While the Florida Panhandle doesn’t have the population base to be in the vanguard of social change, there is certainly an evolving—and growing—LGBT scene here. And there are more events on the calendar and LGBT-friendly businesses, it seems, with each passing year.
Its now estimated, for example, that LGBT visitors pump more than US$25 million annually into the Pensacola economy. In 2012, the city staged its first “STAMPED: Pensacola LGBT Film Fest.” (STAMPED” notes a recent period in which LGBT visitors to the area stamped their dollars to show how much they contributed to the local economy.)
That event is now a fixture on the fall calendar. Gay Memorial Day Weekend in Pensacola, on the other hand, has been around for a while. It started informally in the 198os, and is now an annual event drawing thousands to the beach fora holiday weekend of parties and fun. The weekend attracts big crowds to late-night circuit parties with well-known DJs and to informal tent parties right on the beach. The friendliest beach, Pensacola Beach, is on County Road 399, two miles past the Gulf Islands National Seashore sign.
The LGBT community is also active in Panama City. In fact, this community has the only PFLAG chapter (Parents of Family/Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in its area. PFLAG-Panama City held its first LGBTQ Film Festival in October 2016, and it will become an annual two-night event on the calendar every autumn. There’s a formal reception on opening night, and the festival is dedicated to providing cinematic experiences that promote deeper understanding and good filmmaking. Screenings take place at a few different venues, and all are catered.
In Panama City Beach, LGBT social life revolves around the Splash Bar, an aptly-named—and very splashy—spot where this community comes together to party.