Located on higher ground than the rest of New Orleans, the gay-welcoming French Quarter was one of the first neighborhoods to regain a semblance of normality after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Jeff Anding of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau predicts that the high concentration of gay and lesbian residents in the storied historic district will be a major catalyst for the return of queer tourists. “My gut call is that the gay population will be back earlier than everyone else,” he says, “and once [they’re] back, the clubs and bars will come back, and then the gay and lesbian tourists will start coming back.”
Mardi Gras Weekend (Feb. 24-28, 2006) is officially on. “It will be less amplified, but it will be a celebration of the rebirth of New Orleans,” says Anding. “We need Mardi Gras as a psychological boost for the city.”
Signs of a strong gay presence at the event are starting to show. Keith and André West-Harrison, who own the French Quarter gay guesthouse Olde Victorian Inn, say that “70% of past guests who stayed during Mardi Gras have expressed interest in coming back to the city as soon as they can.”
Hurricane Katrina forced the cancelation of New Orleans’s 34th annual Southern Decadence festival, the Labor Day weekend party that was expected to draw more than 100,000 gay and lesbian participants from August 30 to September 4.