By Vachon Pugh, EA Tiburon
Come Out With Pride (COWP) Orlando is a weeklong event that has been running for the past 9 years. With the many celebrities they bring in each year such as John Waters, Debbie Gibson, and Taylor Dane along with the events they have all week, it is always an amazing experience to attend. I’ve had the pleasure of attending the festival for four out of the past five years, and have had an amazing time each year.
I started working at EA Tiburon in August 2012. I remember going to the COWP Festival that year, and as I was walking around all the vendors that came out to support the LGBT community, I thought to myself how it would be nice to see EA participating as well. A few months later, the Inclusion Guild, which is an employee volunteer group that supports diversity and inclusion efforts at EA and in our community across the globe, was created. They were looking for volunteers to organize Pride Parade participation for our studios in several cities, including Orlando! I was super excited and immediately jumped at the opportunity. I had never organized an event of this size, but I was ready to give it a try! I brought up the idea to our Community Connections team (which handles all of our volunteer and outreach projects), and coincidentally they had already been discussing participating this year, so they were eager to help.
I contacted COWP and signed us up, and began the preparations. Since Orlando was the last stop on the EA Pride tour, we were able to get a lot of good ideas from the studios that had already walked, and it helped us get an idea of what to expect. We decided that since we were new to the parade, we would have walkers, and hold off on building a float until next year. However, we did plan on having a photo booth at the festival where people could take pictures and have them printed out to take home.
I wasn’t sure how many people would sign up to walk, as this was our first year participating. Still, I created the EventBrite site, and we posted it on our internal employee website. Not too many people signed up at first, but out of nowhere people started registering all at once! It was awesome seeing how many people were interested in walking to show their support for the LGBT community, and we had around 65 employees join the parade. I even started getting emails from employees who were so excited that EA was finally participating this year, and how happy they were to be able to be a part of it.
Fast forward again, to the morning of the event. By the time I got to the festival to start setting up, the Community Team had already taken care of everything! I unloaded all of the swag, and we laid it out on the table. Everyone LOVED our Chuzzles, especially the kids! People started coming up to the booth and talking to us. They were so excited to see EA at the event! Everyone loved the photo booth, and they were anxious to get their pictures taken. It turned out to be a huge success! Around 2:45 pm, the walkers started gathering at the booth, and we gathered all our swag and the banner and headed over to the staging area. We got in line, and waited for the parade to step off. While we didn’t have our own music to walk to, the groups around us all had music so we started dancing along. As we walked by, the crowd started cheering and waving at us.
I heard so many cries of “EA SPORTS, It’s in the Game!” that I couldn’t help but giggle. We threw out so much swag from the start, that we had all but run out completely by the end! Everyone had so much fun participating, and it was great to see the smiles on everyone’s faces.
After the parade was done, everyone got ready to leave, but not before we started talking about what we wanted to do next year. We have so many ideas that it’s going to be an even bigger event than we did this time. All in all, this was an amazing experience and I’m honored to have been a part of it. Thanks to everyone that participated, and I can’t wait to help lead the effort again! See you next year!
The Orlando crew hands out Chuzzles and meets with COWP attendees at the booth.
EA hits the parade route.
Orlando shows its Pride!