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Prime Timers Standing Strong With Orlando

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Our St. Louis Chapter's largest annual recruiting event is the massive two-day St. Louis "PrideFest" weekend, welcoming over 250,000 attendees. We secured a strategically located tent space to help increase our visibility and recruit new members. We also built a float to be a part of what became the largest PrideFest Parade in St. Louis History.


Our float design was original, creative, and colorful, complete with a large "rainbow" of 30 moving umbrellas. The float would be flanked by members wearing matching chapter t-shirts and using bubble guns to add to the fun and festive atmosphere.


But then, less than two weeks before PrideFest weekend, tragedy struck Orlando, our nation, and the LGBT community.


We knew that we wanted to respond with a strong and positive statement about this senseless loss of human life. But there wasn't enough time to make changes to our parade float.


We finally came upon a way to show our support, while perhaps also subtly countering a stereotype or two about what it means to be older gay and bisexual men.
The result was a bold, nine foot, black-on-white banner with our chapter logo on it stating, "We Stand Strong With Orlando". We knew the importance of including the word "Strong".


This simple yet direct banner, carried in front of our colorful, creative, and festive float, demonstrated that we are mature men who not only care about the LGBT community, but are also an integral and active part of it.


Needless to say, our float and banner elicited applause and cheers from the crowd as we walked and waived along the mile-long parade route. Before and after the parade, we hoisted and secured our Orlando banner ten feet high over our tent space, helping to attract even more visitors to our recruiting tent throughout the weekend.


In addition to giving out information about our Prime Timers chapter, we also created and attached to our tent a large "QR code" sign which linked visitors to Equality Florida, the official organization designated to receive donated funds for the Orlando effort. By simply aiming their smart phone at that QR code, visitors could instantly make a secure donation to help provide care for the victims and their loved ones.


Our Orlando banner also attracted the attention of a local NBC Television affiliate. The resulting news coverage, shown three times over two days, included segments which featured not only our "We Stand Strong With Orlando" banner, but also an interview, with our eight-foot "Prime Timers St. Louis" banner showing clearly in the background. In short, by responding quickly and creatively to this national tragedy with a strong and positive message, our St. Louis Prime Timers chapter provided tangible support for those in need, raised significant visibility and recognition for our chapter, and perhaps helped to dispel a stereotype or two about what it means to be a mature gay or bisexual man.


And then three weeks later, something totally unexpected happened. Perhaps it was the combination of a festive, colorful, and creative float design along with a strong and positive message that ultimately lead to our chapter receiving the 2016 PrideFest "Grand Prize for Best Float" in St. Louis' largest PrideFest parade ever.

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