Don’t complain about paying for Pride
by Laura Douglas-Brown
The best things in life may be free, but the same can’t be said for Atlanta’s best gay event. After more than three decades of presenting its full schedule at no cost to the public, the Atlanta Pride Committee said this week that there will be a “nominal charge” for a few indoor events at this year’s festival.
It’s another difference in a year already marked by change for the venerable event, so cue the gnashing of teeth from the bitchier queens (and kings) in our community. But the truth is that Pride has never been free. The Pride Committee just hasn’t required you to help pay.
The 2007 Pride Festival, held in Piedmont Park, had a budget of approximately $700,000. This year, organizers face much higher costs since the 2007 drought forced all major festivals out of the park. To keep the festival in Midtown, the Pride Committee chose the Atlanta Civic Center as the its new home, incurring much higher facility, security and other fees and requiring the festival to be moved to July 4-6 when the Civic Center was available.
They don’t deserve the complaints they have received from Pride attendees who want to festival to stay in the park and remain the last weekend in June. It’s not a change they wanted, and they deserve credit for trying to make the best of a bad situation.
THE SAME GOES for the decision to charge for some events at this year’s festival. The very people who routinely complain that “it’s too hot” when Pride is held outdoors will likely be the ones to gripe about paying to enter indoor, air-conditioned events, but the rest of us should drown them out.
Many also complain that Pride is “too commercial,” without acknowledging that corporate sponsors pay the vast majority of costs for the festival. Each year, a volunteer “bucket brigade” seeks donations during Pride. And each year, they manage to collect only around $30,000 — an embarrassing drop in the, well, bucket compared to the hundreds of thousands who attend the festival over its three-day run.
Certainly there are some LGBT people living in the throes of poverty, for whom the $25 Pride may charge for a big Friday night event really is a significant expense. The vast majority of Pride attendees, however, routinely pay that much and more for other entertainment like concerts and dance parties. And the $5 or less that Pride plans to charge for the Starlight Cabaret is so little that we should voluntarily contribute twice as much.
THERE’S NO doubt this year’s Pride festival will be different than any we have ever experienced. There’s no doubt that some changes will be successful, and others will leave us nostalgic for the times we picnicked on the grass in Piedmont Park while the rainbow of queer Atlanta swirled around us.
There’s also no doubt that the success of this year’s festival depends on all of us as much as the organizers, and there’s no doubt that if Pride 2008 falters, those organizers will not be the only ones to suffer.
Pride is more than an entertainment event. Just by its sheer numbers, it is also our community’s largest show of force, an annual reminder to businesses, politicians and the general public that we are still a major constituency in Atlanta. If this year’s Pride attendance drops, so will our clout.
We can’t let that happen over a mere $5 — or $25 — cover charge.
(taken from Sovo)