Panama City’s Old Hot Glass Fiesta Bar Hosts Drag Show for LGBTQ Members
PANAMA CITY – 100 Harrison Avenue holds a delicate place in the history of the local LGBTQ community.
William Shurbutt-Rardin, 55, frequented the place after moving to Bay County in 1986 when it came to the Fiesta Room La Royale Lounge, a bar that opened in 1965 and eventually began serving almost exclusively an LGBTQ clientele.
“The Fiesta was our safe space,” said Shurbutt-Rardin, director of events at the LGBTQ Center of Bay County. “To be able to go and visit the site that thousands of people have visited for over 60 years, it was open – that meant everything because a lot of people didn’t get a chance to say goodbye before it was taken. away in Hurricane Michael. “
Last week, in support of National LGBTQ History Month, the Hot Glass Studio hosted the Center to host a climactic event and drag show at the end of the Bay Pride Poker Run, which included stops in several other downtown restaurants.
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Drag performers engaged the crowd at the historic site, dancing, lip-syncing, and reflecting on what it means to be able to use the platform as a way to educate audiences on the history of the local LGBTQ community.
“I have seen everything change for us in our community,” said Shurbutt-Rardin. He said it was not uncommon for gay people to be “hit” or beaten because of their gender identity and that a local man was murdered because of it.
“There has been violence against us in Bay County. But I’m very happy to say that I haven’t heard anything like it since the 1980s,” he added. And, last week’s event was proof of the growing local acceptance of the LGBTQ community. The poker run, which Shurbutt-Rardin estimated to be 20 people, drew hundreds of participants and spectators. It turned out to be a “great success,” he said.
Recognizing the importance of the site, PCHG founder Brent McLeod, who co-owns the business with his wife Arlene, courageously seized the opportunity to welcome the return of the LGBTQ community to the former Fiesta grounds. .
“This place for them was their home. They found refuge, they found support, and they found love and acceptance there,” he said. “We want to let the LGBTQ community know that we understand this is their home, even though it is now a glassblowing studio. They can still think of it as their home.”
The studio blew rainbow-colored glass roses, stones, flowers and conchs for the occasion. A large rainbow conch was offered for the price of the poker run. Along with monetary donations from other establishments such as House of Henry and History Class Brewing Company, the Hot Glass Studio donated a portion of proceeds from a signature tumbler and t-shirt. McLeod said the studio will continue to sell both signature items throughout the end of the year.
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Shurbutt-Rardin was overwhelmed with support. He paused for a long time and took a deep breath as he reflected on the challenges on the road to equality.
From the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969 “to today, where we can get married, have families, enjoy a lot – not everything – that everyone can enjoy,” he said, “I become just emotional “.
“The success of this event (the Bay Pride Poker Run) is an indication that maybe we have something going on here, that we can go further and better next year,” said Shurbutt-Rardin. “I do these events because visibility is very important and these events let people know… that they have a safe place to go, that there are people here who work hard to fight for them, don’t live. not in fear, not in the toilet. “
For more information on the LGBTQ Center of Bay County, 1608 Baker Court Room 6, go online at lgbtqcenterofbaycounty.org.