Southern Decadence is a week-long, predominantly gay-male event held in New Orleans, Louisiana and its environs by the gay and lesbian community in early September, climaxing with a parade through the French Quarter on the Sunday before Labor Day. Most events take place in or around the French Quarter neighborhood of New Orleans, centering especially on the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann streets.
Crowds range from 100,000 to 300,000 revelers from across the United States. In 2004 there were over 100,000 participants and the economic impact on the City of New Orleans was estimated at over $95 million. It is the last national circuit party of the season. Other circuit parties take place in Palm Springs, California, Miami, Florida, and on Fire Island.
Decadence, as it is known by participants, is marked by parades, bead tossing, street parties and dance parties. The festival like Mardi Gras is highly sexual in nature, with overt advertising that liquor will be flowing heavily. It is aptly known as Gay Mardi Grasfor its similarity to Carnival week earlier in the year.
Decadence crowds in the Quarter typically match or exceed the gay Mardi Gras crowds, leading some residents of the French Quarter to leave the city over Labor Day weekend, like some do for Mardi Gras itself, although the influx of visitors to the city as a whole is not so great as for New Orleans Mardi Gras.
In the past several years religious and conservative groups have rallied against the festival. In 2003 there was a formal petition filed to have the event terminated, with video footage handed over to officials depicting dozens of men engaged in "public sex acts". There were examples of men exposing themself to other men for beads, similar to the traditional Mardi Gras balcony bead toss.
There was an extremely vocal response from business owners and hoteliers in New Orleans in support of the festival which is the biggest money maker for them after Mardi Gras. As some of them put it: it brings almost all of the money of Mardi Gras with far less destruction and litter.
Ultimately the police made a show of posting notices clarifying public sex was forbidden.
In 2006 Roberts Batson of the Bienville Foundation and others wanted to expand the festivities. They thought to serve up culture, conversation and fundraising for financially-stressed gay organizations, all with heaping side dishes of fun, food and socializing. DecaFest will help apply financial CPR with a fundraising technique designed to benefit the entire gay community. The festival will support gay life in New Orleans more generally as well. The DecaFest website explains that the fesitival is a place “to cherish and strengthen community” and “to give notice the LGBT community is here to stay, is committed to the future, and is determined to be a vital player in the rebuilding of our city.”
DecaFest will be doing good as it entertains and edifies as New Orleans’ vital gay community institutions and HIV/AIDS services were seriously damaged by Katrina.
2005's Southern Decadence was officially canceled as a result of Hurricane Katrina; however, a very small group of residents who still remained in the French Quarter celebrated the event anyway. 
On August 31, 2005, the evangelical Christian group Repent America released a press release entitled, "HURRICANE KATRINA DESTROYS NEW ORLEANS DAYS BEFORE ‘SOUTHERN DECADENCE.’" Most of the press release concerns Southern Decadence. New Orleans is described as a "wicked city," noting its tolerance of Southern Decandence, Mardi Gras, Girls Gone Wild and abortions.
After mentioning New Orleans' high murder rate, it goes on to say:
- "We must help and pray for those ravaged by this disaster, but let us not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long... May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God." 
It is worth noting, however, that the French Quarter, the epicenter of Southern Decadence and a gay neighborhood, was one of the few areas largely undamaged and unflooded by the hurricane.
An abbreviated parade took place in the French Quarter with some two dozen participants. Most were French Quarter hold outs; there were also at least a couple of people who had to wade in through flooded streets from other neighborhoods to get there. As the city was officially being evacuated at the time, a police officer at first attempted to stop the small observation of tradition, but one of the participants was able to produce the parade permit issued pre-Katrina showing it was a scheduled legal event, and the small procession was allowed to continue. National media reporters noted the event. It was the first parade in New Orleans after the Hurricane, the most recent previous New Orleans parade having been the Krewe of OAK "Midsummer Mardi Gras" parade the night before the city's mandatory evacuation.
With the theme "Southern Decadence Rebirth," the event rebounded in 2006, attracting near-normal crowds.
- Southern Decadence (archived version at Internet Archive)
Categories: All pages needing to be wikified | Wikify from November 2006 | Festivals in Louisiana | New Orleans, Louisiana | Secular holidays | Hurricane Katrina | LGBT events in the United States