LGBT Festival Resurrected on Big Island
By Kristin Hashimoto
This weekend people will unite under the rainbow flag for the Big Island Pride Festival in Kailua-Kona.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people along with friends, loved ones, and supporters are encouraged to attend.
“There’s been a lack of community on the island,” said event coordinator, Clark Realtor and financier Blake Howell, 48. Howell along with partner of nearly 16 years Lynn Hogan, 36, didn’t just lament the lack of an LGBT festival on the Big Island. They did something about it.
Despite Howell’s natural reserve and shyness, he pushed through and challenged himself to put on the island’s greatest pride party in years. “You regret the things you don’t do,” he said.
Since late February, Howell donated his time, money and exhaustive energies into making this event a reality for 2012.
“It’s really a grassroots kinda thing…people started talking to other people, and the response from everybody has been overwhelming.”
Howell looked to his network of community contacts and friends to help with the event’s execution.
A Facebook page, website (www.bigislandpride.com), and runners on the ground posted fliers and helped to generate buzz.
“It’s been quite an undertaking, but I’ve had a lot of good help,” said Howell.
There will be over 30 vendors at the King Kamehameha Hotel luau grounds on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with music, dance and cash bar at this free festival.
Water sports and fun in the sun will include paddle-board, snorkel and kayak rentals from The Kona Boys.
At another locale on Friday and Saturday night, the $3 cover gets you into My Bar in Kailua Kona for a drag queen beauty pageant, drag show and dance party. “The queens are all doing this free of charge,” said Howell.
Approximately 10 queens from both the east and west side of Hawai’i will participate. “It’s Big Island Pride, not Kona Pride,” remarked Howell.
On Friday July 20, doors open at 7:30 p.m. The pageant starts at 9 p.m. On Saturday doors open at 8 p.m. and the girls work the stage at 9:30 p.m. At 10:30 p.m., dance off those high-caloric cocktails until 2 a.m.
While the LGBT community might be more obvious on the west side of Hawaii Island, Howell is trying to make this festival a joining of the entire island’s LGBT population – and possibly beyond.
“The Big Island has a strong and fabulous LGBT community,” he said.
Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi shared that sentiment and proclaimed Sunday July 22ndPride Day. “On Hawai’i Island, fairness is a fundamental value that we all grew up with. We embrace all of our neighbors, friends, and family,” said Kenoi.
Howell hopes to see a multi-generational turnout. “We expect between 20 and 2,000 people,” said Howell with a laugh. “One of the things pride festivals do is show kids they’re not alone, that it does get better…just hang in there…”
My Bar is located at 74-5606 Luhia Street in Kailua-Kona, Big Island. The King Kamehameha Hotel is located at 75-5660 Palani Road in Kailua-Kona.