic partner registry.”

Concert-goer Kris Wiley said it was “like a private party, except we have Capital Cities playing.”

Overall, Audebert said they expected a bigger turnout for the concerts and are not sure whether the idea will be revisited next year.
When it comes to the main event—the parade and festival—Audebert said COWP benefited from adding new positions this year, including a volunteer coordinator and security liaison.

He and the COWP team are already thinking about how to smooth out some wrinkles net year, starting with an even earlier set-up.

“We’ve already started to set up the night before. I think we’re going to have to stay overnight and be ready to open by 8 p.m.,” Audebert said.

The COWP bars were packed and Audebert said they ran out of liquor several times, necessitating a few “police-escorted runs to the stores.”

About a week before COWP 2014, Audebert announced his resignation from the MBA, Central Florida’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce. MBA has historically been tied to Pride, but Audebert said the organizations are quite separate and focusing on COWP will allow him to make Orlando’s pride celebration even better.

“Pride has grown to be a great celebration; it needs to become a great community organization,” Audebert said. “I’m pulling away from production of the event itself and focusing on what we can do to help the Orlando community, using some of funding received from events.”

Pride Gives Back is already active, and awards one-time grants to worthy organizations. Audebert said he wants to take it a step further and fund specific projects that make a difference in the Orlando LGBT community.

Additionally, he said they’ve been approached by several cities who want to look at the COWP model and implement it in communities that don’t currently have an annual pride event.

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