World class bartenders, real housewives, pool parties and all the heat and humidity the tropics can supply.
Say hello to Key West Pride.
Yes, the Conch Republic joins Pride month with a special itinerary befitting the southernmost reaches of the continental U.S. Long recognized for its laid-back lifestyle, Key West also celebrates its “One Human Family” motto.
“The whole island celebrates Pride,” said Dan Skahen, executive director of the Key West Business Guild.
Key West Pride (June 6 to 10) kicks off with a welcoming party at the Island House (1129 Fleming Street), an all-male clothing optional guesthouse. However, for Wednesday’s Pride kickoff party (5 to 7 p.m.) the Island House is open to all. Other gay and lesbian guesthouses hosting Pride activities are Alexander’s (1118 Fleming Street) and Equator Resort (822 Fleming Street.)
On Thursday evening, the Gardens Hotel (526 Angela Street) is hosting a free wine tasting. The Gardens is a boutique hotel with old style charm, modern comfort, lush grounds with tortoises and an extensive wine selection.
The Stoli Key West Classic returns for another year of bartending competition. The vodka maker is bringing in 14 bartenders from around the globe to compete at various bars across the island. The Marriott Beachside is housing the bartenders and Skahen said the hotelier has been a “huge sponsor” of Pride.
At Saturday’s championship, hosted by the Bourbon Street Pub (724 Duval Street), LeeAnne Locken is scheduled to make an appearance. Locken most recently starred on the Bravo television show “Real Housewives of Dallas.” She will be joined at Bourbon Street Pub by Emmy Award winning comedy writer Bruce Vilanch and singers Debby Holiday and LaToya London.
Skahen said he expects Pride to bring in “a few million dollars” to the Florida Keys and anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 travelers. The Pride parade begins at 5 p.m. Sunday on Duval Street, flowing from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. The Stoli champion will serve as parade grand marshal. All are welcome in the procession, organizers said, which includes a section of the famed rainbow flag created by the late LGBT rights activist Gilbert Baker.
Away from the bars and guesthouses, Key West offers an abundance of attractions, Skahen said. Sunset cruises, former U.S. President Harry Truman’s winter White House, the Ernest Hemingway House complete with roaming cats, Butterfly World and more.
On Friday and Saturday nights of Pride week the Waterfront Playhouse (407 Wall Street) is hosting stage readings of the works of Oscar Wilde, the eccentric gay Irish writer. Elsewhere, Aqua Bar (711 Duval Street) is hosting a “Glow Party” featuring former American Idol contestant Les Green on Friday night.
Of course, Key West’s tropical climate makes the island a year-round tourist destination. Temperatures tend to range between the mid-80s and high 70s with humidity around 70 percent. The island was one of the first to court gay and lesbian travelers but is not without its problems. In February 2017, a gay couple was attacked by a North Carolina man on a scooter who told the men, “You live in Trump country now, I’ll cut you up.” The perpetrator was given a four-year probation sentence and 75 hours of community service.
For a complete schedule of events or more information, visit KeyWestPride.org.