Memorial Day Weekend in Pensacola
May 27 – May 31
Johnny Chisholm Presents Details: www.memorialweekendpensacola.com
Monster Beach Details: www.Pensacolamemorialday.com
Unleashed Details: www.pensacolaunleashed.com
Sizzle & Sizzle Her in Miami
Sizzle events include:
SizzleHer events include:
Gay Days in Orlando
Thursday: Gay Day at Animal Kingdom
For many in Georgia and across the South, Florida is synonymous with summer travel. And for LGBT Georgians, that frequently means an annual trek to several gay traditions that make the Sunshine State even hotter.
Thousands of LGBT sun worshippers head to Pensacola for Memorial Day, while black and Latino gay men and lesbians flock to Miami for Sizzle and SizzleHer events the same weekend. Just a few days later, Gay Days at Disney packs theme parks and nightlife venues in Orlando.
Thanks to the oil spill in the Gulf and a financial crisis for one party promoter, events in Pensacola and Orlando may look a bit different this year. But organizers encourage travelers to still turn out in droves — not only to party, but also to give an economic boost to a state potentially facing both environmental and economic disaster.
Pensacola’s beaches have been a highly popular Memorial Day Weekend destination for gay and lesbian travelers for decades. This year, My Sister’s Room, a lesbian bar in Atlanta, hosts a series of girl-oriented events dubbed “Sexacola” in Pensacola over Memorial Day Weekend.
Patryce Yeiser, co-owner of My Sisters’ Room with Susan Musselwhite, says events will continue regardless of what happens with the oil spill.
“People have already made reservations, and we will all still go and the parties will still go on,” she says. “It may just be that some of the daytime beach activities all just go to the sound side instead of the beach side.”
Sexacola events include “Glow,” a party with light sticks to show who is single and who isn’t; “Mardi Gras in May,” “Vegas Nights,”and “The White Party with a Latin Flair.”
Yeiser encourages lesbian and gay travelers to visit Pensacola over Memorial Day Weekend as a way to help local businesses, which could be hard hit from both the oil spill and the potential loss of a huge tourist weekend.
“We’re hoping to give the economy a boost down there,” she said. “They’re going to need it.”
Pensacola-based event organizers are also wary of the spill, but determined that the party will continue regardless.
Emerald City, a gay bar in Pensacola, hosts a full slate of events throughout Memorial Day Weekend. General Manager Ted McCrary said planning continues.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed, but we don’t know what to expect and it could have a serious impact on Memorial Day,” he said. “White sand with oil on it is certainly not what we would hope for, because this is first and foremost a beach event.”
This year’s gay Memorial Day weekend was already shaping up to be different for Emerald City even before the oil spill. The bar is helmed by Johnny Chisholm, an event promoter who for years produced a major schedule of gay events for both Pensacola over Memorial Day and Gay Days in Orlando just a few days later.
The closeness of the two events on the calendar ended up hurting the Pensacola parties.
“With the popularity of Orlando, we shot ourselves in the foot,” McCrary said.
Instead of huge circuit parties at the Pensacola Civic Center or on the beach, as in some previous years, this year Chisholm is sticking to events in smaller venues.
“This year we decided we needed to pull back and let the attendance catch back up with the schedule of events,” McCrary says.
New events for Gay Days
Gay Days, set for June 3-7 in Orlando, started with a few people wearing red shirts for an afternoon at Walt Disney World and blossomed into an international gay event. It too will see changes this year.
Johnny Chisholm is also the reason for many of these. He bought the “One Mighty Weekend” series of events from Mark Baker, but his company struggled financially. Last year, the party schedule was in disarray after several Chisholm events had last-minute venue changes.
This week, McCrary blamed Disney for the events having to move from Disney properties, claiming the company “turned their back on us.” A spokesperson for Walt Disney World did not respond to an interview request.
Chisholm’s company went bankrupt, so now “One Mighty Weekend” is no more. In its place is a new series of events from Baker dubbed “Wonderland.”
“I did my first event in 1999 and sold it all to Johnny Chisholm in 2005,” Baker says. “I got it all back this year.”
Wonderland features a full schedule of events Thursday through Sunday, including a signature Saturday night party at Universal Studios, with DJ Tony Moran and rides open.
The annual visit to Walt Disney World also continues, although the event has never been officially sponsored by Disney, and there are many other events for LGBT visitors.
More than 135,000 visitors will pack Orlando for more than 40 citywide events, according to GayDays.com.
There are days to attend several major theme parks, as well as almost unending nightlife options.
Miami set to ‘Sizzle’
Hot parties and hot guys and girls are also on the agenda for Sizzle and SizzleHer, companion events that draw black and Latino gay men and lesbians to Miami for Memorial Day Weekend, May 27 to June 1.
Events range from a model search and booze cruise to pool parties and the All White Affair.Sizzle organizers did not respond to an interview request.
“Sizzle Miami, conceived almost nine years ago, has grown to become America’s most celebrated and anticipated urban gay event,” organizers say on Sizzle’s Facebook page.