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How DragCon, IML, and Others Are Dealing With the Coronavirus

Photo of a group of people with their hands in the air overset with LGBTQ rainbow flag

Fueled by concerns about Covid-19, public gatherings must consider whether to cancel, postpone, or forge ahead. Here's how some of your queer favorites are responding. 

Over the past few weeks the coronavirus has spread at a worrying pace, demanding headlines the world over. The entire country of Italy is under quarantine as the hardest hit European nation. Other countries have begun suspending and cancelling large events and suggesting that citizens effectively seclude themselves. And with the cancellation of South by Southwest on Friday, one has to wonder, what is the fate of my other large-scale events coming up in the next few months?

So we found out.

Earlier this week, RuPaul's DragCon announced that their Los Angeles 2020 event has been cancelled. “Unfortunately, there's no way for anyone to know what the situation will be like in May,” they wrote in a statement posted to their site. “Due to that uncertainty, and out of an abundance of caution, we've decided that it's in the best interest of the talent, staff, and attendees to cancel RuPaul's DragCon LA 2020.” The event will return in 2021 and the organizers are working with Eventbrite on refunds.

Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, a circuit party mainstay, also sees their event this year cancelled. “It is with a heavy heart that we inform you that The City of Miami has issued an official directive requiring that the 22nd edition of Ultra Music Festival, originally scheduled for March 20, 21, and 22, 2020, will be postponed to March 26, 27, and 28, 2021,” they wrote on Twitter. “This [is] an unprecedented issue which is not being taken lightly, and we must continue to defer to the authorities for guidance.” The post also noted that organizers would be in touch regarding “next steps” for ticket holders but came short of promising refunds. 

While DragCon cancelled, elsewhere in California large-event organizers are holding out hope of continuing as planned. White Party Palm Springs organizers released a statement saying that they have no plans to cancel. “We are taking all measures that the Health Department has provided us to protect our community and partygoers,” they wrote in a statement credited to event founder Jeffrey Sanker. “Every person’s safety is our number one concern and we will continue to monitor this situation very closely.” The event is scheduled for April 24-27.

Dinah Shore Weekend, which is said to be the largest lesbian event on the planet, also plans to host their event as scheduled in Palm Springs. “The county just held a press conference today, 3/8/20, affirming again that to date all festivals are [greenlit] for April,” they wrote on Facebook. That April 1 - 6th gathering will be the 30th anniversary of the event.

Fetish fest The Black Party posted on its site, "COVID-19 Update: Long time partner, DOHNYC [New York City's Department of Health], will be represented at the party with a 12-member team. We are moving forward with the event based on information they are providing us. Should policy changes occur, we will be rescheduling to a future date."

In terms of the large leather events, there’s also a lot of waiting and seeing. “We are monitoring the situation like everyone else,” Bob Miller, founder of Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend wrote to Out Traveler in an email. “As of now we do not plan to cancel the event." CLAW is massive, spanning multiple hotels and taking over Cleveland in late April.

Though it’s the furthest away on this line-up, International Mr Leather is also observing the situation. “We are remaining proactive and well-informed, ensuring our attendees and fans understand that we have their safety as one of our top priorities each year they come through our doors, this year being especially cautious, considering current events,” the event’s social media coordinator Tyesha Best said in an email statement. On their site, IML says that they are “following the procedures recommended by the World Health Organizations, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state and local health authorities.”

The International Mr Leather event is still scheduled to take place May 21 to 25th.

Out Traveler will update this story as things develop.
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