THE Tybee Equality Fest celebrates its second year with three days of dancing, kayaking, cocktails, yoga, drag shows, live music, rainbows and love, yes, lots of love.
The LGBTQ festival kicks off Friday, August 24 and runs the weekend through Sunday, August 26.
What began in 2013 as the Tybee Rainbow Fest has matured into a three-day event focused more on love, inclusion and acceptance.
Event organizer, Angie Celeste, was eager to shape the experience into something more than just an opportunity for over the top partying.
“Since same sex marriage became legal in 2015, the LGBTQ community has experienced a shift in how we are seen and perceived,” says Celeste, “though we have always loved, and for many of us for many years our love has had to be hidden, now it’s a little easier to show and be who we are.”
This year in addition to dinners, drinks, drag shows and dancing, Equality Fest includes more family-oriented activities.
“Not only are we legally marrying our partners,” emphasizes Celeste, “but we’re also having children and raising them. The festival needed more things for families to do together.”
New to the line up are morning kayaking and paddle boarding opportunities plus a Sunday sunset yoga session on the beach.
Tybee Equality Fest still has ample prospects for adult entertainment, though. It all kicks off at 4 p.m. with happy hour specials at Coco’s Sunset Grill.
Then from 6- 10 p.m. the party picks up a notch at Bubba Gumbo’s with the super smooth rhythms of Kana Kiehm. This five-piece reggae band from Orlando, Florida, tours regularly along the East Coast.
And then Friday at 10 p.m. it’s glitter and go time— rainbow up for the first drag show of the weekend at Hucapoo’s.
“Drag shows are so much fun,” says Celeste, “we wanted to make sure we had one every night because they’re for everyone. Even if you’re not a performer, and especially if you’re an LGBTQ ally and supporter, everyone is encouraged to dress up and be fabulous.”
Ease into day two of the festival with an 8 a.m. Saturday morning family-friendly guided kayak tour at North Island Surf and Kayak.
“Or if you’re still wound up in rainbows from Friday night,” explains Celeste, “the 10 a.m. Sip! Sip! Hooray! Brunch at Beachview Java and Juice might be the better way to get things rolling on Saturday.”
Saturday afternoon from 4- 8 p.m. the Christy Snow Band plays the VIP Party at the Grandview Hotel on Tybee. A folk and blues artist from Charlotte, North Carolina, Snow’s music delivers a positive message with warm swagger inspired by Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Raitt.
Saturday night the party takes off at Fannie’s on the Beach with local favorite party masters the Christy Alan Band.
“Of course Christy Alan has to be at Equality Fest,” proclaims Celeste, “She’s the dancing queen. Everyone has a great time when Christy and her band play.”
There’s a Saturday night drag show at Fannie’s as well.
On Sunday, festivities get underway a little later in the morning. At 11 a.m., North Island Surf and Kayak host a morning of beginner paddle boarding, and from noon until 3 p.m. it’s brunch in drag back at Fannie’s at the Beach.
“I mean, we’re calling it brunch,” explains Celeste, “but really it’s a long, late lunch, hopefully to give everyone enough time to recover from two nights of fun. It gives families a chance to sleep in, too.”
The festival also hosts a community beach sweep on Sunday afternoon.
“Tybee is always so generous and supportive of the LGBTQ community. They welcome us with open arms,” says Celeste, “it’s important for us to give back to the beach community that has been so kind.”
Sunday night the Tybee Equality Fest wraps at the North Beach Grill with complimentary appetizers and drink specials just for festival attendees. Savannah-local JD Music Group provides the dance and soundtrack for the evening.
This five-piece from Savannah have classic soul and R&B hits on lockdown—they nail Prince covers and Motown every time, high energy and great harmonies.
The Tybee Equality Fest celebrates marriage equality and LGBTQ community, but the festival truly is for everyone.
“Even if you do not identify as gay, lesbian, trans or queer, chances are you know someone or have a family member who does,” says Celeste, “and we want Equality Fest to be welcoming for everyone. The legal gains we’ve made wouldn’t be possible without the love and support of our allies, and we want to support that.”
At the end of the day, Tybee Equality Fest is about love and being able to love who and how you are.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to work together with so many different people on the island to create a space that is for and about love, respect and acceptance,” explains Celeste.
“I love that I get to be part of so much love, and I want to share that with everyone at Tybee Equality Fest.