Throughout the years, the Metropolitan Business Association (MBA – The Central Florida LGBT chamber of commerce) saw the need for a Pride festival that focused on building unity and cohesiveness within the local community and also encouraging the rest of the country to rally to our side while we work to change the laws in Florida. In 2005, their hard work and diligence became a reality when Orlando saw it’s first Come Out With Pride festival on October 9th, 2005.
The first weekend of October was chosen for many reasons. It aligned with National Coming Out Day (October 11th) and National Gay and Lesbian History Month, it could take advantage of the cooler fall days, and central Florida already had a major LGBT event in June (Gay Days).
Since that day in 2005, Come Out With Pride (COWP) has grown into a major Pride event, becoming the largest Pride festival in all of Florida with attendance at upwards of 100,000. Between the vendors, entertainment offerings, Disney Kids Zone, parade, fireworks, variety of food and beverage choices, and as of 2012, the return of the LGBT film festival and implementation of World Showcase, there is something for everyone and never a dull moment.
An important mission of the COWP event is to give back to our community through charitable initiatives, such as an annual scholarship to the University of Central Florida Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Student Union, in addition to donations to a variety of local LGBT organizations.
COWP is already implementing ways to continue to improve and build upon this incredible event in the future, without losing sight of where everything started. It will continue to spread a message of acceptance and diversity while engaging with community activities and educational forums. Though created to commemorate National Coming Out Day, it is a fun event for everyone to enjoy, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, age, or race.