From re-naming an official gay beach to three summertime LGBTI events, Atlantic City officials seem hungry for the pink dollar.
In a beachside resort known more for gambling than for its gay scene (most recently the town’s gay venue Pro Bar closed after three years), politicians are doing a big PR push to court LGBTI travelers.
After the legalization of same-sex marriage in October 2013, the LGBTI segment is just one of the niches Atlantic City officials are trying to reach out to in order to boost tourism, especially after the region suffered severe structural and financial damage from super storm Sandy in October 2012.
In March 2014 Caesars Atlantic City was offering one gay or lesbian couple $50,000 for their dream wedding, and since then 61-year-old Mayor Don Guardian and tourism officials have been beefing up Atlantic City’s gay-friendly image.
By winning the 2013 mayoral election, Guardian became the city’s first openly gay mayor and first Republican mayor since 1990.
In a recent statement he said: ‘Atlantic City had its heyday with the gay population on New York Avenue.
‘This is where you came when you wanted to have a good time. Straight people came to these places, too, because they wanted to party and dance in the hottest clubs.’
Other city officials echo Guardian’s sentiments about reclaiming Atlantic City’s gay history.
Rich Helfant, president of the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance told Philly.com: ‘You know, back in the 1960s, long before Stonewall in New York, long before Provincetown, Rehoboth, and Fort Lauderdale, Atlantic City was a mecca for the LGBT community.’
‘Atlantic City is getting ready for a new kind of renaissance,’ added Jeff Guaracino, spokesman for the Atlantic City Alliance.
‘It needed to diversify, get younger visitors coming from nightclub and dayclub scenes, and to get foodies and gay and lesbian travelers to come to keep up with the competition.’
So how exactly is Atlantic City keeping up with the competition?
Naming an official gay beach
In June this year, Guardian designated an official gay beach Park Place, which also happens to be the second-most valuable spot on the Monopoly board.
‘It represents Atlantic City coming of age,’ said Guardian after placing a rainbow flag on the wooden archway to the beach.
‘Atlantic City’s been gay-friendly for a long time. We just had to welcome them back.’
Moving the Sandblast party from Asbury Park to Atlantic City
Asbury Park, ‘the gayest beach in New Jersey’ according to many locals, has been the home to a state Gay Pride festival known as Sandblast Weekend.
This year, the Sandblast Weekend moves to Atlantic City, drawing thousands of party-goers away from Asbury Park to Atlantic City for the weekend of 18 to 20 July for the traditional underwear party, Lez Volley women’s volleyball tournament and a drag queen purse-tossing competition.
Hosting the Miss’d America drag pageant
A spoof of the Miss America beauty pageants, Miss’d America sees thousands crowd to Atlantic City to see made-up men in wigs dancing, reciting and flipping on stage.
Last year’s event was hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race judge and LGBTI icon Michelle Visage.
New Jersey’s first LGBT expo: StandOut
Hailed as a gay business-to-business networking weekend scheduled 26 to 28 September, the StandOut expo will bring together LGBT-owned and allied businesses together under one roof for networking and partying.
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