Lesbian parties like The Dinah and Girls in Wonderland have been destinations for queer women for several years, but there has yet to be anything a little more accessible and affordable for those who live in Middle America. A group of Texas-based party throwers, Wolfpack Productions, is filling that void with Plezzure Island, a women’s weekend happening on the island of Galveston September 29-October 2.
“We wanted to really be something important for our community in Austin, and the greater Texas community and then try to really get and market that was underserved, which is that Middle America,” said organizer Kelly Frances West. “The coasts have their parties, and we don’t have it in the middle. We want to push what we do already as a community and grow it bigger and bigger and bigger and reach more markets and more women.”
Kelly and her business partner Michelle Solórzano Daly have been throwing parties for Austin women for the last three years, and it was about a year and a half ago that they started planning Plezzure Island. Alongside co-planners Gabby Ayala and Ashley Marshall, they’ve created an all women’s resort takeover in what they describe as a quaint beach town that is also home to an annual gay Mardi Gras.
“Galveston is really the coast city that can handle this kind of volume,” Kelly said. “It’s the oldest port on the Texas coast and just was a really natural fit with our kind of laid back Austin vibe.”
Kelly Frances West, Michelle Solórzano Daly, Ashley Marshall and Gabby Ayala
Like other women’s weekends, Plezzure Island has lined up pool parties, performances and celebrity guests (including The Real L Word stars Rose Garcia, Whitney Mixter and Hunter Valentine) but are going for a more intimate, community feel. The event producers said that they’ve decided to take some myths about Texas being not so queer-friendly and use them to their advantage.
“[We’ve] turned that on its head–the fear of not being accepted, and said that one of the differentiators for our event is really using the idea of Southern hospitality,” Gabby said. “So we’ve sort of used the impressions or stereotypes of the South in our favor so one of the goals of the event is anyone could come to our event will be treated as a very special guest, as a best friend. One of the things we’ve talked about is anyone who comes into our event is treated like they’re a special guest. We want to know where you came from, what you’re excited about, do you need help getting to your room, all of those things because we really want to embrace all the great things about the South and want people to experience that.”
When it comes to booking talent for their audience, the organizers wanted that same kind of approachability, which is why they invited people they’ve worked with before and had positive experiences with.
“You have to have that talent factor,” Kelly said. “It’s what works.”
The women say they spoke with friends who organize Miami’s AquaGirl about what has worked for them as well as their personal experiences booking for queer women’s nights in Austin.
“We got a lot of feedback from people we know that run these events as to which talent was easy to work with, cooperative, approachable for their audience and would give that face time and make people feel appreciated as they met them and interact,” Ashley said. “And that to us was really important because, again, we’re shooting for that community feel. We’re shooting for that up close and personal experience, and that was something that was really important to us.”
“We have our dream list,” Kelly said. “Yes, we would all love Tegan and Sara and Melissa Etheridge and the Ellens of the world to be a part of that, but we’re not there yet. … We’re happy to be a smaller event. We wanted to kind of really cater to more of a community and personalized experience so you do feel like these are your friends and you want to come back.”
“We pride ourselves on knowing our crowd,” Michelle said. “Last year we helped out on an event with Ruby Rose, and she was here for South By [Southwest], and we also helped on an event [where] somebody brought Kate Moennig. Our event the night prior, which had [out comic] Sandra Valls, had almost 600 women, and the Kate Moennig had maybe 150. I feel like Texas women that are real and own to earth and not flashy, they don’t care about the big names.”
Ashley said she thinks it has more to do with the kind of demographic that Plezzure Island is looking to reach.
“The crowd that was super enthused for Ruby Rose was much younger, so that was your early 20s, 21, 22, 23s, that group and they were absolutely excited,” Ashley said. “Same with Madison Paige and the Instagram stars, same sort of situation. So our focus is actually not that young age range because we’re looking for people who are willing to pay for that personalized experience on that smaller scale.”
“If Ruby Rose and Madison Paige want to come to Plezzure Island, I have a suite,” Gabby added.
But Plezzure Island also wants to give local DJs and musical acts a chance to perform at large-scale venues they might not be invited to otherwise.
“There’s so many incredibly gifted DJs in Austin, Dallas and Houston and it was really important to us to give them a platform because they don’t get to perform at The Dinah and Girls in Wonderland, at AquaGirl,” Kelly said. “We wanted to really create a platform for our hometown talent that no one really knows of yet and wanted to give them that kind of an event at a bigger venue and arena.”
Performers include DJ Citizen Jane, DJ Girlfriend, Roc-a-Bye and Sno-White, among others, and there will also be several fun events including a Sleepover Pajama Party, Speed Dating and Sunday Funday.
“It is the last weekend of summer for us,” Kelly said. “Don’t you want one more chance for fun in the sun? It’s an experience; we want this to become a tradition. We’ve almost built it like this is our summer camp where you go to sleepaway camp, and you meet all the people, and you cannot wait a year to see them again.”
And while there are other events that give women that opportunity, Plezzure Island wants to give women another option.
“There’s such a great tradition that they’ve built this kind of platform and space to allow more of it,” Kelly said. “What we’ve always said in Austin is, we want as much diversity and as many events as possible because we all want choices, and so we’re just trying to add one more flavor to the pot and want to kind of really create something new.”
Tickets to Plezzure Island are available now. See you there!