Orlando Gay Pride Organizers Consider Charging Admission

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It’s a discussion that arises every year and 2013 is no exception: how should organizers pay for Come Out With Pride (COWP), Orlando’s annual Pride parade and festival in the fall?

It costs approximately $130,000 to put on the event, according to COWP executive director Mikael Audebert. Each year, the COWP committee solicits sponsorships, charges vendor and parade fees and hosts fundraisers to cover that cost.

Audebert said since he became director in 2011, the policy has been to ensure the funds are raised before the event kicks off, but that goal is at risk as fundraising goals are 40% behind schedule this year.

Robert Azzarito, COWP board member, said the organization is “shy on sponsorships” this year and “a lot of the fundraising events leading up to the event don’t’ get very well attended.”

Audebert echoed that statement, saying that every year there is “less and less attendance of fundraisers.”

In the meantime, the cost of the event is rising.

“It’s hard to determine if we’re going to be okay,” Audebert said. “Costs are going up. The city is not reducing its costs. The number of requires that we take more space, so that goes up as well.”

Audebert said the fundraising goals are only about $10,000 and the organization is at about $5,000 raised with two main events left—an Epcot Tuscan-themed party June 21 and bowling fundraiser July 13. Log onto ComeOutWithPride.com for information on both.

So… will they or won’t they charge at the gate?

Azzarito said the discussion always comes up during planning because there is a new committee every year and “somebody always suggests that, especially if they’ve worked on other Prides.”

Azzarito said he was aware of a few Pride festivals in Florida that charge fees at the gate. However, Azzarito is firmly in the camp of keeping COWP free.

“I’ll kill somebody first,” he said. “I hate the idea of putting people at the gates and charging to get into the park. It just seems wrong.”

Audebert said the current discussion is a call to action and not a decision.

“I’ve been 150% opposed to it past years,” he said. “I have to be honest with you; I’m getting exhausted, working with very few individuals in this community that are paying for everyone.”

He said a $1 or $2 admission is fair for all.

“People in this community are willing to pay $150 at bars and clubs to become wasted but they’re not willing to contribute to their celebration,” Audebert said. “It’s frustrating.”

Despite that frustration, Audebert said it’s unlikely that they’ll charge at the gates for COWP 2013 because the logistics alone are too complicated to figure out on such a tight deadline.

“But I have to be honest with you; if this year we break even or lose money again as we did last year, next year there will be no question about ,” he said.

Audebert said last year’s COWP lost about $5,000.

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