It’s the 17th year for a summer celebration designed to ease the aging process of gay and bisexual men.
“When I started this there was nothing for an older man to do,” said Celebration of Friends President Tom Pence. “He was finished.”
Pence -- known to friends as “TomCat” -- has officially organized get-togethers for senior gay and bisexual men for nearly two decades. This year’s summer event is exceeding expectations, Pence said.
“We’ve filled up the hotel and suddenly everyone in Fort Lauderdale is my best friend,” Pence mused on Saturday morning as he was leaving the Skolnick Center in Pompano Beach. “We have an overflow hotel and working with another one.”
Billed as the group’s “summer splash” Celebration of Friends, per its website, intends to promote “guilt/attitude free conventions for real mature men and their admirers.” In the past, Pence has emceed swimsuit contests poolside at the Fort Lauderdale Ramada Inn. In 2016, the group hosted former U.S. Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts and in 2015 celebrated screen acting legend Ed Asner.
Pence said the group serves its purpose in supporting senior men.
“It’s important for older men who have lost a spouse or are looking for husbands or who are retiring and living in south Florida,” Pence said.
The Ramada Inn Fort Lauderdale Oakland Park, 3001 U.S. 1, is host hotel this summer. According to the hotel’s front desk, rooms this weekend have been sold out for over a month.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Pride Center, Ramada Inn, Hunters Nightclubs, Bona Italian Restaurant, Rumors Bar & Grill and Courtyard Café are just some of the group’s sponsors.
Summer Splash takes place from July 19 to 22 at the Fort Lauderdale Ramada Inn. Those who want to attend need to register with the event before reserving a room.
For more information, visit www.celebrationoffriends.org