Southern Decadence Festival, also known as the “Gay Mardi Gras”, will once again be pridefully sweeping New Orleans for six days of joy and celebration. The annual event started 45 years ago as a going-away party, but has evolved over the years into one of the country’s largest LGBT pride events. Every year during Labor Day weekend, thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender participants come to New Orleans to celebrate LGBT culture through block parties, walking tours, karaoke and parades. 2015 broke the record, with over 180,000 participants, but according to online presence and polls, 2016 Southern Decadence is expected to make history again by reaching 200,000 attendees!
With Southern Decadence 2015’s whopping economical impact of $216 million, we can’t expect anything less of this year’s turnout. Hotels and restaurants are preparing for the whopping number of guests who will be hitting the streets of the French Quarter. Each event is free, but the hotel rooms are not, so you might want to take a look at hotel discounts on the Decadence website (southerndecadence.net).
Everybody knows about Mardi Gras, New Orleans’ largest party, but what about this city’s second largest party? Well, Southern Decadence definitely earns that award. What started as a small costume party among a couple of roommates has become one of New Orleans’ most anticipated yearly festivals. In 1972, a group of friends renting a ramshackle apartment in the Tremé area decided to give their friend an extravagant going-away party. The hosts told all attendees to dress as their favorite “Southern decadence”, and enjoy the Sunday evening of drinking and farewells. The turnout was so great and enjoyable that the creators of this now-annual event decided to keep it alive for the next 45 years.
Labor Day is usually a reminder that summer has ended, but it is also when New Orleans celebrates Louisiana’s biggest LGBT event of the year. Both locals and tourists mark their calendars for this New Orleans-style festival, and in the wake of this summer’s tragedy in Orlando, the turnout and pride may be greater than ever.
Most of the Southern Decadence events will take place on the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann Streets, with both indoor and outdoor festivities to attend. From September 1 to September 6, parades and contests will be mostly free to the public, with the exception of a few bars that will require VIP passes. The largest party, Chuck Robinson presents Bourbon Street Extravaganza on September 3, will mark its twelth year with Decadence.
Each year, the grand marshals, the theme and the official colors are chosen to represent and lead the populous event. For 2016, the theme is “Decadence Takes the World” and the colors are ruby red, pearl white, blue sapphire and amethyst purple. The Southern Decadence grand marshals will be Tony Leggio, Felicia Phillips, Derek Penton-Robicheaux and Jeffrey Palmquist.
There are plenty of events at different venues to choose from to make for an incredible time. Here are just a few of the things you can expect, when to expect them, and where to show up for a great experience. Keep in mind, this is just a fraction of what’ll be happening; you’ll be able to find something to do at any time.
Tuesday, August 30 at 8 a.m.: Southern Decadence kicks off … The fun begins!
Ambush Magazine hits the streets to start with their early morning festivities. This is when most of the participating bars, restaurants and locales open their doors to invite the decadence in. Take to the streets with the crowds, or take a load off in a nearby bar.
Wednesday, August 31 at 9 p.m.: Kafe Karaoke, upstairs Bar at Café Lafitte In Exile (901 Bourbon St., 504-522-8397, lafittes.com)
Café Lafitte holds their Kafe Karaoke night every Wednesday night, but come check it out during Decadence weekend. There are some little decadent twists you won’t want to miss out on! d
Thursday, September 1 at 10 a.m.: Southern Decadence Pool Party at The Country Club (634 Louisa St., 504-945-0742, thecountryclubneworleans.com)
The Country Club holds a couple pool parties during Southern Decadence in their expansive pool area. The cover charge is $15 and they have a huge pool, as well as a jacuzzi and hot tub. Tons of fun.
Thursday, September 1 at 9 p.m.: Infamous Blackout Party with Crowning of the King of Decadence at Rawhide 2010 (740 Burgundy St., 504-525-8106, rawhide2010.com)
Directly after the Blackout party, the coronation of the King of Decadence takes place. The party generally gets pretty rambunctious, but always stays gay and merry, and the ceremony is a great way to wrap it all up at the end.
Thursday, September 1 at 12 a.m.: Welcome Party and Big D*#k Contest at Bourbon Pub & Parade (801 Bourbon St., 504-529-2107, bourbonpub.com)
While pretty much every bar will be having their own decadent party on this night, as well as most of the other nights during Southern Decadence, Bourbon Pub & Parade might take the cake, at least for Thursday. The theme is pretty self-explanatory.
Friday, September 2 at 2 p.m.: NOLA Bears Pool Party at 708 France St.
The NOLA Bears have their name all over Southern Decadence. They host a number of events, but their pool parties are (in)famous for being all-day fun-filled events. Make sure not to miss this one.
Saturday, September 3 at 6:30 p.m.: The 12th Annual Bourbon Street Extravaganza (Intersection of St. Ann St. and Bourbon St., napoleonsitch.com)
The twelth annual street party, presented by Chuck Robinson, brings together talented artists like Tony Mazza, Rowetta, Jeanie Tracy, Zoe Badwi and Well-Strung for a night of music, drinks and plenty of fun.
Saturday, September 3 at 9 p.m.: Phoenix Block Party at Leather Bar of the Year, The Phoenix (941 Elysian Fields Ave., 504-945-9264, phoenixbarnola.com)
The Phoenix, one of the most famous gay bars in the city, holds block parties every once in a while and their biggest one of the year happens during Southern Decadence. There’s no cover charge, good deals on drinks, and everyone’s treated like a VIP.
Sunday, September 4 at 10 a.m.: Renegade Bears of Louisiana Bear Breakfast at The Phoenix
A free breakfast (with donations accepted) is held at 10 a.m. at The Phoenix bar. Hosted by the Renegade Bears of Louisiana, there are contests, prizes and great food to choose from to kick off your day of decadence and debauchery.
Sunday, September 4 at 10 p.m.: DJ Ivan at Bourbon Pub & Parade
Yet another event held at the great Bourbon Pub & Parade, the well-known DJ Ivan will be performing a set on Sunday night. A night here is always fun, especially during Southern Decadence, but DJ Ivan is sure to turn things up a notch. So don’t miss out!
Monday, September 5 at 4 p.m.: Annual Southern Decadence BBQ at GrandPre’s (834 N Rampart St., 504-267-3615, grandpres.com)
GrandPre’s holds their famous barbecue every year during Southern Decadence and it’s a must-try, whether or not you’ve experienced it before. Great food and even better vibes make it an amazing time.
Monday, September 5 at 5 p.m.: Last Picnic of the Summer at The Double Play (439 Dauphine St., 504-523-4517, facebook.com/DoublePlayBar)
A seemingly strange place to have a picnic, The Double Play bar holds this picnic every year to close out the long weekend of craziness. Drink specials and delicious food make it a somewhat bittersweet, but still thoroughly enjoyable part of the close-out to Southern Decadence.
Monday, September 5 at 8 p.m.: The Ladies of Lipstixx at Bourbon Pub & Parade
If the picnic at The Double Play wasn’t enough, take a trip back to Bourbon Pub & Parade for one last night of fun. The Ladies of Lipstixx will be performing, which is always fun and quirky. The official Southern Decadence fun might stop here, but what does official have to do with it? Check it out!