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Key West Pride Brings Big Fun in the Sun

by Troy Petenbrink
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Jun 16, 2012

Key West Pride Grand Marshall Erin Davies' wide smile never seemed to falter as she sat perched atop her "fagbug" as it drove down famed Duval Street during the Key West Pride Parade on June 10.

In 2007, Davies was the victim of a hate crime in Albany, NY. Due to her sporting a rainbow sticker on her VW Beetle, her car was vandalized, left with the words "fag" and "u r gay" painted on it. Despite her initial shock and embarrassment, she decided to leave the graffiti on the car and begin a campaign against homophobia and hate crime.

Davies and her car, now painted in rainbow stripes, were the center of attention throughout Key West Pride's five-day celebration, June 6-10. She gave the keynote address for the official Pride kick-off luncheon that was co-sponsored by the Key West High School Gay Straight Alliance. In addition, the award-winning documentary "Fagbug: The Movie" was included as part of a film festival, and the fagbug was on display during the Pride street fair.

"Everyone in Key West has been so supportive and the energy here has been very positive," said Davies.

Key West began its annual pride celebration in the early 1980s. The Key West Business Guild , one of the oldest gay Chamber of Commerce organizations in the U.S., took over operations of Key West Pride in 2010.

"Pride is not only a celebration for Key West's many LGBTA residents but also an opportunity to highlight the city's long history as a top destination for gay travelers," said Steve Smith, outreach director for the Key West Business Guild.

Pride in Paradise

Visitors and locals had plenty of opportunities to celebrate during Key West Pride. Many of the city’s gay-welcoming guesthouses such as Island House, Big Ruby’s, Equator, Alexander’s and Pearl’s held poolside parties.

And hundreds of people turned out for the crowning of Key West Pride’s royal court at Aqua’s. Ms. Pridefest, 801 Bourbon Bar’s Miss Pride and Bourbon St. Pub’s Mr. Pride competitions.

Snorkeling, kayaking and other water adventuring were on the agenda for many Key West Pride participants. Sunset Watersports, BlueQ and Fury Water Adventures offered special tours in the beautiful waters that surround Key West.

Emmy-winning actor and all around funnyman Leslie Jordan gave two performances of his new one-man show, "Fruit Fly." There was also a film festival sponsored by AIDS Help, which has provided support for those living with HIV/AIDS in Key West for more than 25 years.

The two largest events were, of course, the street festival and the parade.

On June 9, the street fair was held along a two-block stretch of Duval Street in the heart of the city’s main gay district filled with unique shops, galleries, restaurants and bars.

Among the various local and national vendors was Barefoot Wine & Bubbly. The California-based gay-friendly winery was an official sponsor of Key West Pride and as part of its national Beach Rescue Project it hosted a clean up of Smathers Beach, Key West’s largest beach.

Drag queens, go-go boys and campaigning politicians dominated the Pride parade. A moving highlight of the parade was the display of a 100-foot rainbow flag. The stretch of flag was part of the famous "Sea to Sea Rainbow Flag" that debuted during the 2003 Key West Pride. The original flag spanned a mile-and-a-quarter-long, and reached from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf Coast Sea.

As the parade weaved its way through the city and down Duval Street, it seemed like the entire population of Key West turned out to watch. During the course of the one-hour event, Key West lived up to its official motto of "One Human Family."

Bairon Rivera of Hyattsville, MD, didn’t know it was Key West Pride when he booked his trip south with a couple friends to celebrate his 25th birthday.

"It was such a surprise but I loved it. I met so many nice people for all over the country and even from around the world," said Rivera, who is already planning to go back to Key West later this year.

Key West Pride 2013 is scheduled for June 5-9. For more info, visit

Troy Petenbrink resides in Washington, DC and is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter:


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