This year the queens will invade the Pines and then head right back to the Grove.

The ongoing controversy surrounding the boycott of OUTpost Fire Island Pines properties coupled with the devastating March fire that destroyed the famed beach hotel in neighboring community Cherry Grove has inspired a major change for the 40th Anniversary of the "Invasion of the Pines" held each July 4. As usual, a ferry filled with drag queens will dock in the Fire Island Pines harbor, but instead of sticking around for the requisite post invasion bacchanal, the queens will be hopping back on the boat to take their business back to the Grove -- and encouraging all to come with them.

"We are going to have two boats," instead of one, Invasion founder and coordinator Panzi told the Fire Island Tide. "I will be encouraging everyone to get right on the boat and come back to the Grove to support our own."

In March, an early morning fire tore through Cherry Grove. Fire companies Sayville, West Sayville and seven other mainland fire departments and ambulance companies on Long Island travelled by boat across the Great South Bay to fight the inferno. The inferno was eventually contained sparing the famed Ice Palace nightclub, but not before destroying several homes and the Cherry Grove Beach Hotel. Since the fire, the tiny gay community has been feeling the economic pinch from losing its largest tourist lodging.

Putting a damper on this year's post-Invasion celebration, traditionally held in Fire Island Pines, is the ongoing controversy surrounding the boycott of the community's commercial properties over a fund raising event co-hosted its new owner Ian Reisner. And while the economic impact of the boycott remains debatable (sources in the Pines say the venues remain crowded during the daily tea dances), there is a contingent that would prefer not to spend their money in the Pines while Reisner still has a stake in the businesses there.

Although the Fire Island Tide says the move is made in response Reisner's work with anti-gay political candidates, Panzi tells EDGE that "while we are encouraging support of the local businesses in Cherry Grove, this is a celebration between two communities."

Panzi has been working with Sayville Ferry Company owner Ken Stein to procure the additional boat.

"It will be a challenge to coordinate two boats in between regularly scheduled ferries," Panzi told EDGE. "I am working closely with Ken Stein to make it work. We meet weekly to strategize and I am hopeful that our planning will pay off."

Now in its 40th year, the annual Invasion of the Pines had its start under less than auspicious circumstances.

During the summer of 1976, a restaurant in the more affluent and then conservative Fire Island Pines denied service to a visitor from Cherry Grove named Terry Warren who arrived in drag.

When Warren's friends in the Grove heard what happened, they put on their best drag, chartered a water taxi and headed over to the Pines. The boatload of drag queens led by Panzi arrived in the Pines harbor on July 4, 1976 to a surprised, but exuberant welcome. The event has been repeated every year since and has become an economic boon for the Pines bars and nightclubs which benefit from the thirsty crowds.


BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS