It’s hard to imagine the “conchs” (locals) of Key West partying more energetically than they do on any other week of the year, but that is what will happen at the annual Key West Pride celebration, June 8-12. According to Steve Smith, with the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, all the exclusively gay guest houses on the island are sold out for Pride, but there are still great accommodations to be had, and given the fact that the terrain is perfect for a rental bike or moped, you’ll be close to everything no matter where your bed is. This five-day Pride celebration includes a film festival, dance parties, stellar stand-up comedians, drag shows, bike tours, Pride pageants, pool parties, water excursions, a street fair, and a ‘Pride in our Community’ Parade down Duval Street.
If you are a gay ghetto ghoul who typically gets crazy only with your own tribe, Key West Pride may convert you to the merits of mixed shenanigans. Always an island where straight and gay men and women get down together, Key West is true to its motto, “One Human Family,” and Pride Week offers the full spectrum of gay fun from the family-oriented to the very adult with lots of overlap. Someday, there will be a study of kids who grew up in Key West. I predict they will be deemed the happiest and most well-adjusted adults on earth.
To illustrate the delirious mix, annual Pride pageants abound. These very adult competitions leave little to the imagination as contestants heat-up the runway in fierce effort to earn the Pride titles. Miss Pride (men dressed as women) is held at 801 on Wednesday June 8. Ms. Pride -- with categories including interview, first-date-wear, sleepwear and dance -- is held at Aqua on Thursday June 9, and Mr. Pride (men barely dressed) is held at Bourbon on Friday June 10.
A special feature of Key West Pride is the opportunity to peak into its famous all-male guest houses which each hold an “open house” during the week. If you have been curious about the Island House, Equator Resort, Big Ruby’s, and Alexander’s, they are hosting ‘All Welcome’ Pride parties. Check their websites for specifics.
Other “All Welcome” events include a ‘Pasta for Pride’ fundraiser for the Metropolitan Community Church at New York Pasta Garden, the informative and twisted Gay Key West Trolley Tour, and the popular GLCC Pride Ride which encourages everyone to “dress up, dress down, dress out” and enjoy a pleasant bike ride across the island. The Pride Street Fair, sponsored by Wells Fargo, will be held Saturday, June 11, in the 700 and 800 blocks of Duval and features quaint shops, galleries, bars, restaurants, and street vendors. The best DJs on the island take turns with the music throughout the day.
The five-day fest culminates Sunday, June 12, with the Key West Pride Parade, sponsored by Stoli. The parade will include all the expected fabulousness, dykes on bikes, Key West royalty past and present, political leaders, crowned pageant winners, bars and churches, service organizations, and a 100-foot section of the famous “Sea to Sea Rainbow Flag.” The Parade kicks off at 5 p.m. and follows the traditional parade route up Duval ending at the Southernmost Beach Party, an “All Welcome” community-wide party on South Beach, sponsored by the Southernmost Hotel.
Key West Pride is produced by the Key West Business Guild, one of the oldest gay and lesbian chambers of commerce in the country. Visit www.keywestpride.org for more information.
You’ll find me at the very comfortable and mixed Cypress House, conveniently located near Mallory Square and Duval Street. I’ve also snagged a weeklong pass to the Island House, so if you want to buy me the best strawberry daiquiri on earth, don’t be shy when you see me at their poolside bar.