In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Southern Decadence, the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana and The Historic New Orleans Collection will host a panel discussion on Wednesday, August 24, featuring the founders of Southern Decadence. The discussion will be followed by a reception.
Those in attendance may be surprised to learn that Southern Decadence did not start out as a specifically gay event. Some of the founders were gay for sure, but the original Southern Decadence party (two of them actually) was simply a gathering of friends. These friends were a tight-knit group and playfully called themselves “The Decadents,” a few of whom were gay.
What they started in 1972 has outgrown their wildest imaginations. Southern Decadence today is the third largest annual event in New Orleans attracting over 250,000 visitors to the city every Labor Day weekend. Its economic impact is estimated at over $300 million.
But in 1972, it all started as a house party attended by about fifty people. So how did a Sunday afternoon house party among friends evolve into the five-day extravaganza it is today? How did the parade start? How are Grand Marshals selected? What do the founders think of what has become of what they started?
The answers to these questions will be explored at the panel discussion. Participants include Robert Laurent, Maureen and Charlie Block, Bruce Harris, and Preston Hemmings. The panel will be moderated by former Grand Marshal Frank Perez, who serves as Executive Director of the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana.
The panel discussion will take place from 6:30–7:30pm at the Williams Research Center (410 Chartres Street) followed by an After-party at the Toulouse Theatre (615 Toulouse Street). These events are free and open to the public, although registration is required.