In New York, it was the 1969 Stonewall Riots that eventually initiated the tradition of gay marches in the U.S; and San Francisco is known for The Castro and Harvey Milk’s political work.
But travelers should not overlook Key West Pride, which takes place from June 5 to June 9 —particularly since the city of Key West has made its own contributions to LGBT history.
Key West has been home to lesbian and gay writers such as the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Elizabeth Bishop and playwright Tennessee Williams. It was the first U.S. city to have an openly gay mayor. It was even the first travel locale to reach out to the gay community. The Key West Business Guild (KWBG) organizes Key West Pride, and was started as a non-profit in 1978 to encourage LGBT travelers to visit the island.
“Key West has always been an accepting island,” said Pete Arnow, Community Liaison of KWBG. Arnow also noted that same-sex couples have “always been able to hold hands here.” Furthermore, he spoke about how the LGBT community and straight community have created a sense of togetherness: “The motto is One Human Family. And it truly is.”
This year, Key West Pride 2013 stays true to the motto, and celebrates another moment in LGBT history: The 10th Anniversary of the “Sea to Sea Rainbow Flag.” In 2003, Gilbert Baker, the designer of the Rainbow Flag, created the “World’s Longest Gay Pride Flag” for Key West Pride. When it was finally displayed, the flag covered the distance of Duval Street, which is located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Baker has been named the Parade Grand Marshall for Key West Pride 2013. Other featured events for the 10th Anniversary of the “Sea to Sea Rainbow Flag” include a meet and greet with Baker at La Te Da Hotel, and a documentary film screening about the flag, “Key West, City of Colors.” Although there is a cash bar at La Te Da, both events are free.
In fact, Key West Pride has a number of free events. The 6th Annual Key West Pride Film Fest presents two free films: I Am Divine, a documentary about the star of John Waters’ Pink Flamingoes and Hairspray; and deepsouth, a documentary on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States.
The Barefoot Wine Pride Beach Clean-Up is a free event that helps the environment. Volunteers who are of drinking age will be provided with wine and appetizers afterwards.
Several venues offer events without a cover charge. Whether it’s a women’s pool party at Lighthouse Court, 70s/80s dance music at Pearl’s and 801 Bourbon Bar, or happy hour at Alexander’s Traffic Light Party — all have no cover.
Families with children can enjoy the Conch Cruisers “Show Your Pride” Bike Ride, the Street Fair, and the Parade.
Other events vary in price from $10 to $50. Arnow recommends that visitors “get out on our waters.” Sailing, snorkeling and other water escapades can be found with Venus Charters, Fury's Key West Pride Ultimate Adventure, as well as other companies on the Key West Pride website.
In the evenings, there are cabaret shows, or comedy and music like The Kinsey Sicks, known as “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet.”
Key West is “only the size of Central Park in New York,” said Arnow. “But a lot can happen here…we invite everyone to come to Key West Pride.”
If you go to Key West Pride 2013
June 5 – 9, 2013
Various locations throughout Key West.
Free - $50For more information:Key West Business Guild Office & Visitor Center
513 Truman Ave.
Key West, FL