When it comes to the party scene, there is a notorious stereotype that lesbians and female-identifying folks don’t hit the clubs for very long. Frequently dismissed as U-HAUL daters who fall fast and hard, this subsection of the queer bunch rarely have a space or a place to foster a unique community that is as diverse as the lesbian, bisexual, nonbinary, and transgender spectrum. Though some of the rumors may be true, there is also truth to the fact that among those who identify within the list above, and so many more who exist in the in-between, there are people who really just want to get their summer funk-fest on.
In short, summer parties aren’t only for boys who like to play. Women-centered events and festivals have been capitalizing on the awakening of an urge within the lesbian+ communities to claim a spot all their own. From right here in Denver, through the vast desert and coastal towns, and all the way around the world, parties are overflowing with ladies who love to let loose.
Whether you prefer to dress it up in a button-up and bowtie, dress it down in a snapback and fashionable tee, or brave that bikini on the sunny beach, the hottest parties dedicated to the ladies are in full swing. As overplayed as the phrase is, these girls do just wanna have fun.
Hip Chicks Out
Being a resident in Denver in 2005 was very different than it is now, as Silke Reuthlinger can attest to. Lower Downtown had just been given the trendy title of LoDo, and ladies nights leaned towards the cis-hetero female demographic without much inclusion or diversity. In the early millennial years, Denver was a city that offered a handful of lesbian bars and hangout spots, and while they were safe spaces for LGBTQ individuals, Reuthlinger saw there was a desire for lesbians to feel comfortable hitting up the latest and greatest lounges and bars that were popping up all over the town.
“It’s good to have the gay bars; we need them, but I think it’s also good to go out of the comfort zone, go beyond our barriers,” Reuthlinger said.
So, she started a social group via email chain and collected a crew of around 20 people who crashed straight ladies nights downtown. As word spread and popularity grew, thus began what is now widely known as Second Friday hosted by Hip Chicks Out.
“Hip Chicks Out isn’t just for people who consider themselves ‘hip,’ and it’s not just for women; it’s for all. We don’t discriminate; it’s a laid-back, approachable family where people can get out and talk,” she said.
Second Friday is the low-key alternative (or companion event) to the massive monthly First Friday hosted at Tracks Nightclub. Geared more towards casual conversation over a couple of beverages, the home base has been primarily housed at The Living Room on South Broadway. Though the location is under ownership change and is not currently open, Hip Chicks Out still has a monthly residency in the cozy, lounge-like bar. Now, almost two-decades after its inception, the crowd has grown to a consistent 100+ attendees with the seasonal ebb and flow.
“It is a great place to hang with your friends and meet new ones, even meet that special someone if you are looking,” Cindy Baldwin said. She regularly attends Second Friday, because she likes that it is a smaller and more intimate gathering than the alternative options. Additionally, she said it even has a wider-range appeal outside of the city, stretching beyond Colorado.
“I have had many women from out of town tell me they wish they had an event like this in their town and a few that even plan their business trips to coincide with Hip Chicks Out,” she said.
Reuthlinger considers herself the networking motivator, and she impresses the point that there is no need for the newcomer to feel intimidated. In order to remain fresh, she is continually looking at ways to branch outside the single, monthly option revolving around the nightlife vibe. Currently aiming to revamp its programming for more active ways to explore the great state of Colorado, they have formed hiking events and a kickball league.
Ultimately, Reuthlinger wants to see the barriers of lesbians and female-identifying folks be broken down as the queer community and beyond continues to embrace and accept the diversity that is so beautifully represented in the Mile High City. It’s not a scene; it’s family.
Club Skirts The Dinah Shore Weekend
After just wrapping the 28th annual Palm Springs pool party, the massive lesbian summer kickoff event has famously taken ladies night to a whole new level. Coming from humble beginnings, Dinah Shore began as an initial, singular concept based around a women’s golf tournament held in Palm Springs, and as lesbians would come to watch the competition, it was clear there wasn’t much for the ladies to do after: enter Mariah Hanson and Club Skirts.
“I always wanted to create community, to provide an event that conveyed female importance and worth,” said Hanson, creator of Club Skirts The Dinah. Coming from the scene in the late 80s and early 90s, she noticed that lesbians were even marginalized within the LGBTQ community and felt they deserved more pizazz than the dark and dingy bars they were used to occupying.
As the debut Dinah sold out its first event in 1991, the party was packed to the brim and overflowing. It was then that Hanson put it all together; there was a significant need for a large-scale event with a singular focus on women and female-identifying people within the queer community.
“We need our very own spaces to celebrate our lives and the culture that is uniquely LGBTQ,” said Hanson. “While society is integrating more and more, we still need our own, singular events to unite us through the common thread of our shared experience as LGBTQ people.”
As a queer woman in a leadership role, she takes the responsibility of carrying all that goes along with those identifiers very seriously. Drawing in more than 15,000 attendees each year, Hanson has ushered the event through growth and change, and it has now become a five-day queer music and entertainment festival unlike any other.
“The Dinah strives to be more than a party,” she said. “It serves to remind ourselves each year that we are a powerful and inspirational community, and we deserve the very best life has to offer. If we can change one life and make one person feel like they belong, we’ve done good work.”
Over the span of 28 years, The Dinah has brought in big names like The Pussycat Dolls, India.Arie, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Tegan and Sara, Ke$ha, and the Indigo Girls. Celesbians have walked the red carpet and big name sponsors like Logo Networks, Sirius Radio, and Showtime, Inc. have all partnered with Club Skirts.
“Connection is vital to our personal growth, and The Dinah offers such amazing connections to other people. It reminds us of how much we really have in common, so much more than our differences, and it reminds us that kindness is contagious.”
An all-inclusive resort destination vacation is not something that is typically synonymous with lesbian weekend getaway. However, it absolutely is with the Spanish island retreat Velvet Ibiza. The world has taken notice of the fabulous, five-day festival, and it is marvelously planned by women, for women.
“I have a long history in the LGBTQ community in Belgium, in Brussels, and I was the owner of the last lesbian bar here, which closed in 2004,” Carine de Mesmaeker, founder of Velvet Ibiza, said. Similarly to the scene in the States, Europe has seen the vanishing of lesbian and female-identifying queer spaces.
“Instead of the small lesbian bars, everything has developed into bigger events,” de Mesmaeker said. “It’s important there are more events, especially more events for women, because there are a lot of clubs for gay men but not a lot for women,” she said. “The event attracts women from around the world. I think it’s important that they can feel safe, have a party, and relax for five days.”
Starting at roughly 300 attendees in its first year, Velvet Ibiza is quickly approaching the fifth anniversary and expecting more than 700 people. This year, they are going back to their roots and are revisiting the first-ever location at the four-star resort Cala Martina. As the lesbian European festival is expanding, they make sure to be an open and inclusive event, while also ensuring safety for all attending.
“We welcome every woman: lesbian, hetero, trans,” de Mesmaeker said. “It started as a woman’s festival. We have a lot of singles attending, also couples, but we make sure no one is left alone. We organize single and mingle events, like the first night we do speed dating, and we will have a special table for singles, so they don’t have to sit alone. We pay a lot of attention to make sure everyone feels happy and welcome.”
If this type of trip sounds like a dream out of reach, de Mesmaeker makes sure that the cost is minimal and budgetable, because it’s all-inclusive, and no cost will go unplanned.
“We try and keep the prices low so that as many people can attend as possible,” she said. “When you stay in a bungalow for two, the cost of the entire five days is 435 euro per person.”
In addition to community and friendship, music entertainment by the poolside, and a bountiful pour of all-you-could-want adult beverages included in the festival cost, there is the country’s largest hippie market right outside the resort. Lined with more than 2,000 stalls and bungalows around the resort, the mini shops are filled with handcrafted items by local artisans and artists, which means one is sure to find something authentically and beautifully local to purchase and cherish the memories of a getaway gone right.
Photos by Kingmon Creative and Molly Adams