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New England's Buttoned-Up Answer to Bacchanalian Southern Decadence 

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By now, you've no doubt heard about the lesbian couple from New York suing a Lyndonville inn for allegedly saying "thanks, but no thanks" to their inquiry about holding their big gay wedding reception there.

According to the ACLU, which has taken up Ming Linsley and Kate Baker's discrimination case, the Wildflower Inn turned the couple away because the innkeepers believe gays will rot in the fifth circle of hell along with Hitler, Pol Pot and the entire cast of TLC's "Toddlers and Tiaras." The innkeepers, Jim and Mary O'Reilly, say they are devout Catholics and won't allow those kinds of gay nuptial shenangigans on their property because it goes against their religion. Unfortunately for them, that's a big no-no, argues the ACLU, who says it's a violation of Vermont's fair housing and public accomodations act. 

Yesterday, the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing sent out a damage control press release reassuring LGBT travelers that despite this nasty little incident, they're still welcome in our humble, little state, feather boas, leather harnesses and all. The press release listed the state's homo bonafides — first state to issue civil unions, first state to pass marriage equality without a court order, first state to sanction naked bear maple syrup wrestling, etc. It went on to say how much the state loves the pink dollars that flow into it from LGBT travelers and how they're increasing their efforts to get even more of the queer community's cash.

One of the ways Vermonters are trying to attract more gay visitors is with a new event to be held this September called Northern Decadence, a "diversity and culinary festival" in Burlington, co-sponsored by the Vermont Gay Tourism Associaton. My jaw bounced off the floor when I saw this. For one, putting the words "diversity" and "Vermont" close together in a sentence is like saying "Jersey Shore" and "classy" in the same breath. And two, if this is supposed to be New England's answer to the famed Southern Decadence, the annual Bacchanalian gay orgy in New Orleans and the evangelicals' official cause of Hurricane Katrina, sign me up. 

Southern Decadence, a week-long, no-shirts-required nutfest, has long been considered the gay Mardi Gras. But inside of taking off their tops to get beads, festival-goers (who are mostly male) just drop trou. For their troubles, some of them get more than beads. 

While I live in hope that our northern knockoff might be similarly debaucherous, my guess is that it will be a more subdued affair. Instead of smooth-chested, circuit-partying studs buffed to a high sheen peacocking up and down Church Street, we're more likely to see gay nesters holding hands and pushing double-wide baby strollers. And that's fine — it shows the LGBT community's great variety. 

Willie Docto, president of the Vermon Gay Tourism Association, which is putting on the festival, explained that while the name is similar to its southern cousin's, Northern Decadence is meant to reflect its idyllic setting. "We're using the word [decadence] because it has resonance in the LGBT community, but because this is Vermont, we want to highlight the state's culinary culture," Docto says.

So this event, which is happening Sept. 9 and 10, is primarily about food (do whipped cream-covered nipples count?). It will feature a family-friendly food fest with chef demos, wine and beer tastings and a gay wedding cake-decorating contest; a cruise aimed at the middle-aged gays; and a dance party at Higher Ground that will include a male and female underwear fashion show. Not quite the Big Cock Contest that Southern Decadence is hosting, but racy enough for Vermont.

"We have a different kind of atmosphere up here, so we wanted to keep it true to Vermont's identity," Docto says.

How about a Big Summer Sausage Contest?

Photo via Flickr (DoctorWho) 

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Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober was a Seven Days staff writer from 2009-2011.

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