Mature gay men from all corners of the country and overseas are gathering this weekend in Orlando for the 14th annual A Celebration of Friends Weekend.
Tom Pence, aka Tomcat, is the founder and president of A Celebration of Friends. The organization, Pence tells SFGN, is designed for “mature men and their admirers.”
“So often in today’s gay world the focus seems to be on the young and beautiful,” Pence said. “This does not truly reflect our community as a whole.”
A Celebration of Friends, Pence said is “dedicated to providing warm, safe, comfortable and engaging gatherings that strive to promote self-worth, dignity, kindness and friendships within the senior population.”
Pence said he is expecting between 600 to 800 attendees for the five-day event (July 16-20). The Doubletree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld (10100 International Drive) returns as the ACOF Weekend host hotel. The hotel, Pence said, is glad to see his group return.
“The Hilton family of hotels have always treated us with great respect,” said Pence, a former United States Marine, who launched the ACOF Weekend in 2002 in New Orleans.
Headlining this year’s event is television legend Ed Asner. A former president of the Screen Actors Guild, Asner has won more Emmy Awards for performing than any other male actor. He won five for his work on the show, “Lou Grant.”
“This is really, really huge for us,” Pence said. “We took a survey of our membership and the results came back overwhelmingly in favor of Ed. I was shocked we got him. I thought he was untouchable.”
Asner, 85, is scheduled to participate in a special question and answer segment Saturday evening. Pence said the star will discuss his career as an activist in several causes.
In addition to Asner’s appearance, ACOF Weekend includes film screenings, dance contests, health care information sessions, church services and pool parties. Rapid HIV testing is also available throughout the weekend.
For a complete schedule or more information, visit CelebrationOfFriends.org.