This year’s Southern Decadence features some things old, some things new, some things borrowed and something red, white and blue — and purple, the official four colors of the 45th annual party often dubbed the “gay Mardi Gras.”
This year’s theme is “Decadence Takes the World,” and considering the festival drew an estimated 180,000 attendees last year, it’s no wonder it can feel global in scope. This year’s attendance is expected to hit 200,000.
Of course, the weekend serves as a series of special parties in some of the city’s most popular bars and nightclubs catering to the LGBTQ community — from the all-night dance parties at clubs like Oz Nightclub and Bourbon Pub and Parade, to the evening block parties on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at The Phoenix.
Entertainment at Oz and Bourbon Pub and Parade often features star drag queens, dancers or adult film stars performing alongside star club DJs. But there also are some specialty events to go along with the more traditional, sanctioned Decadence events. Here’s a peek at both.
Thursday (Sept. 1), 9 p.m.
The Four Seasons & Patio Stage Bar, Metairie
While thousands already will have descended on the French Quarter for the weekend, Metairie’s Four Seasons will offer its own tune-up party hosted by New Lana O’Day and featuring Darienne Lake — a contestant on the same season 6 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” competition won by New Orleans’ own Bianca Del Rio.
“Love from New Orleans to Orlando”
Thursday (Sept. 1), 9 p.m.
In a show of solidarity with the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando this past June, Oz Nightclub partners with Swiss Navy to create a banner that will be featured inside the club between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. and will be available for guests to sign “send personal messages of love.” The banner also will be displayed in front of Jackson Square on Saturday night and will be carried about during Saturday’s parade (see below).
Southern Decadence Float Parade
Friday (Sept. 2), 7:30 p.m.
Faubourg Marigny/French Quarter
If ever the weekend resembled Mardi Gras, it’s during this parade — with its modest rolling floats — snaking its way from Washington Park along Elysian Fields Avenue and through the French Quarter. (Decatur, Canal and Bourbon streets provide the main path of the parade.) The event is presented by Toby LeFort and the Knights of Decadence. About 15 floats are expected to roll, with plenty of riders in costume.
“Kiki with Violet!”
Saturday (Sept. 3), 2 p.m.
New Orleans School of Burlesque
Violet Chachki, the season 7 winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” appears for a Q&A session about her work, at the invitation of burlesque producer Bella Blue. Chachki also will provide plenty of pro tips, and will be available for photos. Tickets $30.
12th Annual Bourbon Street Extravaganza
Saturday (Sept. 3), 6:30 p.m.
Bourbon and St. Ann streets
Of the two massive gatherings during Southern Decadence, the Bourbon Street Extravaganza is the wildest, a massive street party that draws thousands who gather hours earlier for the best view of the male dancers and dance-club divas from back in the day. DJ Tony Mazza will warm up the crowd for a 5:30 p.m. pre-block party. This year’s lineup includes the ever-popular Jeanie Tracy but also features Zoe Badwi, the Well Strung string quartet and Rowetta (of Happy Mondays fame) along with dancers Travis Moet and the Prancing Rockets.
Southern Decadence Walking Parade
Sunday (Sept. 4), 2 p.m.
French Quarter: Golden Lantern to Bourbon and St. Ann streets
Also known as the “Grand Marshal Parade,” the second of the two parades is led by Grand Marshals XLII Tony Leggio, Felicia Philips, Jeffrey Palmquist and Derek-Penton Robicheaux and features stops at many of the Quarter’s popular gay bars before winding in front of the two biggest: the Bourbon Pub and Parade and Oz.
“Cream: The Second Coming”
Sunday (Sept. 4), 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
One Eyed Jacks
More than a decade ago, Louisiana native Kitten LaRue was a part of New Orleans’ neo-burlesque movement, performing as a member of the Shim Sham Revue named after the Toulouse Street club. She went on to help shake up Seattle’s scene in similar fashion as a producer, but more recently, she and her partner, Lou Henry Hoover, were voted the No. 1 burlesque performers in 21st Century Burlesque magazine’s readers’ poll as well as winning Most Comedic act at the 2014 Burlesque Hall of Fame competition.
The pair debuted their “Cream” show at the 2015 Southern Decadence, a hodge-podge of burlesque, drag and cabaret acts, and this year’s sophomore effort is no different. Featured acts include Atlanta’s Violet Chachki (“RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 7 winner), New York City boylesque performer Mr. Gorgeous (Mr. Exotic World 2015), and Seattle’s Cherdonna. Minneapolis’ Victoria DeVille will serve as the host for the two shows (8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.).