Outfest History

national coming out day aids quiltOutFest 2017:   Sunday, October 8, 2017, will be our 27th celebration of National Coming Day (NCOD).  The idea for a NCOD grew from the second march for gay and lesbian equality on October 11, 1987, in Washington, D.C.  Over 200,000 took part in the march and viewed the National AIDS quilt which was displayed on the Washington Mall.   Keith Haring’s iconic drawing became the symbol of National Coming Out Day.

In 1990, Philadelphia became the first city in the United States to have an annual NCOD event, called the “National Coming Out Day Block Party” which was centered at 12th and Pine Streets (in front of Giovanni’s Room–the oldest gay bookstore in the United States) and extended to Kahn Park at 11th Street.  Philly Pride, which had just come into existence to plan the Gay Pride Parade and Festival in 1989, undertook organizing the event.  For the first several years, the Block Party attracted perhaps 1,000 to 2,000 participants and perhaps 20 community groups and vendors.

outfest liberty bellIn 1994, a then-controversial decision was made by Philly Pride coordinators to relocate the block party to Locust Street, with the main stage located at Camac Street, in order to encourage the participation of local “gayborhood” businesses.  At the same time, the block party was rebranded “OutFest” and the logo used the Keith Haring figure coming out of the Liberty Bell.  It was an immediate and overwhelming success, with a crowd of at least 10,000 attending.

outfest-2016OutFest quickly grew into the iconic event it is today, the largest National Coming Out Day event in the world.  It now covers an 8-10 block area, roughly Walnut Street to Spruce Street, 12th Street to 13th Street.  The main stage is at 13th and Locust Streets (the location of our rainbow crosswalks) with a food court at 12th and Spruce Streets.  OutFest now attracts over 40,000 participants and 150 community groups, vendors and partners.  The OutFest logo was updated in 2011 to showcase the Philadelphia skyline with some rainbow accents added to the traditional black and white design.block party

OutFest has the look and feel of an old fashioned block party.  Every business does something special, both inside and outside.  You never know what you are going to find when you turn a corner!  Every street and every alleyway is decorated and every business tries to outdo its competition.

Coincidentally, the word “gayborhood” was first used to describe OutFest by the City Paper, when David Warner described it as a “beautiful day in the gayborhood.”  Philly Pride immediately began to use to the term the following year to describe the area of our gay pride parade formation.  It has now become a universally recognized term.

This is our 27th OutFest!

Click the links on our home page for information on OutFest, Sunday, October 8, 2017.