The towering lady in the red sequins is shouting at her friend in the effervescent yellow bonnet covered in chipper Easter bunnies, who is pinning pastel pink lace to the side of a horse carriage.
“Work it girrrl, decorate that thang!”
This, my friends, is Gay Easter in New Orleans, Louisiana, one of the gayest places on the planet.
New Orleans is fast becoming one of the most popular gay travel destinations in all of North America. It was the only destination that posted an increase in gay travelers during 2010, and as I saw during my travels as North America’s Gay Travel Guru, New Orleans is an enchanting, anything-goes city that has the most insane Halloween celebration on the planet. The average age in the city has dropped nearly 11 years post-Katrina, bringing a flood of bright-eyed and intelligent folks into an increasingly diverse city.
The Big Easy never passes up a chance to party, and so I flew down to New Orleans as a guest of Harrah’s to participate in Gay Easter – likely the largest and most extravagant gay celebration of the resurrection of Christ in the world.
Gay Easter is unlike most New Orleans holidays as there is a distinct difference in debauchery: it’s not the sweaty sex of Southern Decadence, or the crush of travelers that is Halloween.
Gay Easter has more local flavor, a celebration among friends. For this reason, it’s the best time to come if you are a gay traveler that enjoys getting to know the locals. There are still plenty of visiting LGBT folks, but it’s less of a meat market than some of the New Orleans’ epic parties.
One such local, Pop Couture owner Rhonda Finley, is effusive in her hometown praise. “New Orleans is one of the greatest cities in America. It’s the soul of the country. I love this city,” she exclaims mightily. Then, as if to remind us of her passion, she enunciates: “I love this city.”
Another local, David, shares his love for New Orleans by boasting of having “the most kick-ass bike in the French Quarter.” The bike is laced with beads, and Barbie tassels flow from the handlebars. A playing card sticks through the spokes, and a giant pair of chrome testicles – “They’re called Truck Nutz,” he beams, proudly – hang from the rear of the bike. David himself is wearing gold lame sneakers, tri-color gym socks pulled up to his knees and a sweatband. It’s pretty awesome.
Walk around the Crescent City, and you run the very real risk of falling in love. This is an intoxicating city: Wrought-iron balconies overflow with bright flowers, horse-drawn carriages roll by, tantalizing food beckons from hundreds of restaurants, and music floats through the air at almost every corner. Oh, and booze flows 24/7, with the most liberal liquor laws in the country attracting hundreds of thousands of revelers annually.
Gay Easter adds another layer of charm to the mix. Families with children segue easily into drag queens in full-on Easter regalia: giant feathered hats, doll-face bikinis, giant pearls, and fierce flamingoes wandering the streets.
New Orleans is a costume-driven town, and Easter is another opportunity to express their creativity and enjoy the company of friends. The locals truly live the “laissez les bon temps rouler,” enjoying every drop of life. And pretty much every last drop of alcohol as well!
It’s a wonderfully welcoming and laid-back vibe, and no matter what your position on New Orleans is – this is a place unique unto itself, and unlike any other place in America.