South 13th Street segment renamed in honor of gay tourism trailblazer, Jeff Guaracino
Jeff Guaracino was a pioneer in tourism and marketing towards the LGBTQ+ community, and the former CEO and President of VISIT PHILADELPHIA.
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What was once a segment of South 13th Street, passing through a neighborhood fondly nicknamed “The Gayborhood,” has now been renamed “Jeff Guaracino Way” in honor of the late Jeff Guaracino, a booster of civic pride and LGBTQ+ tourism marketing trailblazer.
Guaracino was the President and CEO of VISIT PHILADELPHIA, a tourism agency that directly advertised to LGBTQ+ tourists. Many might recall their slogan “Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay®,” the first of its kind in the world to advertise to the LGBTQ+ community. He was one of the biggest forces behind the campaign.
Additionally, he authored "Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing," a handbook on how to market towards the LGBTQ+ community.
Guaracino passed away from cancer in December 2021 at 48 years old, leaving behind a legacy of outreach to LGBTQ+ communities from across the world to look to Philadelphia as a place to explore.
The street renaming ceremony was chosen to happen, October 11, on National Coming Out Day, an annual LGBT awareness day.
“Jeff dreamed big. That small idea of inviting marginalized travelers to Philly grew into a campaign that included airing the first ever LGBTQ being television commercial in the United States,” said Angela Val, the current President and CEO of VISIT PHILADELPHIA, during the ceremony on Tuesday.
“In 2004 at a time when gay marriage was legal in only one state and Don't Ask Don't Tell was still military policy, Jeff believed it was important no matter what to invite the LGBT community and travelers to visit our great city,” she added.
Opening the ceremony were two drag queens, the award-winning VinChelle and Brittany Lynn, head of the “Drag Queen Mafia.” Both are notable figures in the city’s LGBTQ+ community, beginning the ceremony with a musical performance.
The commencement ceremony was led by those close to Guaracino, including coworkers, friends, his fiancé Joshua Thomas, and his brother Jerry Guaracino. Each took a moment to honor Guaracino’s work, personality, achievements, and legacy, with a few personal stories shared by those close to him.
Councilmember Mark Squilla recalled when he was approached by Tami Sortman, of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus, to change the name of a street in honor of Guaracino.
When the proposal to commemorate Guaracino was submitted, it had received unanimous approval; something which Squilla credits to Guaracino’s impact, calling the change a “no-brainer.”
“No matter what you said about Philadelphia, Jeff can always find a positive and even want to promote it and give people a reason why they should come here,” Squilla said.
Closing out the ceremony was another musical performance, done by Philly-native singer-songwriter Julian King.
The new street signs were unveiled to applause from the gathered crowd, each one a tribute to the departed Guaracino.