A record-breaking 220,000+ people attended Come Out With Pride in Orlando this year.
The festival, which took place on Saturday, October 21st from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the majestic Lake Eola Park was a joyous celebration of inclusivity and visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community, their friends, family, and allies. Highlights of the day included The Most Colorful Parade presented by AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation), Trans Rally, Pride Rally, Rainbow Ranch Kids Zone, Fireworks Grand Finale, and much more. “
“This is by far the biggest Pride we’ve ever had. It was a complete surprise to us. Some media are calling us one of the biggest in the country now! It was much bigger than we ever could have imagined!! Everything considered, with all the odds against us, it was a huge success and everything went smoothly!,” says Tatiana Quiroga, Executive Director of Come Out With Pride. Come Out With Pride, Orlando’s not-for-profit, volunteer-led LGBTQIA+ Pride Organization held its first parade in 2005 and still cultivates authenticity, acceptance, and visibility by creating inclusive experiences that celebrate and embody the spirit of queer resilience.
All of the 2023 Come Out With Pride grand marshals have made significant contributions to the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to do so. Dempsey Jara, the youngest Come Out With Pride grand marshal ever, is a 12-year-old Central Florida trans activist who has shown extraordinary advocacy and bravery standing up for trans youth.
“Being transgender is not about a choice,” Dempsey told the Orlando Sentinel recently. “It’s about being true to myself. It’s about embracing who I am even when the world tries to tell me otherwise. It’s about standing tall in my identity even when it’s really hard.”
The other distinguished grand marshals included Simone Chriss, a civil rights attorney for Southern Legal Counsel who has worked relentlessly to support and strengthen the rights of marginalized communities, and Owners of Hamburger Mary’s; Orlando John Paonessa, Mike Rogier, and their legal team lead by Gary Israel, P.A., who have been at the front lines fighting against homophobic anti-drag legislation in the state of Florida.
Darcel Stevens, an icon of the Orlando drag scene and an activist won The Sam Singhaus Legends in Pride Award. Stevens served as the emcee and entertainment director for the Footlight Players of the Parliament House Resort and was a leader for the Central Florida delegation of the Drag Queen’s March on Tallahassee.
“Now, more than ever, recognizing our entertainers’ integral role in the queer rights movement, we celebrate their bravery and creativity in fostering LGBTQIA+ authenticity, resilience, and acceptance,” says Corey Bryant, Come Out With Pride Board President. “It is only fitting that Sam Singhaus be the namesake to carry on that legacy. Miss Sammy was ‘queer joy’ personified.”
Multi-talented Blue Star won The Debbie Simmons Community Excellence Award, the highest honor presented, honoring Debbie Simmons, one of the founding members of Come Out With Pride. She has volunteered for nearly a decade with Come Out With Pride’s entertainment team and is the creator of the award-winning performance ensemble Varitease. Her mantra is “One Love.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race stars La La Ri and Monét X Change performed and headlined the evening entertainment on the Divas Stage. Queer entertainers Darcel Stevens, The Les Vixens, the House of Cavalli, the House of San Miguel, and more also performed on The Divas Stage throughout the evening. The Club Pride Stage showcased a variety of DJs which had people dancing throughout the day. The spectacular Fireworks Grand Finale brought the celebration to a close with excellent views all around Lake Eola. TD Bank and Tito’s presented VIP experiences, while Pineapple Health powered A Sober Space for those who preferred to celebrate without alcohol.