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When you say “The Dinah” to queer women, a very large percentage of them will know exactly what you’re talking about. What began as an organic extension of a well-known women’s sporting event, The Dinah Shore Classic, has become one of largest women’s circuit parties in the world – Club Skirts The Dinah.

24 years ago Mariah Hanson began a movement to truly provide women the freedom to be themselves. Every year, women from all over the world descend on Palm Springs, California for a weekend of fun, frolic and (ahem). For some this is the only opportunity they have of fully being queer in front of everyone.

Last December the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce awarded Hanson the Athena Award — a predominantly straight, white organization of business men were honoring a lesbian for being a “warrior for business.” I had the chance to sit down with Hanson and talk to her about her journey.

Robyn Vie-Carpenter: So, you’re getting this award. I think that’s so incredible.

Mariah Hanson: Yeah, I think so too. I’m floored. My jaw just dropped when they contacted me and said, “would you be willing to accept this honor?” I’m like (pauses), yeah. I don’t know if I deserve the honor, but this is great.

RVC: As a lesbian business owner that does things with and for the LGBT community, to be honored by an organization that’s not necessarily the most diverse, that’s pretty uncommon.

MH: It’s all about lesbian visibility. There’s an aspect of Palm Springs that is incredibly liberal. The Chamber of Commerce is kinda old school (conservative). So, (this) was even more progressive, it’s like wow, you go Palm Springs.

RVC: Watching women at The Dinah, I can imagine what it would have been like for me a few years back, before I got married. We don’t get to experience this often. When you think about lesbians, we don’t get to show up somewhere and there are lesbians everywhere.

MH: And the thing is that although some of the core events do skew younger, the age demographics are really broad. It’s a party. I mean the pool party is like a nine-hour party. It’s this non-stop thing. What I love about it is that we do try to offer a lot of different programming.

Think of it like this. There are people there (who are) in their 70’s. Imagine what the world was like when they were 25. And they look out at these like three and four star hotels catering to the lesbian community. It just must be so liberating. Because we take for granted so much, and that’s okay. That’s what people were fighting for. People were fighting so that one day we could take for granted (this freedom), and the civil rights that we are so quickly achieving all over the country.

RVC: They ‘fought for your right to party’ and now they get to enjoy it. They’re still around.

MH: The people that did the pioneering, they’re still here. And it must really just be amazing for them to see too. I love that part.

RVC: I got to talk to a lot of these women. And they were saying, “it’s awesome being us.” It makes your heart happy to know that there are these opportunities to be completely out, fully empowered and on fire, in a way that has never been before. 24 years is a long time to be doing something like this.

MH: Yes it is. Half of the people there are 24, it’s a lifetime.

RVC: You’ve been quoted saying, after signing the Pussy Cat Dolls to perform, you ‘had to just do it.’ You had to believe that eventually it was really going to happen.

MH: Most entrepreneurs will tell you, being a successful entrepreneur versus not isn’t because they had a better idea. It’s that they believed in it facing a myriad of fears, doubts and voices saying, don’t do that. Are you crazy? You just have to do it anyway. My heart goes out to people that dream that dream, but don’t take that first step. You gotta take the first step. Once you take that first step, it’s like Life takes you in it’s sweet arms and just moves you forward.

If you want to discover the inspiration, freedom and nine-hour parties by the pool, Club Skirts The Dinah will be taking over Palm Springs, CA April 2 – 6, 2014. Visit thedinah.com for more information.