Key West Florida Weekly

Celebrating Pride

A look at all that Key West Pride has to offer



Flag carriers reach the Atlantic Ocean as they carry a 1¼-mile-long rainbow flag down Duval Street. (June 2003)

As the country kicks off Pride Month, Key West gets things going with its annual weeklong festivities, June 5-9, with retro-themed parties, drag brunches, street fairs, bar crawls, and the traditional finale parade down Duval Street.

While Key West Pride is a mix of official and unofficial activities, we caught up with local attendees to find out which events are must-dos and remember some of the most memorable moments of past Pride.

Performative Streak at the Pride Follies

Bobi Lore, who operates Island House Resort, looks forward to the Pride Follies. He thinks it is a wonderful way year after year to draw a strong creative spirit with so many singers, dancers, and acts that celebrate the performative streak that runs through Key West. How the year’s host can bring the audience in and make the event welcoming helps make this one of Lore’s annual highlights.

Pride Follies | SAT 1 JUN 7PM | Key West Theater

ABOVE: Celebrate Key West Pride with food, fun, music, and art events from June 5-9.

Celebrate Key West Pride with food, fun, music, and art events from June 5-9.

Small but Powerful Gains

Qmitch views Pride as a time to push back against anyone who disapproves of the LGBTQ+ community. The popular drag queen bingo host and this year’s grand marshal explained that after the past few years, he most appreciates being able to openly navigate the island as a gay man, sometimes in costume but mainly as a representative for freedoms. “When you see me in the street in a dress, you look at true freedom, not some bumper stickers or signs, true freedom.” He went on to say that seeing others at peace with no worries just for a few days in a holistic place like here, walking around, or even dining at restaurants are small but powerful gains that truly define Pride for him.

Disco Parties for a Birthday Month

When your birthday coincides with Pride month, it’s easier to celebrate in a colorful and fun way. A flight attendant, Anne Genovese takes any opportunity to dress up; luckily, disco is her style. “I was obsessed with reading about Studio 54 and watching the documentaries. I wanted so badly to go back in time and cut up that dance floor under that big disco ball.” Naturally, Genovese is most excited to attend Mangoes’ 70s Retro Disco Party and the luncheon celebrating Key West’s 70s Disco Era and its contributions to Pride. She thinks she has a thrifted Frederick’s of Hollywood bell bottom jumpsuit lying around that she plans to pair with go-go boots and funky jewelry. “Key West is a disco. It’s full of new and exciting activities, events, and music. Did I mention the people?”

Pride Kick-off Luncheon | WED 5 JUN | Noon | Beachside Key West

70s Retro Disco Party | FRI 7 JUN | 9PM | Mangoes

Organizers anticipate thousands showing up in Key West for Pride, a city with a population of about 25,000. COURTESY PHOTO

Organizers anticipate thousands showing up in Key West for Pride, a city with a population of about 25,000. COURTESY PHOTO

A GLOW-Up on a Rooftop

Camron Martinez, one of the bartenders at The Studios of Key West’s weekly rooftop GLOW hours, is helping introduce a special Pride edition as an alternative to the drinking and social spots of Duval —one with unrivaled views. “You can see the ocean from all three sides if you look hard enough. This is something we want to start. We want to bring new ideas to the gay scene in Key West. We’re opening an extra day and making a friendly and safe space for the LGBTQ+ community,” Martinez said. In addition to the wraparound views, there will be a DJ, rooftop bar, and access to the three floors below the annual Mango Madness Member’s Show.

GLOW Hours: Pride Edition | FRI 7 JUN | 5-8PM | The Studios of Key West

A Glittery Send-Off

Adding a nighttime “blowout bash” to the tail end of Key West Pride Week also provides an opportunity to mark the halfway point to Fantasy Fest. “Let’s everyone sharpen our costume knives and celebrate one another,” said event co-organizer and musician Tony Baltimore. The party, which will be hosted for the first time, will take place at 22&Co. and The Birdcage Cabaret next door. Named “Glitter & Diamonds,” the event will feature music by DJ Jevne, a popular electronica purveyor during Fantasy Fest.

Glitter & Diamonds | SAT 8 JUNE | 9:30PM | 22&Co. and Sidebar

Businesses That Enhance Visibility

The “elder gays,” as realtor Stephanie Wise considers certain generations, fought for visibility and consideration across the country and in her hometown of Milwaukee, WI, where she admittedly snuck into Pride events way before it was legal for her to do so. Having all these businesses put LGBTQ+ imagery and 

COURTESY PHOTO

COURTESY PHOTO

symbols front and center and often on Duval shows her that, even considering the financial incentives, the fight for equality has made great strides. One space that Swan thoroughly enjoyed last year was Mangoes’ Drunken’ Drag Brunch. “I didn’t realize the energy level was going to be that high. I’ve been to some drag brunches that are fun but that one took it up all the way. It was so overwhelmingly fun and happy. Everyone left completely high on pride.”

Drunken’ Drag Brunch | SUN 9 JUN | Noon | Mangoes

A Parade in This Town is Always Worth a Watch

Some, like senior manager Scott Burau, enjoy actively scoping out a front-row view of the parade that snakes its way up Whitehead and down Duval Street. Bureau recalled being able to appreciate better the spectacle, which included many familiar faces from a shady vantage point with a drink in hand. “I love a parade in this town. There’s always something crazy to see.” He added, “You recognize every other person in the parade.

KEY WEST BUSINESS GUILD/ COURTESY PHOTO

KEY WEST BUSINESS GUILD/ COURTESY PHOTO

And it’s usually hotter than hell, so you can watch everyone sweat while you sit on a porch somewhere.” He particularly looks forward to seeing local drag queens, performers, and allies eager to put on a show in solidarity with the month’s celebration. The bureau advises picking a place with good views and lots of drinks. “Vino’s porch is actually quite nice with its sangria, beer, and wine there. But if you find a porch somewhere that has some drinks, that’s not a bad thing.” Similarly, drag queen “Sushi,” previously of the televised New Year’s Eve Shoe Drop, loves a good gay parade that brings the community together. The performer recounted the 1997 edition here, including the original drag queens when 801 Bourbon’s cabaret first started. “It was amazing to be young and full of hope and having a Pride parade to show young people it’s ok to be gay.”

Pride Parade | SUN 9 JUN | 5PM | Duval St & Whitehead St

Full schedule at GayKeyWestFL.com

Key West Pride | June 5-9 ¦

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