Island LGBT celebration wraps up with parade today

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — The Island’s LGBT celebration, Splash, ends today with a beach parade from Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill to the farewell barbecue at Upper Deck Hotel and Bar.

“When you have an event involving pride and the LGBT community, there has to be some unity,” said Paul Magee, CEO of GlobalGroove Events and event partner.

Magee said the closing of local gay clubs has made local promotion a challenge, unless relying on costly TV and radio spots. But he partly credits city support for the growth of the event.

“The one axiom that runs true in our profession is the longer they stay, the more dollars they spend,” said Keith Arnold, South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau director. “You can’t consistently grow your economic development in a community based on tourism without working on the entire year, in addition to spring break and summer.”

Arnold said the event had projected 4,000 attendees, which could translate to 1,000 to 2,000 hotel room nights.

Promoting weekend events, and midweek conventions, has “become the forefront of what we do,” he said.

The Splash team had ambassadors making weekly stops at venues around the state to distribute flyers for the event. Promotion was both traditional and digital.

Arnold said the board has been supportive of Splash during his time, helping fund marketing efforts with website exposure, social media and news releases.

“Our mission for the utilization of dollars is to create seed money to help the organization events, particularly on off-season weekends,” he said. “The hope is for them to become financially freestanding.”

The director said Splash has had a positive financial impact for the community in the past, and praised Magee from his “great number of contacts in a variety of entertainment genres.”

Magee is also behind spring break electronic dance music festival, Ultimate Music Experience. He sees Splash as one of the few LGBT beach vacations.

“We’ve definitely stepped it up in terms of artists, venues and variety,” he said.

A Mardi Gras themed welcome party, hosted by Naysha Lopez of RuPaul’s Drag Race, kicked off the fest Thursday at Upper Deck. Clayton’s hosted a Carnival-inspired party hosted by Lance Bass, which also featured Amanda Lepore on Friday. A pair of pool parties on Friday and Saturday was held at Upper Deck, and three sold-out party cruises hit the bay. A Night in White, featuring Carson Kressley and performers impersonating Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars, was also held Saturday at Louie’s Backyard.

It was a priority for Magee, he said, to spread the programming around the Island.

“ (Splash has) taken time to grow, but within the next couple of years it could grow into something huge,” Magee said.