“A Celebration Of Friends” (ACOF) is a semi-annual convention or celebration for mature men and their admirers. This year’s Celebration (number 16) will be held on the weekend of July 20-23 at the Ramada Fort Lauderdale Oakland Park Inn, located at 3001 North Federal Highway.

“Tomcat” Pence, a former Marine and the founder and president of A Celebration of Friends, realized that “Maturity Matters,” even in the youth-oriented gay world. Thus there should be a time and a place for maturity to be celebrated. Operating on a tight budget, the first Celebration was held in 2002 in New Orleans, where 100 men enjoyed each other and a wonderful weekend and raised $1,000 for “Buzzy’s Boys” (at the time a non-profit organization that benefitted hospitalized children living with HIV).

The next year, ACOF moved to Florida, where it has been ever since. Now fifteen years later putting countless smiles on mature men from around the world, ACOF has raised over $184,000 for various local charities, including $10,000 raised last year for the Pride Center and Tuesdays Angels.

According to Tomcat, “we have quite an age difference in members who attend the Celebration. We have members who are 92 years young, as well as members who are 22 years old. The average age of attendees last year was 60. We attract many men from small towns who do not have the opportunities to enjoy the many freedoms we enjoy here in South Florida. Our members work hard all year long saving their pennies so they can attend the Celebration weekend, so our board tries to work hard to keep costs down while providing as much entertainment as we can. While the Ramada provides a free daily breakfast for those staying overnight in the hotel and free shuttles to and from the airport, registered attendees will also receive a free daily lunch, a nightly free cocktail hour and free pool parties and contests.”

Previous Celebrations featured celebrities like actor Ed Asner and former congressman Barney Frank. “This year’s Celebration,” Tomcat notes, “showcases Fort Lauderdale and our attendees themselves. While we realize that most people think that beauty pageants are only for young men, we will have daily contests to get our guys into the swing of things, as they walk the red carpet around the pool. Our attendees enjoy and participate in contests like our Fantasy Swimsuit or Best Bootie contests, among others. Yet, the one contest which attracts the most contestants and creates the most fun is our Senior Speedo Contest - Last year’s winner was 72 years young. While we do not tolerate any public nudity, one of the most famous events at the Celebration is our nightly “Absolutely Positively NOT a Skinny Dipping Pool Party” party.

Men between 21 and 121 who are interested in learning more about A Celebration Of Friends should visit the ACOF website (CelebrationOfFriends.org). Full registration and rooms at the Ramada are still available, as are day passes. Whether or not they attend for a day or for the weekend, mature men will find plenty to do, and plenty of men to do it with. As Tomcat puts it, “if you are a mature man or someone who admires maturity, come join us. It will change your life forever.”