Philly Pride is ready for its TV debut

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Scene from Philadelphia's 30th annual PrideDay on Sunday, June 10, 2018. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Scene from Philadelphia's 30th annual PrideDay on Sunday, June 10, 2018. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

For John Morris, this is the start of parade season.

The vice president of content at Philadelphia’s 6ABC TV station (WPVI) will oversee the shooting of seven parades in the next six months, starting this weekend with Pride and ending with the piece de resistance, the Thanksgiving Parade.

This will be the first year the Philadelphia Pride Parade will be televised, an idea that has been kicking around for a few years. With the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, which sparked the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement and Pride parades around the world, the time was ripe.

“With this year the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, we stepped up our effort,” said Morris. “We thought this was a great year to finally get this parade on television.”

The parade will not be broadcast live. Channel 6 will shoot from the judging area, then broadcast an edited version three weeks later on June 30, paired with a special program about Stonewall.

The television special is possible, in part, because of funding from Visit Philly, the city’s tourism marketing organization, which is using a portion of its summer advertising budget to back the TV production because it sees the parade as a major tourist attraction.

“It has big value,” said Visit Philly present Jeff Guaracino. “We see that in New York. More than 4.5 million people come to New York to be part of the Stonewall anniversary. LGBT tourism is big business and an economic driver.”

The parade begins at 11 a.m. on 13th street in the so-called Gayborhood of Washington Square West, and ends with a ticketed festival (tickets are $15) at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River. It is expected to last about three hours.

What you’ll see

The parade will not be altered to accommodate television. Unlike more choreographed events like the Thanksgiving Parade where the action is timed for the needs of the broadcast, 6ABCs plan is to capture whatever it can on camera and edit it down later.

“We hope that if we show we can put this together in a great broadcast that takes the fun and celebration to a tremendous audience, that in coming years we’ll be able to work with parade organizers to improve our broadcast of it, improve the timing of the parade,” said Morris.

The first Pride Parade was in New York in 1970, when gay activists improvised a march to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Philadelphia followed with a parade in 1972. Since then it has grown in fits and starts. Between 1977 and 1987 there was no parade.

The parade returned in 1988, somewhat spontaneously, and the following year Philly Pride Presents was formed to organize the event annually. This year is PPP’s 31st parade.

Visit Philly’s Guaracino believes the addition of television to the coverage of the parade and the Stonewall anniversary is a meaningful step in the advancement of LGBTQ rights.

“Never before has this community and this history been chronicled by the international news organizations, museums, and exhibitions, and then told through mass media of television, radio, print, online digital to the world,” he said.

The New York Pride parade, which is significantly larger than Philadelphia’s, has been televised live by New York’s ABC affiliate since 2017 and nominated for Emmy awards.

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