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Rehoboth Beach summer 2022: ‘Let’s choose joy!’

Business owners excited for new season



The Pines and Aqua offer entertainment all summer as owners prepare to open a new restaurant, Drift, in June. (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Your return to Rehoboth Beach for the 2022 spring and summer season should be exciting as we look to move past all the COVID cancellations and restrictions of the past two years.

Everyone in town has been working hard over the past year to make sure this summer is safe and fun. There are new businesses, over-the-top new dance parties, and other less welcome changes, like the loss of the Dolle’s sign on the boardwalk.

Fewer than 1,500 people actually live in or own property in the town of Rehoboth Beach with the right to vote, yet the population swells to over 25,000 in the summer. Rehoboth wasn’t always the gay-friendly town it is today, but the work of CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ community center founded by Murray Archibald and Steve Elkins in 1991, helped changed all that. Now the community is not only welcoming but businesses work hard to attract the LGBTQ community to town. CAMP has new leadership this summer, including Wes Combs as the new president of the board. Executive Director David Mariner recently announced his resignation after three years; the acting director is Lisa Evans. 

Combs recently announced CAMP is going through “a strategic planning process to carry the organization into its next chapter. CAMP is delivering critically important and impactful free programming to promote community well-being on all levels; to foster the development of community groups; to develop community space; to promote human and civil rights; to work against prejudice and discrimination; to lessen tensions among the community at large; and to help foster economic growth.”

As you plan your return to Rehoboth, there have been some changes since last year. Aqua Grill reopened in April on Baltimore Avenue with a new menu. It remains the go-to spot for outdoor happy hour after the beach. Then there is The Pines across the street, a great place for dinner and a show. Plan on being at the beach July 16-17 for Hair and Heels weekend at the convention center, sponsored by The Pines, a dance and drag brunch extraordinaire. As if that’s not enough, The Pines’s owners along with Lion Gardner, former chef at the Blue Moon, are hoping to open Drift on Baltimore Avenue by the end of June. Lion has already prepared the menu for Drift and you can sample it many Sundays at The Pines in advance of the much-anticipated opening.

(L-R) Bob Suppies, Kristina Kelly, Tyler Townsend and Dave Gonce of Aqua and The Pines have planned a busy summer of entertainment in Rehoboth Beach. (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

If you haven’t been to Rehoboth since last summer, then you missed the grand opening of Freddie’s Beach Bar on 1st Street. Freddie Lutz is planning exciting things for his first full season at the beach and has already hosted the ageless Pamala Stanley, who left The Pines in the off season.

Another hotly anticipated newcomer is Red, White and Basil, which closed its D.C. location in Adams Morgan and is preparing to open on Route 1 just outside of town. It’s owned by Mark Hunker and Jeff McCracken of Duplex Diner fame; the two also own Jam (best avocado toast in town) and Eden in Rehoboth and recently acquired Coho’s Market & Grill on Rehoboth Avenue. 

Also this off-season, the long-awaited Agave Mexican restaurant opened on Route 1 in Rehoboth, an offshoot of the ever-popular Lewes location. The huge bar is gorgeous but arrive early as it’s always packed. The authentic mole sauce can’t be beat.  

Ava’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar also opened in the off season at 29 Baltimore Ave. It’s part of a small local chain and a comfy spot for good pizzas, wine, and more. Speaking of wine, the new Unwined wine bar is coming soon to the old Azzurro restaurant spot, which closed for good during the pandemic. The second-floor outdoor deck is one of the best spots in town.

Also new this year is Above the Dunes in the old Greene Turtle space on the boardwalk. Rehoboth has a surprising dearth of outdoor, waterfront dining so the transformation of the old Turtle with its overwhelming number of blaring TVs into the bright, inviting Dunes is a welcome development. The staff here are incredibly friendly and the view is all ocean. The menu includes some healthful alternatives to all the boardwalk grease and fries, including a tuna poke and Korean salmon bowl. Don’t miss it.

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden recently visited their home at the beach and took to the bicycle path. Not sure if they will be able to do what they did in past seasons stopping in at Joe Mack’s Double Dippers on 1st Street, but Joe hopes to see them sometime during the summer. I also know Lori Klein would love to see the first lady back during the 26th season at Lori’s Oy Vey Café in the CAMP courtyard, picking up a sandwich for Joe like she used to. Even if she won’t be there you should not miss Lori’s famous chicken salad.  

One of the great old standbys at the beach, celebrating its 23rd birthday, is The Purple Parrot Grill and Biergarten on Rehoboth Avenue. Owners Hugh Fuller and Troy Roberts make everyone feel welcome with consistently good food, entertainment, and a handsome group of friendly bartenders and managers. Fuller said, “The town has an excitement about it that has been building since last year. If the last few months are indicative of what’s ahead it’s going to be a record-breaking summer.” He kidded that if you are part of the excitement, then “don’t complain about the crowds, or traffic, sure to be at the beach.” 

Then there is the iconic Back Porch on Rehoboth Avenue; as locals know, weekend brunch at the cozy bar is one of the town’s most charming and unforgettable bites. Of course, Meghan Kee’s collection of restaurants, including La Fable, Dalmata, Houston White and the new Bramble and Brine at The Buttery in Lewes, continue to wow local foodies.

“The summers are always too short,” Kee said. “With that in mind, I am looking forward to making this season the best I can for our guests and my staff. Seems that our region will be busy, booming, and bustling come Memorial Day. It’s our duty as business owners and residents to give people what they come here for. Creative thinking and strategy got us all through the past two years, let’s choose joy for this third COVID summer.”

The Blue Moon is back offering some of the best fine dining in town along with drag and other entertainment; talented NYC pianist Nate Buccieri is expected to return for the season. Check Blue Moon’s site for updates.

The gay-owned Port 251 offers drag brunch and a friendly bar where Blade Best Bartender nominee Zane Rego holds court. The fabulous Holly Lane remains behind the bar at Cafe Azafran. Check out Goolees Grill for one of the best breakfasts in town. The Coffee Mill is ready and owner Mel Damascena told the Blade, “We are celebrating 30 years serving the local community. We have special events coming up including fundraising events to help community non- profits at both The Coffee Mill and the Mill Creamery right across from Coffee Mill serving local Hopkins’s ice cream.” Damascena also has Brashhh on 1st street, now celebrating nine years in business. Longtime Rehoboth business owner Steve Fallon has the always fun Gidget’s Gadgets on Rehoboth Avenue and now a second place selling vinyl records, Extendedplay. He invites everyone to Rehoboth and says,“if you stroll the streets, appreciate the diversity and embrace the many shops and eateries, your stay will be memorable.”

Back on Baltimore Avenue don’t forget to stop in at mainstays like Elegant Slumming for exquisite jewelry and Philip Morton Gallery for art, and the delicious Frank and Louie’s for sandwiches andItalian specialties.  On Wilmington, Yolanda has remodeled Mariachi. Don’t leave the beach without a gift for your pet from Critter Beach on Rehoboth Avenue and then further out on Rehoboth Avenue is Rigby’s Bar and Grill and the popular Diego’s Bar and Nightclub with regular entertainment and a bustling outdoor beach bar.

Remember that Rehoboth is also home to a vibrant community theater and here’s hoping the town commissioners will not force it to leave town. Plan to see a show at the amazing Clear Space Theatre on Baltimore Avenue. This season’s productions include “The Submission,” “9 to 5,” “Grease,” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Make your plans early as hotels and rentals are all booking fast.

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a&e features

CAMP Rehoboth’s president talks pandemic, planning, and the future

Wesley Combs marks six months in new role



Wesley Combs took over as president of CAMP Rehoboth six months ago and is now focused on searching for a new permanent executive director. (Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

June marks half a year since Wesley Combs stepped into his role as president of CAMP Rehoboth. In a conversation with the Blade, Combs recounted his first six months in the position — a time he said was characterized by transition and learning.

Since 1991, CAMP Rehoboth has worked to develop programming “inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities” in the Rehoboth Beach, Del. area, according to the nonprofit’s website. As president, Combs oversees the organization’s board of directors and executive director, helping determine areas of focus and ensure programming meets community needs.

For Combs, his more than three decades of involvement with CAMP Rehoboth have shaped the course of his life. In the summer of 1989 — just before the organization’s creation — he met his now-husband, who was then living in a beach house with Steve Elkins and Murray Archibald, CAMP Rehoboth’s founders.

Since then, he has served as a financial supporter of the organization, noting that it has been crucial to fostering understanding that works against an “undercurrent of anti-LGBTQ sentiment” in Rehoboth Beach’s history that has, at times, propagated violence against LGBTQ community members.

In 2019, after Elkins passed away, Combs was called upon by CAMP Rehoboth’s Board of Directors to serve on a search committee for the organization’s next executive director. Later that year, he was invited to become a board member and, this past November, was elected president.

Combs noted that CAMP Rehoboth is also still recovering from the pandemic, and is working to restart programming paused in the switch to remote operations. In his first six months, he has sought to ensure that people feel “comfortable” visiting and engaging with CAMP Rehoboth again, and wants to ensure all community members can access its programming, including those from rural parts of Delaware and those without a means of getting downtown.

Still, Combs’s first six months were not without unexpected turns: On May 31, David Mariner stepped down from his role as CAMP Rehoboth executive director, necessitating a search for his replacement. Combs noted that he would help facilitate the search for an interim director to serve for the remainder of the year and ensure that there is “a stable transition of power.” CAMP Rehoboth last week announced it has named Lisa Evans to the interim director role.

Chris Beagle, whose term as president of CAMP Rehoboth preceded Combs’s own, noted that the experience of participating in a search committee with the organization will “better enable him to lead the process this time.”

Before completing his term, Beagle helped prepare Combs for the new role, noting that the “combination of his professional background, his executive leadership (and) his passion for the organization” make Combs a strong president. Regarding the results of the election, “I was extremely confident, and I remain extremely confident,” Beagle said.

Bob Witeck, a pioneer in LGBTQ marketing and communications, has known Combs for nearly four decades. The two founded a public relations firm together in 1993 and went on to work together for 20 years, with clients ranging from major businesses like Ford Motor Company to celebrities including Chaz Bono and Christopher Reeve. According to Witeck, Combs’s work in the firm is a testament to his commitment to LGBTQ advocacy.

“Our firm was the first founded primarily to work on issues specific to LGBTQ identities, because we wanted to counsel corporations about their marketing and media strategies and working in the LGBTQ market,” he explained. By helping develop communications strategies inclusive of those with LGBTQ identities, Combs established a background of LGBTQ advocacy that truly “made a mark,” Witeck said.

Witeck emphasized that, in his new position, Combs brings both business experience and a renewed focus on historically underrepresented in LGBTQ advocacy — including people with disabilities, trans people and people of color.

Looking to the rest of the year, CAMP Rehoboth hopes to host a larger-scale event during Labor Day weekend. In addition, the organization will revisit its strategic plan — first developed in 2019 but delayed due to the pandemic — and ensure it still meets the needs of the local community, Combs said. He added that he intends to reexamine the plan and other programming to ensure inclusivity for trans community members.

“CAMP Rehoboth continues to be a vital resource in the community,” he said. “The focus for the next two years is to make sure we’re doing and delivering services that meet the needs of everyone in our community.”

Wesley Combs, gay news, Washington Blade
Wesley Combs (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)
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DC Aquatics Club swimmers reflect on world title win

Team took 125 gold medals en route to breaking 72 DCAC records



The District of Columbia Aquatics Club sent 42 swimmers to the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics world championships in Palm Springs, Calif. (Photo courtesy DCAC)

The District of Columbia Aquatics Club sent 42 swimmers to the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) world championships in Palm Springs, Calif., in April on a mission to capture their first world title since 2013.

It was a long road back to international competition for the DCAC swimmers after the disruption of training and travel brought on by the worldwide pandemic.

When the team returned from IGLA in Melbourne, Australia in March of 2020, their training pools were closed, and all competitions were canceled.

By May they had established a training site in the South River in Annapolis where they swam until November of that year. Eventually, pools began to reopen, and the team was faced with battling for training time in COVID-restricted pools.

Following the postponement of the 2022 Gay Games in Hong Kong, the IGLA community scrambled to put together a competition in Palm Springs that would be hosted in tandem by West Hollywood Aquatics and the Long Beach Grunions. 

DCAC’s swimmers in Palm Springs consisted of a mix of veterans and rookies ranging in age from 22 to 76 years old. Each swimmer was eligible to enter five individual events and three relay events.

With 67 teams in attendance, DCAC jumped out to an early lead on day one in the large team category with West Hollywood Aquatics and San Francisco Tsunami in close pursuit. 

Despite the disqualifications of two of their winning relays for early takeoffs, DCAC held on to their lead over the remaining three days to claim their first world title in nine years.

Three DCAC swimmers, Grant Casey, Carmen Robb and Jerry Frentsos, won gold in all five of their individual events. In total, the team won 125 gold, 66 silver and 35 bronze medals en route to breaking 72 DCAC team records.

Addison Winger was a first time IGLA swimmer and hadn’t competed in 12 years. He had heard the tales from past IGLAs and wanted to join in on the fun.

“It was a great experience to compete for DCAC at an international competition. I had never been in a championship meet before where you go through the process of tapering, shaving, and suiting up in tech gear,” says Winger. “The relays were amazing, and I enjoyed taking advice and feedback from our coaches to incorporate into future races. It was also great spending quality team with my teammates outside of the pool.”

Olivia Kisker had competed with DCAC at IGLA Melbourne in 2020 and was looking forward to traveling with her team again.

“Even though the days were long at the pool, we still had time for Joshua Tree, the gondolas and all that Palm Springs has to offer,” Kisker says. “I love traveling and doing it with your teammates provides a setting for bonding and getting to know people better. I also enjoyed competing against my teammate Sarah. It’s like a friendship and a rivalry.”

Craig Franz restarted his post-COVID competitive swimming at IGLA Palm Springs and went on to a training camp and open water race in Hawaii this past month.

“The whole thing about this team is relationships and sharing swimming as a common denominator. The swim competitions legitimize building relationships and supporting each other in healthy ways,” say Franz. “Palm Springs felt like a more relaxed setting, and we needed this meet to rebuild the team. It provided a nutritional base for what we are about – swimming and friendships.”

Sarah Padrutt had not competed since 2019 and all the talk about past IGLAs prompted her to attend for the first time.

“I had so much fun, and it was cool having people cheering and being supported by teammates,” Padrutt says. “It was also a nice wakeup call, a reminder of how much I like competing. I like the pressure of racing and being on relays with my team. It was a very positive experience.”

Charles Cockrell has been a Masters swimmer for decades and is the chair of the Legislation Committee for United States Masters Swimming. He came out in 2019 and these championships marked his first time competing at IGLA.

“I wanted to compete at a swim meet that was a combination of the LGBTQ community and the sport of swimming. It was a fun, accepting and engaging environment,” says Cockrell. “The takeaway was that everyone was enjoying themselves and it was nice to be gathered together in a queer space. There was an atmosphere of camaraderie, and it was great being attached to a big team like DCAC.”

Coming up next for DCAC is the United States Masters Swimming Nationals in Richmond in August. Next year, the team will travel to London for the 2023 IGLA world championships to be held in the London Olympic Pool.

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Out & About

10 LGBTQ events this week

See more than just the fireworks in the days ahead



From movie nights to dance parties, there is a lot to do in the region this week. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Below are our picks for some of the most fun and creative things to do this week in D.C. that are of special interest to the LGBTQ community.

MNSkating’s Pride Too!

Monday, June 27
7:30 p.m.
Laurel Skating Center
9890 Brewers Court
Laurel, Md.
Facebook | Meetup

Join the Monday Night Skaters for a Pride-themed skating party in Laurel, Md. on Monday.

Queen of the Capital at Adams Morgan Movie Nights

Tuesday, June 28
8-11 p.m.
Adams Morgan Soccer Field

The Adams Morgan Partnership BID will be showing “Queen of the Capital” from local documentary maker Josh Davidsburg.

Pride Night at Frederick Keys

Wednesday, June 29
6-9 p.m.
Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium
21 Stadium Drive
Frederick, Md.
Facebook | Tickets

Join Pride on the Patio for a night of baseball as the Frederick Keys hold Pride Night sponsored by the Frederick Center.

LGBTQ Families Discussion & Beer Tasting

Wednesday, June 29
7-8 p.m.
Aslin Beer Company
847 South Pickett Street
Alexandria, Va.
Facebook | Tickets

Rainbow Families will have an informal discussion about such topics as coming out, celebrating your child’s identity, being a good ally in the workplace and more . . . followed by a beer tasting! No charge, but donations will be taken.

First Friday LGBTQ+ Social with GoGayDC

Friday, July 1
7-9 p.m.
The Commentary (in the Westin)
801 North Glebe Road
Arlington, Va.
Facebook | Eventbrite

Join GoGayDC for a monthly social gathering in Ballston.

Drag Race All-Stars Viewing Party

Friday, July 1
7-9 p.m.
JR.’s Bar
1519 17th Street, N.W.

Get together with other Drag Race super fans for an evening viewing party hosted by Citrine.

Outdoor Movie Night

Friday, July 1
8:30-10:30 p.m.
Stead Park
1625 P Street, N.W.

Bring your blanket and catch a movie on the big screen at Stead Park.

FireWerk with DJ Chord

See more than just the fireworks in the days ahead

Friday, July 1
9 p.m.
AquaGrill Reho
57 Baltimore Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Kick off Independence Day weekend in Rehoboth with a no cover dance party at AquaGrill.

Zodiac Drag Contest

Zodiac Drag Contest (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sunday, July 3
8 p.m.
Freddie’s Beach Bar
555 23rd Street S
Arlington, Va.
$5 cover

The monthly amateur drag competition returns to Freddie’s on Sunday. Check out the new talent (or try it out yourself).

Flashy 4th of July Weekend

Sunday, July 3 – Monday, July 4
10 p.m.
645 Florida Aveune, N.W.
Facebook | Eventbrite

Celebrate Independence Day with a Flashy 4th of July on the dance floor of Flash.

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