Philly announcement raises hopes for in-person Pride Festival this year

Summer pride festivities in 2021 may look more like the Outfest street festival, but with added health safety measures (Philadelphia Gay News photo)

By Jason Villemez

PHILADELPHIA — City officials announced this week that they’ve resumed taking applications for special event permits, including concerts and festivals.

Applications for large events must include a COVID-19 safety plan which addresses issues including social distancing, crowd flow, physical barriers, and handwashing stations. In addition to special event permit applications, which are handled by the Parks and Recreation department, the Streets Department will begin taking street festival and block party applications starting April 15.

A spokesperson for Philly Pride Presents, which organizes the annual pride parade and festival, told the Philadelphia Gay News that plans are in the works for an in-person pride festival this year, though it is unlikely that the event will feature a parade. Multiple dates are also being considered, including dates in June and July.

While the Philly pride festival has traditionally been held at Penn’s Landing, if that location cannot be secured, then an alternative plan would be to hold a street festival in the gayborhood similar to October’s OutFest.

Either event — at Penn’s Landing or in the gayborhood — would require significant changes from pride festivals of years past. One significant change would be whether food and drink are allowed.

According to city guidelines, any events with food must be limited to 100 people. Also included in city guidelines is a mask mandate for all attendees, social distancing or physical barrier requirements for vendors and attendees, and limitations on the number of attendees at any one time.

Perhaps the largest factor in determining a potential pride festival will be the state of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city can choose at any time to reintroduce restrictions or strengthen requirements for events if COVID-19 numbers begin to rise.

However, since the distribution of the vaccine in December, rates of infection in the city have fallen significantly.

According to the most recent city data, 380-thousand people have received at least one vaccine dose and 146-thousand people have received both vaccine doses.

The new Johnson & Johnson vaccine has also recently become available and requires only one dose. City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley has previously stated that all Philadelphians who wish to be vaccinated should be able to do so by the end of July.

Jason Villemez is managing editor of the Philadelphia Gay News, where this story first appeared