Pretty in Pink: Austria’s Gay Celebration at Lake Woerthersee
East Coasters have Fire Island and Provincetown. West Coasters have Palm Springs. And if you’re in Miami... well, you have Miami. But if you find yourself gallivanting throughout the Austrian countryside next month, bee line for Lake Woerthersee and perhaps the sexiest summer soiree in Europe.
EDGE chatted with Jeff, Wahl, Managing Director of COMMUNIGAYTE, about the festival, its origin, and what you can expect from a weekend with all those hunky Austrians - von Trapps not included.
Picturesque Summer Fun
EDGE: Who are the founders of the Pink Lake Festival and what was their inspiration for creating the Festival?
Wahl: The tourism boards of Wörthersee and the state of Carinthia contacted COMMUNIGAYTE® a little over seven years ago. They had already been doing some great, out-of-the box marketing for the region with some big events, like the Harley Davidson, Fete Blance and Beach Volleyball tournament, each which attracts more than 100,000 visitors. And they wanted to showcase their beautiful region to the LGBT community. COMMUNIGAYTE toured the area and was amazed just how gorgeous it indeed is. (I kept anticipating that Julie Andrews was going to pop out at any minute and starting belting out "The Hills are Alive...)
At sunset, while sitting on a balcony with my partner from COMMUNIGAYTE, a nice bottle of wine and an even nicer view of the lake, the idea for Pink Lake was born. We actually put Post-Its on the glass balcony wall, laying out where all the key events would take place all over the lake. And we are proud to say that that idea has now become a reality!
EDGE: How does Pink Lake differ from other gay festivals throughout Europe?
Wahl: Pink Lake is not your typical Big City Pride Festival or White Party. Rather, Pink Lake is an international 4-day event Aug. 2 - Sep. 1 for the international LGBT community (and friends of the community). The event is held in a picturesque town in Austria, located directly on a turquoise lake at the foot of the Alps. The mixed crowd of international guests enjoy great parties, sports, swimming, relaxation, music and great food... and of course, each other’s company! This is the sixth year of the event and each year it gets larger and larger. Last year more than 4,500 hotel rooms where booked as a result of Pink Lake, with 800 to 1,200 people attending each nightly event. This event is remarkable and rather unique, in that all sorts of people not only attend, but also actually mix and talk and laugh with each other.
You don’t have the attitude and posing often seen at larger events. Rather, everybody checks his or her attitude at the door, relaxes and has a great time! There are a wide range of hotels available at every price range, from the world-famous 5 star Falkensteiner Schlosshotel Velden in the heart of the town, to many other partner hotels and guest houses located on the Pink Lake website. And the large German tour operator, DERTOUR, offers several hotels for the event.
A 5-Star LGBT Celebration
EDGE: How has the town of Velden on Lake Wörthersee responded to the festival?
Wahl: Velden is indeed a gorgeous little town, located directly on the turquoise Lake Wörthersee, at the foot of the Alps. The city is quite well known its very chic and cosmopolitan flair: it is a vacation destination for the rich and the famous from all over the world. (The Velden’s castle, now the 5 star Falkensteiner Schlosshotel Velden, is world famous and a leading hotel of the world.) As a result, the city is relaxed when it comes to the LGBT Community. In fact, our agency COMMUNIGAYTE, proactively "interviewed" locals in the region prior to the first event to ensure the LGBT community would be welcomed.
EDGE: In addition to the leisure activities, are there any community-building, rallies, or other events to bring awareness for LGBT rights in Austria scheduled throughout the weekend or partnerships with organizations who are advocating for gay marriage?
Wahl:This event is intentionally not the usual big city pride event, with a political objective or mission statement. Rather, it is an event for the LGBT international community to come together and relax and laugh and play... and celebrate being LGBT! However, COMMUNIGAYTE most definitely feels like we elicited positive change for the community via Pink Lake. We have had many younger LGBT people tell us how important this event was for them personally, and that for many, it actually gave them the courage to come out and be proud of who they are and love themselves. That is a great feeling. Last year there was actually an unplanned (at least from our perspective) wedding proposal on stage during the first big party. So we feel like we have done our part to make sure things indeed "Get Better" for the LGBT community.
EDGE: What do people spend their time doing during the day?
Many people hang out directly on the lake at the Pago Beach Club at the beautiful Villa Bulfon, catching rays, listening to the live DJs and just relaxing, enjoying all the eye candy. Others tour the many beautiful local towns, like Velden, Pörtschach and Klagenfurt. Others go hiking, biking, boating, rafting and swimming. And others relax at the many charming and very hip restaurants and cafes. There is something for everyone.
EDGE: What are the can’t-miss events of the weekend?
Almdudler Trachtenparty: The first night of the festival is the ’Almdudler Trachtenparty’ at the beautiful Villa Bulfon located directly at the lake, where both entertainers and guests alike dress in traditional Austrian clothing, from ’Lederhosen" to "Dirndls."
TROJKA Pink Boat Cruise Party: This event is one the highlights of the Pink Lake Festival. Beginning at sunset, guests have a fantastic time crusing around the stunning lake, sipping cocktails, meeting new friends and dancing under the stars - all accompanied by their own private DJ on their respective boat. There are limited tickets for this event available, so be sure to buy your tickets ASAP!
"Out in Space" Casino Club Night: Over 1,000 party guests from Austria, Germany and from all across Europe dance until dawn with the space themed party, in the elegant and hip Velden Casino.
EDGE: What else is there to see and do in the surrounding area?
Wohl: There are many things to see and do in the surrounding area. The cities of Velden, Klagenfurt, Villach and Pörtschach are all quite lovely and worth a visit. There are many attractions around the lake as well. One my favorite things to do is to tour around the 10-mile lake either on one of the ferries, hopping off to see the many points of interest; or renting a bicycle and biking around the lake.
For more information on the Pink Lake Festival, visit: www.pinklake.at