Many countries, cities and towns these days have a gay pride or awareness day, week or month. These times are times which include parades, parties, speeches, offering support and encouragement to other gay people, games, live performances, and, of course, having fun.
Phuket Island has had a festival since, around the beginning of the millennium when Poonsak "Daeng" (red) Sanchan, owner of the famous Boat Bar in Patong Beach, convinced several other gay businessman to support a gay pride time in Phuket. The first celebrations were modeled after gay celebrations the Singaporeans had held in Phuket for a few years due to intolerance in Singapore.
The very first celebration was small, but the celebrations grew steadily over the next five years until now five to ten thousand visitors come to watch and participate in the festival along with thousands of Phuket Island residents. The festival is supported financially and otherwise by the local gay owned businesses – and now by the gay communities in Bangkok and Pattaya - and recognized by the local government as an important tourism and cultural event.
In as much as so many of the supporters of the festival are connected to entertainment and media, the various events are organized and carried out very professionally. The festival is accompanied by fund raising activities and much of the money raised during the festival is said to be given to charities.
As might be expected, the festival is centered in Patong Beach and usually extends over a four day period. It includes a variety of activities, the main event being the parade, which has grown to well over one kilometer in length.
Various organizations sponsor floats and musical groups. All of the different groups have uniquely fashionable costumes and they provide a good afternoon of fun and entertainment for all. It is usually not held until the last day of the festival, as is a beach party and a raffle drawing to see who has won prizes donated by businesses and individuals.
Before the beginning of the festival, stages are erected in Patong, where opening and closing ceremonies are held – speakers discuss the development of the gay community and recognize individual achievements. The stages are used for many other events as well, such as fashion shows, karaoke contests, and a queen of the festival competition.
There are also many athletic competitions, including bowling and volleyball tournaments, cultural shows and presentations, along with appearances by Thai singers and famous DJ's.
On the third day of the festival there is usually a huge open air concert at the Patong soccer field. Cabaret shows are tastefully spread throughout the duration of the festival.
A very exciting or interesting part of the festival is what happens at night. Of course there are loud firework displays, but in the gay areas of Patong Beach, most notably around the Paradise complex, partying extends late into the night.
Partiers often wear elaborate costumes and paint themselves different colors, and sing and dance. Naturally, this is encouraged by various clubs, all of which strongly support the festival. It is a truly magnificent spectacle to behold as partiers good naturedly roam from club to club.
The spirit of fun also extends into much of the straight community. Many straight people come to festival activities and at night there is a heightened feeling of fun and enjoyment in the straight bars and clubs of Bangla Road.
While places such as Phuket town don't have any formal celebrations, those in Phuket town and other places tend to let their hair down and relax a little more than usual, if they haven't already gone to Patong beach. The festival continues almost non-stop until it finally, stops!
The Gay festival for 2010 is scheduled to be held February 25-28. This is generally a busy time on Phuket Island as it is the "dry" season or the season when it does not rain.
This means that many hotels and guest houses will be full, and airlines booked. Therefore, those interested in going to Phuket during this time might consider making definite plans and at arrange their transportation in advance. Local gay organizations and guest houses have websites and will help travelers – gay and non-gay - securing rooming.
More about Gay nightlife in Phuket