Florida's westernmost city, Pensacola is near the tip of the state's northwest panhandle and has long had a reputation as a religiously conservative Navy town as well as a popular family resort area. If this doesn't sound like an obvious destination for gay and lesbian travelers, it isn't - at least most of the year. But in late May, during Memorial Day weekend, Pensacola is the site of one of the nation's larger GLBT gatherings, a combination gay circuit party and regional gay pride event. The dates of the four-day Gay Memorial Day Weekend party are May 23 to May 27, 2013, and as many as 150,000 attendees from throughout the South are expected to attend this year, which features some brand-new parties and events in Pensacola Beach.
There are a couple of different key events taking place over this weekend. More on Pensacola Memorial Day Weekend 2013 will be posted here as details are released. Here's a look at last year's event, in the meantime:
As it has for many years, the city's popular - and very fun - gay nightclub, Emerald City (406 E. Wright St., 850-433-9491), hosts a series of Pensacola Memorial Weekend parties, beginning on Friday night and lasting until Monday evening. The main daytime events are the Splash Beach Fest celebrations, held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from noon until 7 pm at an 11,000-square-foot pavilion in Pensacola Beach at Park East, a little over a mile east of Portofino Resort and Spa. Admission is free (you must be over 18), and guests are advised to bring tents, cabanas, and beach gear, but food, cocktails, and beer will be available. Each of these three days, there are parties at 2 pm, including Friday's welcome party with DJ Dewight Barkley, Saturday's event with DJ Jay-R, and Sunday's blowout with DJ Tim Flueger. The biggest nighttime event is be Saturday night's WAVE Black Light Beach Bash, led by famed DJ Joe Gauthreaux and drag star Bianca del Rio - it takes place from 10 pm until 4 in the morning. You can purchase tickets to WAVE online or in person at the gate or the Memorial Day Weekend welcome center, the Hampton Inn on the Beach.
An additional GLBT event held over Pensacola Memorial Day Weekend (and unaffiliated with Emerald City and the Splash Beach Fest), is the Monster Beach Party, a series of boat parties, live shows, and events in private beaches houses.
Of course, additionally, other gay-popular bars (such as the Roundup and The Cabaret, restaurants, hotels, and shops fill up with gay folks during the week. The organizers of the Emerald City parties have GLBT-friendly hotel information on Pensacola, and you can also find more GLBT information on the region at Gay Grassroots Northwest Florida. Other resources of note include New Orleans-based Ambush Magazine.
For basic travel and tourism information on the region, you can also look to the Pensacola Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. But think of his organization as a general guide to the area, not as a supporter of the event - the organization makes no mention of the Memorial Day Weekend party on its site, nor does it provide any information for gay and lesbian visitors.