The start of the summer season means an annual tradition for many LGBT people around Georgia and the South – making a road trip to Florida for a weekend (or longer) full of sun, beaches and parties.

While Pensacola remains the unofficial gay Memorial Day mecca, in recent years the LGBT celebrations have spread throughout Florida to include Miami and Orlando as well, with Gay Days beginning just after the holiday weekend. These days, events are geared strategically for both men and women and days and nights are loaded with activities.

Owners of My Sister’s Room, the Atlanta lesbian bar, are involved in Pensacola events again this year. According to Patryce Yeiser, co-owner of the bar, last year was their maiden year sponsoring Memorial Day weekend events. She had been going to Florida on and off for the last 15 years and realized that there was only one big women’s event.

Since the bar scene that weekend in Atlanta is fairly non-existent, she made a push for women to head to Pensacola.

“It was a lot of work but we are pleased with it,” Yeiser says. “We offer great entertainment and it’s nice to do something outside of our own space.”

The big change this year, according to Yeiser, is that they have decided to partner with Aqua Girl/Pandora Events, which she calls the Miami equivalent of Dinah, in an attempt to bring more national attention to the activities. They also changed the name of the event to Pensacola Women’s Weekend instead of last year’s Sexacola, although the Saturday beach party still has the Sexacola name.

Cast members from the “Real L Word” will be on hand during the event, as will “Big Gay Sketch” comic Julie Goldman. Also present will be The Fuel Girls, a fire-breathing/rock and roll/stunt show that has developed a loyal following.

“Gay men really like them too,” laughs Yeiser.

Last year party organizers across Florida were concerned about how the oil spill would affect travellers.

“2010 was our first year and we had nothing to base it on, but I do feel attendance was affected and was off by about 30 percent,” says Yeiser.

She feels some people decided not to come at the last minute. Luckily, she says, no oil was on the beach and “everyone had a great time.”

Lesbian favorites Michelle Malone and Kristy Lee are two of the performers scheduled for another Pensacola women’s event called Unleashed Emerald City, a noted gay bar in Pensacola, will host its usual array of activities over the weekend.

Last year, events for men in Pensacola were more muted than the past, centered mainly in bars. But this year, the packed calendar of Pensacola men’s events returns and includes the Wave Beach Party with DJ Roland Belmares and Abracadabra with DJ Joe Gauthreaux back at the Pensacola Civic Center.

Also over Memorial Day Weekend, African-American and Latino men, as well as lesbians, make Miami a happening spot. Miami’s Sizzle event, which advertises itself as an urban traveller’s paradise, started as a one day event in 2002 called Sex on the Beach. Some of their major events include a Yacht Cruise Party, a jazz concert and a concert with a TBD R&B artist.

Gay Days at Disney, and beyond

Gay Days in Orlando promises something for everyone – a Magic Kingdom 20th anniversary trip, Deborah Cox, bear parties, nonstop pool parties and more.  Chris Manley, president of Gay Day, says that the event, like so many others, began 21 years ago as a one day event and now includes national and international visitors.

Mark Baker’s Wonderworld (last year called Wonderland) will also host Orlando activities such as the Riptide beach event at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and the huge Matinee: Ibaza Rising, held at Universal Studios, also as part of Gay Days.

International DJs and go-go boys will also be on tap at his events, Baker says.

His core group is gay men aged 25 – 40, and the trick is to retain them and also rope in a new generation of visitors each year. He has been impressed by reservations already booked, despite the economy.

“We have doubled the amount from last year,” Baker says. “For all the talk of frugality, I have found that when something is fun and exciting, people want to do it.”

Upcoming events

Memorial Day Weekend in Pensacola
May 26 – 30

Pensacola Women’s Weekend
Details: www.pensacolawomensweekend.com
Thursday: Welcome Party and Glow Dance Party
Friday: Out for Laughs Comedy show, Rock Burlesque
Saturday: Dodge Ball tournament finals, Drag King contest, Sexacola Wet T-shirt contest
Sunday: Flirt Pool Party/Bikini contest, White Diamonds dance event

Unleashed
Details: www.pensacolaunleashed.com
Performers include:  Kristy Lee, Michelle Malone, Spikey Dykey and the After Midnites, God-Des and She, Elley Duhe, Greg Fells, Halycon, DJ Beverly Skillz, DJ Trey Stein, DJ TonySkratchere

Memorial Weekend Pensacola
Details: www.memorialweekendpensacola.com
Friday: Wave Beach Party with DJ Roland Belmares
Saturday: Sweat with DJ Eddie Baez
Sunday: Abracadabra with DJ Gauthreaux, Spellbound After Hours with DJ Wendy Hunt

Sizzle and Sizzle Her in Miami
May 26 – 30

Details: www.sizzlemiami.com, www.sizzleher.com
Events include: live concert with an R&B artist, Queens of Comedy showcase, Yacht Cruise Party, Jazz concert

Gay Days, Wonderland in Orlando
May 31 – June 6

Gay Days
Details: www.gaydays.com
Tuesday: Kickoff Party
Wednesday: Pool Party with DJ Joshua Bula
Thursday: Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Foreplay Pool Party with DJ Brett Locascio and DJ Fierce Tease, Gay Days Expo starts, Women’s Welcome Pool Party
Friday: Gay Days at Disney’s Hollywood Studio, Afternoon Pool Party, Cirque du Soleil La Nouba, Bud Light Pool Bash with DJ David Knapp, Kelly Rowland
Saturday: Gay Days Magic Kingdom 20th anniversary, Bud Light Pool Party with DJ Joe Gauthreaux, Bear Dance EuFURia, Deborah Cox, Ibiza Rising party at Universal Studios Florida
Sunday: Sunday Brunch with Brent Everett, Gay Days at Epcot

Wonderworld
Details: www.markbakerevents.com
Thursday: Liquid Skky with music by Perry Twins and Kidd Madonny
Friday: Riptide beach event at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, Tidal Wave Party, Tunnel dance party, Liquid Pool Party
Saturday: Matinee: Ibiza Rising at Universal Studios Florida, Tunnel dance event, Liquid Pool Party
Sunday: Tunnel dance event, Fasscination, Liquid Pool Party

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