OUT in the Wild ... southwest Georgia style

·4 min read

Jun. 22—ALBANY — Stephen Brimberry and Allen Vanhook know an event like the one the newly formed Out and About Proud group planned for this weekend would not have been possible even a couple of decades ago.

But the businessmen agreed during a recent discussion that the time was right for the two-day "OUT in the Wild" event, which is set for Friday and Saturday at Chehaw Park & Zoo.

"Everyone always talks about doing something, and the longer you talk, the longer nothing gets done," Vanhook said Wednesday. "So we said, 'It's time to do it.' We started talking about this seriously on a Sunday, and by Monday we'd gotten the ball rolling."

And while June is National Pride Month, and the newly formed Out and About Proud group was dreamed up by members of the local LGBTQ community, the masterminds behind OUT in the Wild insist the weekend is a community event.

"This is a family-friendly event because there are plenty of things at Chehaw for families to do with their children," Brimberry said. "We want people who may have children to know they will be welcome, too."

Of course, the later-in-the-evening Toga MMXXII party Friday and the Wild Hair Affair Saturday are music and dance events geared more toward adults. Participants, who only pay the $3.50 charge to enter the park, will have access to a number of events both days.

Campers (most spaces already have been reserved, although "plenty of tent camping is available") will start gathering after noon Friday, and a meet-and-greet for campers will be held at the camp pavilion starting at 5 p.m.

"Everybody has been so receptive to this event," Brimberry said. "The city of Albany gave us swag bags to distribute to campers."

The Toga party starts Friday at 7:30 p.m. with music provided by DJ Lex.

Saturday morning, Kayak Attack will lead a couple of cooling float adventures on local waterways. One will start at 10 a.m. on Century Road in Lee County, while the other — for those who want to spend less time on the water — will start at noon at Sutton's Landing, also in Lee County.

"The float events are open to everybody," Vanhook said. "And those who have their own kayak, Kayak Attack will load it up and take it to the starting points for them."

Cost for the kayak adventure is $35 per person.

At 4 p.m., Megan Lisenby will provide everything participants need to create their own painting masterpieces — including some technique advice — under a canopy at the camp pavilion. The Paint Strokes with Campin' Folk is $20 per participant, and all supplies will be provided.

Attendees will be encouraged to "get your wig right!" to prepare for the evening's Wild Hair Affair. The dance party will continue from 8 until 11 p.m. at the Chehaw stage, and the OUT in the Wild planners hint there may be a special "silent disco" event on into the evening.

"Remember the 'shadow dance box' they had downstairs at the Cab Stand (nightclub) when it was open?" Brimberry asked. "Well, we're going to do that here, too. It's going to be a fun, fun evening."

Vanhook and his father even created specially designed rainbow trophies for the Saturday "wild wig contest."

"This came together so fast; we only started planning it about five weeks ago," Vanhook said. "But everyone we've asked to be involved has enthusiastically jumped right in, and Chehaw has rolled out the red carpet."

Primary sponsor Li'l Caesar's Pizza, owned by Anthony King and managed by Joey Dorminey, will provide food for the Pride event, as will Cork's Charcuterie, Stewbo's and Chehaw. Frozen drink set-up and mixers will be available from Bottoms Up for a minimal fee, but revelers should know to BYOB. Plenty of water and sports drinks also will be provided.

A pancake and sausage breakfast, prepared by Pearly's, will be available for overnight campers who plan to leave Sunday morning.

"We've come a long way since the 'don't ask, don't tell' days," Brimberry said. "The rights of the LGBTQ community have been expanded ... to include adoption and even marriage.

"We wanted to start doing some community events, and we thought this one would be a great one to kick things off. We thought at first it might just be a few of us sitting around listening to music and talking, but we're getting great response. We have groups coming from Florida and South Carolina, so it's grown bigger than even we expected."