In honor of National Coming Out Day as well as National LGBTQ history month in October, the Manayunk Development Corporation (MDC) partnered with local businesses to host the first ever Out & About in MNYK, Oct. 18 through Oct. 20. The weekend-long event was meant to promote Manayunk as a welcoming safe space.
For Mark Jerde, owner of the Manayunk Chambers Guest House, Out & About in MNYK was an event that needed to happen.
“This is the first time there’s been one that’s specific for LGBTQ people and so that’s where I just thought it was long overdue,” Jerde said.
As an active member of the MDC, Jerde approached the local business owners to ask them what they thought about having one specific event for LGBTQ people.
“We’re only 10% of the society here, generally speaking, and so my husband and I devised the idea and it seemed to be very well received,” said Jerde. “Being LGBTQ myself, it was very important for me to educate the people about LGBTQ people.”
Megan Douress, director of marketing and events at the MDC, said it was time for Manayunk to show appreciation for residents who identify with the LGBTQ community.
“We have a number of businesses that are owned and/or operated by those in the LGBTQ community and many others that are allies,” Douress said. “We hope this is the first of many steps to ensure Manayunk’s welcoming community continues to grow.”
Some of the proceeds from the event were donated to the William Way LGBT Community Center, a center based in Philadelphia that encourages and advocates for the acceptance of sexual and gender minorities in the region.
Philly pride flags were visible all the way up and down Main Street, and many businesses had pride stickers on their front door to show their support for the LGBTQ members of their community.
“I think the fact that a lot of businesses had the flags, that’s a big thing,” Pat Breslin, owner of River City Outpost said. “I think this festival is a huge opportunity to promote unity on this commercial quarter.”
Winnie’s Manayunk shut down the restaurant Friday night to kick off Out & About with a bingo night and buffet dinner. On Saturday, Canal View Park, located at 4430 Main St., hosted activities like drag face painting, drag story time, and photo booths.
“Yesterday walking around was very lively,” Arielle Ashford, co-owner of Unity Yoga, said. “It was fun seeing people coming together and just having a good time.”
Ashford held a free LGBTQ Allies flow yoga class at the studio Saturday afternoon.
“Robert, my husband, and I are both allies of our LGBTQ population so anything we can do to support I think is important,” Ashford said. “We try to get involved in everything Manayunk is doing just because we think it is important as stewards of Main Street.”
Jesse Kohler, Director of Development for the North Light Community Center, an organization that provides programs and support to help children, teens, and families reach their full potential as responsible citizens, was tabling at Out & About on Saturday to promote awareness for the organization’s programs.
“For those who are out, Out & About was an obvious show of support,” said Kohler. “However, for those who are not out, Out & About may have helped them feel like there was truly a community to support them.”
Many of the local businesses offered giveaways, sales, and promotions. Some of the owners have a connection with the LGBTQ population, while others wanted to participate to show their support.
“The thing that I’m most impressed about is how receptive all the businesses and restaurants were into supporting this thing,” said Breslin.
For some business owners, like Daniel Tang from Sugar Philly, this event meant showing a marginalized group of people that they are welcome and valued in the neighborhood.
“Personally for me — like I’m not part of the LGBTQ community, however as someone who’s a minority, being Asian American — I certainly know what it’s like to be discriminated against,” Tang said. “So, when I look at this Out and About and Pride Week kind of stuff, you know anything that I can do to help cause less discrimination towards a group of people, I’m more than willing to participate in.”
Tang participated in the event by creating a rainbow Fruity Pebbles crepe cake specifically to show support for Out and About in MNYK.
“I just wanted to do something really colorful,” Tang said.
Pet Friendly Dog Bakery, a bakery that specializes in natural treats for dogs, had a promotion for their Pride products. Assistant manager Natalie Sroka spoke about the importance of the event.
“I think it’s good for the people that live around here,” said Sroka. “Dogs have two moms, dogs have two dads.”
Breslin believes this type of event is important to strengthen the community as well.
“I don’t know what the gay and lesbian population is in Manayunk, but the fact that this was here and was successful, if people are coming to Manayunk just for those things, that’s a win scenario,” Breslin said.
Residents of Manayunk, like Haley McGettigan, who moved to the neighborhood in March, also spoke about the impact the event had and why this is important for a community with a lot of younger residents.
“These events give people the freedom to be who they are with the support of their neighbors, friends, allies, etc.,” McGettigan said. “There is a huge population of college students and people right out of school, and many of them may not have the acceptance they need. We need events that promote belonging to further the process of leaving mistreatment behind.”
The weekend’s events were special for families too, as Jerde witnessed himself.
“There was a mother with her 13-year-old daughter, and her daughter had just come out and this was her first LGBT event,” said Jerde. “We wanted to be sure that there wasn’t going to be any kind of opposition that occurs. You know having grown up LGBTQ myself, you get used to that being a part of life.”
Jerde is optimistic about the future of Out and About in MNYK, and hopes that this continues to be an impactful event.
“In Manayunk, I think we do take pride in being a diverse community with people from all walks of life.” said Jerde. “I’m hoping it’s the first of many.”
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