Southern Decadence started thirty-some years ago as a simple going-away party. As a top gay Labor Day Weekend destination, it has evolved into one of our world's major annual events. One of the largest annual celebrations in New Orleans, it has become known as the "Gay Mardi Gras." People begin to arrive on the Wednesday before Labor Day, and generally don't even think about stopping or going home until the following Tuesday. With over 100,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender participants each year, the economic impact on the city was estimated to be in excess of $95 million. Mayor Ray Nagin has recognized its importance with an Official Proclamation to welcome the event.
The city's wildest neighborhood gets even crazier as the French Quarter is packed for the entire event; however, the big day is Sunday. That's when the Grand Marshal leads the annual parade through the streets. Tradition dictates that the previous year's Grand Marshal choose their successor, a well guarded secret until the annual coronation ceremony in July. The new Grand Marshal will then select the official theme, colors and song, and will help to plan some of the event's particulars.
The corner of Bourbon and St. Ann Streets is generally considered to be the epicenter of Gay New Orleans, and even more so during the Southern Decadence festival weekend. At that intersection is the largest gay nightclub, The Bourbon Pub video bar and The Parade dance club, which is home to the hottest dancers in town. Across the street is the newly-remodeled Hit Parade Gift and Clothing store. Most of the city's main gay attractions are located within a few blocks of this intersection.
Most street party activities take place in the immediate area of the French Quarter, and the dance parties are in the clubs. And since the gay bars never close, there is something happening around the clock. Some of the nation's best DJs will be in town working the crowds into a frenzy. Southern Decadence circuit party DJs in the past included Kimberly S, Lydia Prim, Rick Mitchell, Max Rodriguez, Darren Thomas and Jayskee, Warren Gluck and Joe Gauthreaux. No wonder the weekend is often referred to as Southern DecaDANCE!