Southern Decadence 2016 poised to break records

Southern Decadence 2016 poised to break records

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - From the balconies of Bourbon near the corner of St. Ann, it's clear Southern Decadence is in full swing.

The nearly week-long LGBT celebration, one of the top five festivals in the city, ramped up this weekend as an expected crowd of 200,000 cram the streets of the French Quarter.

"We make it a point to come for this festival because for us this is the epitome of what life, what liberty is all about," said Jesse Perez, who is visiting the festival for the sixth time from Houston with his wife.

It's that passion for the festival that keeps hotels like the Bourbon Orleans sold out for the final weekend of the season.

"It's important for the whole city. Labor Day weekend is a special weekend obviously and there's a lot of tourists in the city, but this annual event has meant a lot to us and it's been a hallmark of winding up the summer," Mark Wilson, manager of the Bourbon Orleans, said.

After the mass shooting in Orlando, it seemed, this year for many people in the LGBT community, showing up for Decadence was more important than ever.

"You need to come out, you need to support your community, so absolutely, the last thing anyone should do is stay sheltered or feel like they should stay inside, there's a lot of police presence out here, you look around at night, you see the cops," said Chad Simpson, who was visiting from San Francisco.

New Orleans Police paired with State Troopers to pepper the Quarter with extra patrols and the 8th District is working at 100-percent staffing to ensure the celebration is safe.

"We're supplementing the 8th District by bringing in a few people from each district so we can make sure the visibility is very high, so if you have any questions or need anything, just walk up to our officers and ask for that help," NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison, said.

For Chuck Robinson, who owns Napoleon's Itch on Bourbon, the highlight is the Saturday night concert he finances for the crowd and he thinks the community will stand behind the festival.

"Anybody that thinks that the LGBT community, and particularly what I do, is willing to be afraid and hide in the dark … we'll beef up security, we're gonna put our foot forward. We're about food, music, and architecture in New Orleans and we're not afraid of anybody. We're prepared, we have security and we're gonna sing and dance," Robinson said.

The festival is expected to break records, hosting more than 200,000 people with a possible $200,000,000 economic impact.

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