On the way from the Gran Canaria International Airport to my hotel in Playa Del Ingles, I knew I was in the right place for the Maspalomas Gay Pride 2016 (Gran Canaria) when the car I was travelling in passed a truck which had written on it, “It’s OK to be gay.” I found out that the truck was a float in the Gay Pride parade when I saw it drive past me later that day. The driver, who picked me up from the airport, Jorge, said that the people of the island embrace the festival and the gay men and women who come to enjoy it.
I arrived in Gran Canaria on May 14, the second to last day of the 2016 Maspalomas Gay Pride Festival. This year, gay pride extended to 15 days to celebrate its 15th birthday. It started on May 1st with a week of cultural events followed by the Pride Party. The Party takes place around the Yumbo Centre, a huge, four-story outdoor shopping mall complex with tourist shops, restaurants and a huge assortment of gay bars, which cater to almost anything you can think of.
Maspalomas Gay Pride Parade
The Welcome Parade started at 6pm in the afternoon at the Hotel Riu Palace Maspalomas, but the party started hours earlier for some as they got into costume. Some people went all out, with costumes that were over the top. It was like keeping up with the Jones. Just when you thought you saw the best costume ever, there was another masterpiece a few feet away that was even more outrageous.
There were people walking the parade route as well as riding on one of the several floats, which were decorated de-constructed trucks. People paid as much as 45 Euros to travel one. There were bars on the floats and some food to nibble on. The floats served as a great vantage point too, where you could wave and shout to all those people along the route. This year, there was a record breaking 60,000 people at the parade.
While the parade only went for a couple of kilometers, it took about three hours for the last float to get to the Yumbo Centre where the gala concert was already underway.
The Maspalomas Gay Pride concert coincided with the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, Sweden. So, what a better way to salute the camp television extravaganza than to have a kitsch concert at a gay festival. The organisers certainly knew what they were doing. The acts included Katrina Leskanich, formerly of Katrina and the Waves, who won Eurovision in 1997 with ‘Love Shines a Light’, Justine Pelmelay, who could double for Tina Turner, who represented the Netherlands back in 1989 and Saraya, who represented Spain in the 2009 final in Moscow.
The three performers gave the revellers what they wanted as they danced and sang the night away. It was a night of gay pop magic. The temperature, a balmy 27 degress Celsius, (about 84 F), the hottest night of the festival so far, also added to a great atmosphere. The festivities in the square continued until 4am with some partying-on until the sun came up on Sunday morning.
The final day of Maspalomas Gay Pride 2016 started with a pool party at the Hotel Axel Beach. It started at noon, but it took a few hours to really take off. The atmosphere was good, but it lacked a little something. The entrance fee was reasonable, 15 Euros, but there were no towels on offer, no Wi-Fi, whether free or one you could pay for, no wrist bands, no treats like suntan lotion that the women received at their party. It was unfortunate, but it was a bit disappointing. I think the organisers missed a trick. It was fun, nevertheless, as people, drank, ate and swam the day away. There was a DJ too, so music, good camp music, was blaring away all afternoon with the occasional act, dressed outrageously, grooving to the beat onstage.
The closing celebration was billed as the Remember Party. Once again, when the pool party ended, the dancing at the square at the Yumbo Centre was well underway. While the official closing time was 2am, people continued to not only party the night away but some continued for the next few days. If you are staying for a few days and want a break from all of the partying you can take a day tour into the more rural areas of Gran Canaria.
If you haven’t been to a Gay Pride festival, this is certainly one stop to put on your agenda. The people of Gran Canaria are welcoming, there is lots to do in the towns of Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas, the taxis are cheap, the food is good and it’s warm all year round.
What’s Next on Gran Canaria
The next gay festival on the island will be the Dunas Festival from August 11th to 16th. Then, there’s the Freedom Gay Festival from October 6th to 9th. That’s followed by Winter Pride Maspalomas (Gran Canaria) 2016 from November 7-13. Then, there is the ten day Maspalomos Carnival 2017, March 3rd to 12th. It’s another gay themed festival that some say is bigger and better then Gay Pride. Then, we come full circle with Maspalomas Gay Pride from May 4th to May 14th 2017. The fun just never stops in Gran Canaria.
Transport on the island and press accreditation provided by Gran Canaria Tourist Board.