Rehoboth Beach’s summer season unofficially ends around Labor Day and it goes out with a memorable bang this weekend with drag volleyball and the Sundance party.
Begun as a fun game among friends in 1988, this year’s drag volleyball match is expected to attract more than 1,000 beach goers to the 23rd annual contest on Sunday at 1 p.m. The event, almost from the beginning, has been held on Poodle Beach at the south end of the boardwalk.
The event attracted national attention this year when Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford joined several of the players on the beach in a segment shown on NBC’s “Today” show, but as early as 1996 this event was featured in the USA Today as one of the fun things to see at the beach during Labor Day weekend.
Even though the teams play the game in drag, they treat the game seriously. Stan Cole, a Rehoboth Beach resident, notes that the first time he observed the event, “I thought I would see drag queens playing volleyball, but I saw good volleyball players in drag.”
The two teams keep their outfits secret from the public, but do share with each other what they will wear ever since there was a year in which both teams had the same theme. In the past, they have dressed as Hawaiian princesses, a wedding party, flight attendants and Lady Gaga’s multiple personalities, to name a few. In the early years, the players wore women’s bathing suits, but in subsequent years the costumes became more elaborate. During the first 10 years of competition, the costumers were designed by one of the players, Forrest Park, known affectionately as Flo.
They have never had inclement weather hold them back, playing in cold and damp weather, even during a downpour. They canceled the match in 1990 when anti-gay sentiment, including anti-gay beatings at Poodle Beach and signs around town promoting the city as “A family town” forced the organizers to worry about how such an event might fuel further anti-gay sentiment.
Over the years, organizers have been asked to turn the event into a fundraiser, but longtime participant Brent Minor says, “this event is purely fun, and we do not want to get involved in making it too complicated and giving us too many obligations.”
The same year in which drag volleyball began, the Camp Rehoboth community center organized an event called Sundance to honor the 10th anniversary of Camp founders Steve Elkins and Murray Archibald. The first event was a benefit for Whitman-Walker Clinic and Hero, an AIDS care provider in Baltimore, and raised $6,400. Over the years other groups, such as the Sussex County AIDS Committee, have benefitted from funds raised at this event but in recent years, the programs sponsored by Camp have been the primary beneficiary.
Each year since then, Camp has held the two-day event, the first day being an auction with items donated by up to 400 individuals and businesses, and the second a dance. Originally held at the Strand Restaurant on Rehoboth Avenue, it moved to the Convention Center in 1994. “The people at the Convention Center have been incredibly supportive all these years,” Elkins says. Elkins also points out how proud Camp is that this was the first gay-oriented event ever held at the Convention Center.
This year the auction will be held on Saturday from 7-10 p.m., and the dance, with music by Mark Thomas will be held the next day from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Numerous sponsors will be donating food and beverages. Also this weekend, the second annual 5K race to benefit Camp Rehoboth will be held. It was postponed from last weekend due to Hurricane Irene. Registration for the 5K begins at 6 a.m. at Camp Rehoboth on Baltimore Avenue and the race kicks off at 7:30 a.m. Go here for more information.
Other Labor Day weekend events:
Saturday, Sept. 3
Zoom Urban Lesbian Excursions is having its third annual Labor Day Sunset Sail on the American Spirit at the Gangplank Marina (600 Water St., S.W.). The group will gather at the nearby Cantina Marina at 6 p.m. before setting sail at 6:30. The trip is three hours long on the Potomac and includes drinks, food and music. Tickets for the sail cost $55 and can be purchased at phatgirlchic.com/zoom.
The biggest event in Rehoboth is Sundance, a two-night annual benefit for Camp Rehoboth Community Center. Tonight, the doors of the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center open at 7 p.m. with a silent auction and live auction. There will also be a dance Sunday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets are $45 either event or $80 for both and can be purchased online at camprehoboth.com.
Sunday, Sept. 4
Ladies 2000 and City Girl Productions present its Women’s Labor Day Weekend party at the Atlantic Sands Hotel (101 N. Boardwalk) in Rehoboth Beach, Del., tonight at 5 p.m. featuring DJ Steve Singer. Admission is $10.
The Ladies of Lure are celebrating Labor Day tonight with Spin at Club Hippo (1 West Eager St.) in Baltimore from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. with DJ Rosie and the DystRuXion Dancers. A game of flip-cup will run from 7 to 8 p.m. when the club doors open. General admission is $4, $8 to play flip-cup as well.
Monday, Sept. 5
The National Symphony Orchestra celebrates the Legends of Washington Music: John Philip Sousa, “Duke” Ellington, and Chuck Brown, the “Godfather of Go-Go,” tonight as part of its Labor Day Capitol Concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building at 8 p.m. This is a free event.
Olde Towne Gaithersburg has its 73rd annual Labor Day Parade today at 1 p.m. with WTOP traffic reporter Julie Wright as mistress of ceremonies. For more information, visit gaithersburgmd.gov.