The Atlanta Pride Committee released an open letter on Wednesday, further explaining how the festival was able to return to Piedmont Park this year and why the event moved to late October. The letter follows the announcement by city officials and Pride organizers on Monday of the change in date and venue. Last October, the festival said it would be held in the Atlanta Civic Center and nearby Central Park after city officials declined to open Piedmont to more than one festival per event season.
The text of the open letter from the Atlanta Pride Committee:
The Atlanta Pride Committee continues to receive valuable and unprecedented feedback from all corners of our diverse community, and we must first say thank you. It is clear that you care as much as we do about making Atlanta Pride a continuing tradition in our region, as well as an ongoing celebration of the varied facets of our culture.
For that, you have our most sincere gratitude.
With the announcement of our move back home to Piedmont Park — with a date change to Halloween Weekend — we are receiving a refreshing majority of positive response from people excited about the possibilities, and we are also hearing requests for more detail on how we came to that decision.
We are happy to share the efforts we made. And we are just as excited to remind everyone that we are more confident and determined than ever to make sure the 2009 October event will stay true to the real meaning of Pride: celebration of our achievements, reverence for our past and a welcoming environment for those not yet fully “out” who will lead our future struggles toward full equality.
The Atlanta Pride Committee takes our duty very seriously. We share the following details of our work these past months in hopes that concerned parties know how much we’ve accomplished, and to assure everyone that we anticipate a successful Atlanta Pride this year and well into the future.
Does a Pride festival in October respect gay history?
A fall Pride was not our first choice, but we are actually very excited that the new date falls during National LGBT History Month, which also includes National Coming Out Day. Both events go directly to remembering where we’ve been and recognizing the personal and political value of being true to ourselves by living openly.
And we haven’t forgotten Stonewall and its June anniversary. Our plans include June events designed to commemorate Stonewall and energize the community for our October celebration. Ideas for multiple events in June should suit the varied tastes of our patrons. As those plans are solidified, we will be eager to share those with you.
We also want you to know that we realize that the festival’s traditional June date, as well as our home park, is important. We understand that the date change is not ideal for everyone, but we also know that it will not break our spirit. The Pride Committee quickly realized that putting Pride back in Piedmont Park, or another usable, affordable greenspace was the only option to make the organization financially whole. We also look forward to 2010, when drought circumstances improve and more options are available.
What happened since the 2008 festival that got us here?
Amidst continuing drought restrictions that allow only one major festival in Piedmont Park per each April-to-October Festival Season (Dogwood has the park in April), the Pride Committee agreed to, then announced, that the 2009 Pride festival would be held in Central Park adjacent to the Atlanta Civic Center. Then the reality of that agreement set in.
A Central Park festival, while in June, required an estimated $150,000 porta-floor to protect the greenscapes and hardscapes of the park. As Pride struggles to overcome the challenges of 2008, the porta-floors alone were cost-prohibitive. Other caveats on using Central Park included no stages or set up on the sod-based athletic fields, placing all festival patrons directly on the fields and putting costs for any foot-traffic damage squarely on the Pride Committee.
We needed a creative solution and looked at several other venues, including detailed logistical and cost analysis on Grant Park and Centennial Park, among other venues. Several options considered over months led us to plead our case to the City of Atlanta to satisfy the number one comment from our constituents: How can we get back into Piedmont Park?
The Parks Department and the City Council were responsive, and by holding the festival at the end of October, we not only comply with their Festival Season rules, but are also able to take advantage of the cooler weather, the energy around Halloween and most importantly, the spirit of LGBT History Month.
The weekend of Oct. 31-Nov. 1 was not our first choice. But we are committed to making the most of it.
Is Atlanta Pride in financial trouble?
In short, yes. No one should underestimate the importance of making Pride 2009 a financial success. But don’t be alarmed. Making sure that the event is sustainable for the future is a top priority, and the threats to the solvency we’ve enjoyed for many years are challenges that we must view as opportunities to recover. We know that our renewed energy as Pride Committee Members, a revitalized commitment from our sponsors, and support from each and every lesbian, gay man, bisexual and transgender person in Atlanta, can turn it around.
The unfortunate circumstances of the last year left us strapped for operating expenses, and like many organizations, that necessitated tough decisions and creative thinking. But we remain committed to the values of Pride. We have a wonderfully supportive community and amazing resilience. The perseverance of our community has proven itself throughout history, and we know that by pulling together, we can clear this hurdle.
What can you do?
That’s a good question. Our theme this year, PRIDE BEGINS WITH YOU, reflects the start of a good answer. Whether you can offer your time or skills, a sponsorship, booth or monetary investment, or simply your word-of-mouth support, we welcome your collaboration. Quite frankly, we exist for you, and you are part of the process.
Let us know how you’d like to participate. Ideas and solutions are always welcome as we move forward. In the meantime, come aboard for what we know will be an amazing year of chances to honor Pride leading up to a climactic October to inspire the best in all of us. After all, it’s ultimately not about a venue or date, but about each of us individually and collectively. It’s a matter of Pride.