If Halloween is Gay Christmas, and we celebrate it hard, it’s always good to change it up once in a while so it does not get monotonous, but still a hell of a good time. This year I decided not to partake in Wilton Manor’s Wicked Manors Halloween celebration, as have done for the past 10 years. It was a hard holiday celebration to miss, always celebrated on the actual holiday, as it’s full of, I don’t want to say eye candy, but eye cocaine. I wish tell people that the most common costume is a jockstrap and glitter. It’s truly a sight to see with 30,000+ people in attendance on ‘The Drive’. When I told friends that I was not going to be here for this Halloween, I had to juggle friends and guest rooms and my main bedroom as my house became an Airbnb for that holiday week/weekend.
But where was I to go? What other cities could I visit for Halloween? I set my sights on New Orleans, Louisiana and Columbus, Ohio. But one thing I didn’t dig for were uber gay celebrations, but just fun-filled experiences.
New Orleans, Louisiana and Krewe of Boo –
I’ve been going to New Orleans at least once or twice a year since 1997 as I have a brother that lives there. I know the gay stuff that happens there, and it’s great. I mean, no matter what time of year you go, it’s going to be a fantastic time. I actually had been to New Orleans on Halloween day before but this trip I decided to do something a little different and go a little earlier to coincide with the Krewe of Boo.
Founded in 2007, the first Krewe of BOO! parade rolled the following year as a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina relief. It was a success, and after a several years passed with no Halloween parade, New Orleanians felt the absence of this event, therefore it was revived from the dead, brought back by popular demand in 2013.
Krewe of BOO! was originally launched by “Mr. Mardi Gras” himself, Blaine Kern Sr., who is highly celebrated as the mastermind behind the larger-than-life papier-maché floats that have become the face of Mardi Gras since the 1950s. When Krewe of BOO! was resurrected, it was Blaine’s son Brian that took the reigns.
With 450 riders, 15 floats, and 35 marching bands and dance krewes, Krewe of BOO! has grown from a single parade into a weekend full of events. Krewe of BOO! is the official Halloween parade of New Orleans. It’s no surprise that in a city known for its love of costumes and letting the good times roll, New Orleans is the best place to celebrate Halloween.
The Krewe of Boo is not just a single parade as there are events during the entire weekend. Friday’s events ranged from a luncheon, to a Second Line (walk/parade through the quarter) a happy hour at Pat O’Brien’s, and at night, a Masquerade Ball.
Saturday was the big day and it started early with a Zombie Run where runners were able to have make-up applied, free participant t-shirts, and were chased through the Warehouse District by Roller Derby girls with bats and swords.
The make-up did not stop there as parade participants could show up at Maison bar on Frenchmen Street and have something applied to that mug. From there, it was a short walk to Elysian Fields Avenue where you got your throws ready for the parade.
For the next 2 or 3 hours, we were on the top of a double decker float throwing beads, peeps, moon pies, Cheetos knock offs, all while keeping balance and enjoying adult beverages. It was a great time, made some new friends, and would definitely do it again.
And anyone can do it! To become a member of the Krewe of Boo is going to cost about $1,000 ($625 membership fee and $400+ for a throw package) well worth it for the great experience. You can learn more about membership by visiting kreweofboo.com/membership.
After the parade, we attended the Monster Mash at Generations Hall, one of the largest club spaces in New Orleans with multiple rooms and entertainment spaces.
How could you go wrong with a parade, throwing things at people from 20 feet in the air, rocking out to music, wearing costumes, meeting great new “happy” people. New Orleans is always a great time, but this Halloween was more than I bargained for.
Yes, there are other gay Halloween celebrations in New Orleans that are gay gay gay, but some of us are not the tuxedo wearing or jock strap wearing kind of gays. Maybe I will try those out next year, but this year I wanted to just go with the flow, have little effort invested, and make some memories. The pace of the celebration I experienced was perfect, but of course I knew it would be as New Orleans is a laid back city, you go at your own pace or just a little bit slower. Everyone is there to have a good time, to make sure others have a good time, and did I mention a good time?
As mentioned before, I have been in New Orleans for the actual Halloween night, and I did return for the 30th through the 3rd this year, the spot to be is along Frenchmen Street. This year, the whole country was cool for the 31st (except Florida) so the crowd was probably a fifth of what it was usually. But if you are around for THE Halloween night, Frenchmen Street, anywhere along the street, in the street, on any sidewalk, is the place to be.
Would I do Krewe of Boo again? A resounding yes! Mixing Mardi Gras with Halloween, what better time could you have? What I like about this event is the ease of participation, the non-pressure to perform or be your prettiest gay self. Be quirky, odd, drink, and have fun.
What may be the best thing about Krewe of Boo is that it is not during Halloween. Usually held around the 20th of the month (2024 will be on October 19th), the scheduling of Krewe of Boo gives you ample time to experience and explore New Orleans and then have a wicked good time celebrating Gay Christmas well before it happens, leaving you ample time to plan another trip to calendar-correct festivities.
Here’s a gallery of some of the shots that did not make it into the reels.
Columbus, Ohio and HighBall Halloween–
My other new experience for Halloween this year was to re-experience Columbus, Ohio. I’ve only been to Columbus one other time, but I had heard about their HighBall celebration during that visit.
Highball Halloween is the nation’s most elaborate costume party. Staged in the fashion capital of Columbus, this yearly event for the Halloween season bridges runway style with the culture of the Short North Arts District.
Proceeds from HighBall Halloween go to support the Short North Alliance (SNA), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization serving both the property owners and business owners of the Short North Arts District. HighBall Halloween helps to underwrite the programs and activities of the Short North Alliance, including clean and safe initiatives, promotions, holiday campaigns, public art installations, and initiatives to support inclusion, diversity, equity, and access. Learn more about the Short North Alliance and Short North Arts District at ShortNorth.org.
First held in 2008 with 10,000 visitors, this event sees it’s 16th year in 2023 and for the first time since 2019, HighBall Halloween returns to High Street. Goosebumps were felt when Nina took the stage and you thought it was a movie star as the crowd exploded the loudest for her, and every time her name was mentioned. And a time where drag queens are under the microscope and the victims of anti-woke, pro-stupid laws, to see, a predominantly straight crowd cheer like they did for her was therapeutic. It was great to see Nina West in person as one of the hosts of the evening. She and the other members of the West drag family have been a big part of the HighBall since it started in 2008.
Would I recommend HighBall? A resounding yes. You can hang with the very mixed crowd in the heart of the arts district of Columbus while dressed in costume or not, go to preparties, hang out at some great gay spaces after. The event itself is not just a contest, but also a vessel to show some of the creative minds in Columbus with the “ball” aspect of HighBall. But as well, you can experience one of the most welcoming cities in the United States.
As said in both cases, I would do both Halloween celebrations again. What is great about both cities is that they have a great thriving queer community with bars, clubs, spaces, event, businesses, restaurants and on and on and on. You cannot go wrong when visiting either city. So if you want a break from the Halloween scene you’ve done every year, take a trip to Louisiana or Ohio and get your Gay Christmas on.