In Atlantic City, a series of summer events are in the works, catered to one group of visitors in particular. City officials say gay tourism is a part of the resort's new growth strategy.
"The monopoly on gaming, that chapter closed in Atlantic City. We're looking to expand and reopen to bring new groups to Atlantic City," said Mayor Don Guardian of Atlantic City.
Guardian has high hopes for this summer's series of events aimed at attracting more members of the gay community to the resort.
"Atlantic City has been gay–friendly for a long time and we just want to welcome the LGBT community back after a lot of years where we've had no activity," said Guardian.
And starting on July 18th, the festivities will kick off with a three–day beach party. It's called Sand Blast, previously hosted in Asbury Park.
"It's the height of the season. We're inviting all of our gay and lesbian friends from the tri–state area to come to Atlantic City. You know the gays, we know how to party," said Brad Hurtado, Executive Producer of Sand Blast.
The Sand Blast party will take place at different hotels and casinos throughout the city and will feature everything from live music and dancing to volleyball tournaments and yoga.
"It's going to be the best summer beach weekend ever," said Hurtado.
Other events catered to the gay community include a "StandOUT Expo" in late September, which will feature networking forums for LGBT and Allied Businesses, as well as the popular Miss'd America Pageant for female impersonators, which returned in 2010.
And city officials say more gay friendly events mean more business in the city.
"It’s because they are a major tourism segment. They bring a lot of people with a lot of money to the destination. We love having them here,” said Liza Cartmell, President of the Atlantic City Alliance.
As Atlantic City gave a warm welcome to the gay community, the mayor made it official by placing the rainbow flag on the beach at Park Place.
"That's a tremendous statement. We have an openly gay mayor, and he put the gay flag in a major tourism resort. I think it speaks volumes," said Rich Helfant, President of The Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance.
Targeting the gay community in hopes to shed a new light on the city.
"We are in the game now. I think it's the beginning of greater things to come," said Helfant.
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