After last week’s historic U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage, major U.S. cities, including New York and San Francisco, celebrated their annual Gay Pride parades on Sunday with even more exuberance than usual. In New York, marchers
walked danced through the muggy streets from 36th Street and Fifth Avenue down to Christopher and Greenwich Streets in the West Village, while mobs of onlookers cheered, waved flags and wore amazing outfits. The actual parade lasted for hours, but for those of you with short attention spans, this time-lapse video chronicles the route in under two minutes. New York also launched a new LGBT tourism website this weekend.
It’s been almost a year since the passage of same-sex marriage in New York, and to help celebrate, the city is working with NYC & Company to bring two months of pride-related events. During June and July, 2012, the five boroughs will be presenting programming revolving around the flagship Heritage of Pride festival from June 16-24 in Manhattan, with motivational speakers, dancers, civil rights demonstrations, parades, street fairs and more. Some events include:
Queens Pride Parade and Multicultural Festival– On June 3 in Jackson Heights, there will be a parade starting at noon, making its way down 37th from 84th. There will be special guests, including the cast of Wicked and a festival at 11:00 a.m. at 75th Avenue and 37th Road.
The Rally– On June 13 from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., well known performers and speakers from the LGBT community will come together at the East River Bandshell to entertain and enlighten.
The March– On June 24 at noon, a civil rights demonstration celebrating gay rights and recognizing causes will begin at 36th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Bronx Pride Festival– Taking place July 21 from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Crotona Park, will offer entertainment, a health fair and memorabilia.
To see a full listing of events for NYC Pride 2012, click here.
[Flickr photo via Guillaume Paumier]
Following the trend of other European cities, London recently opened the doors of its first gay tourist office.
The office is located at 30 Lisle Street, and offers LGBT specific information, as well as ticketing services for London attractions.
According to centre (note the UK spelling) director Shaun Newport, London has the best LGBT life in the world, and the office is eager to show that to local, national and international visitors.
Amsterdam opened its first gay tourist information center last month, and LGBT tourists planning to visit the Dutch capital can order a special gay Amsterdam information kit for free.
This Saturday and Sunday, Chicago welcomes the largest street festival in the Midwest, Northalsted Market Days. It’s a two-day free-for-all of over 400 vendors, 40 concerts and drag shows, street food, booze . . . and lots and lots of half-naked men.
You see, Market Days takes place in Boystown, a stretch of Halsted Street in the Lakeview neighborhood that is home to the majority of the city’s gay bars and adult shops (plus plenty of trendy restaurants and unique boutiques for any orientation) and many of its gay residents. While the festival isn’t adults-only, you’ll definitely see some things you might have a hard time explaining to your kids (“Mommy, what’s a speculum?”).
While Market Days is predominantly a party – you’ll see more champagne-slushy stands and margarita vendors than anything else – it’s also a chance to support the local community. The money raised from the voluntary $7 donation goes to support the Northalsted Merchants Association that represents the local business owners. They also profit greatly from the event in the form of extra business during Market Days, both at their restaurants and at booths they operate at the fest. Need a new “special toy”, some knock-off designer sunglasses, a hammock for your backyard, a set of “pitcher” and “catcher” t-shirts, or maybe just an arm full of used books? Market Days has you covered with it’s eclectic collection of vendors. You’ll also find giveaways and contests; last year a friend of mine won two sets of round-trip tickets from Travelocity’s “cash-grab” booth.
If you get tired of sipping frozen cocktails, sampling from food stalls, checking out the merchandise and just taking in some of the more outlandish outfits (or lack thereof) worn by the crowd, you can head over to the concert stage where performers like En Vogue and Jody Watley will entertain, along with some local Chicago bands. For that you’ll have to pony up a bit more though. Wristbands to see the stage run from $30-$50 each.
Given the huge crowds and sensory overload you’ll experience at Market Days, the first time can be a bit overwhelming. Here are a few tips for survival.
Bring cash. In addition to the $7 donation fee, you’ll need it for any purchase you make from a vendor. There are ATM machines located around the route, but they often run out of money over the weekend.
Bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer. A few hundred thousand drunk people can really take their toll on the porta-potties. Come prepared. Most establishments along the route will not let you use their facilities unless you buy something.
Bring snacks and water. You aren’t supposed to bring booze into the fest (though it’s easy enough to sneak in) but you can bring in some water to stay hydrated and some healthy snacks to keep your strength up.
Wear closed-toe shoes. Especially as the night wears on, your chances of getting stepped on (or worse, stepping in something unsavory) increase.
Bring your cell phone if you plan to meet up with friends and make a plan to meet just inside or outside one of the entrances. Make a plan for if you get separated too. It’s easy to get distracted and wander off from your group.
Bring a camera. You’ll want to document this. Trust me.
Dress to impress. If you’re looking for a hook up, bring your A-game. You’ll have lots of competition. From skinny young guys in nothing but a pair of speedos and some feathery angel wings to older “bears” in full-on leather, you’ll see it all and if you want to stand out, you’ll need to make an effort.
Take public transportation. If you plan on drinking, and even if you don’t, taking the El (Belmont Red Line) or bus is the way to go. Cops are out in full force looking for drunk drivers, and parking around the fest is nearly impossible anyways.
Come with an open mind. Market Days is a party for sure. But it’s also a celebration, of love and acceptance. Everyone is happy and friendly. Whether you are gay or straight, male or female, you’ll be approached or maybe even propositioned, but either way you’ll have a great time.
Although the boycott of Utah could cost the state a bundle in tourism dollars if it’s a success–and if it’s happening–here’s another idea to make an impact. Scott McCoy, an openly gay senator in Utah, has suggested that people who are gay should head to Utah in droves. I read about McCoy’s views in this Seattle Times article.
The idea McCoy had when he heard about the ban is to show folks in Utah that gay people and gay families are genuine and wonderful people. By showing up in Utah and doing vacation like things, these families would in essence be educating people about the need gay families have for equal rights under the law just like other families.
Reading McCoy’s take on the boycott reminded me about my experience at Kings Island this past August during Gay Pride Night. I went with my brother, his friend and my daughter. As I stood in line to ride the Firehawk, the roller coaster you ride mostly on your stomach, and looked at the other people in line, I thought how utterly common a scene it was. Shorts, T-shirts, sneakers, middle-aged paunches on some, better haircuts on others, talking, laughing, smiling, and visiting. When it stopped raining and all the rides were a go, the joy felt exactly the same on any other day when I’ve been to an amusement park in the rain. For some reason, give me a summer and I’ll go on the rainy day. It’s not planned that way, it just happens.
If I hadn’t known we were there on Gay Pride Night, I really wouldn’t have been able to tell. Maybe McCoy has a point. On the other hand, Colorado lost millions of dollars in the 80s when there was a similar boycott.
Peter Greenburg , the Today show’s travel guru, pointed out earlier this year before Prop 8 passed [see article] that with gay people being allowed to tie the knot in California, that state was going to be able to pull in serious bucks. I imagine these days, it’s good-bye dough to some extent.
Regardless of ones political or religious opinions, tourism is a powerful playmate when it comes to a state’s financial health.