Now in its 31st year, Halloween New Orleans remains one of the major highlights of the local LGBT community’s social calendar. This four-day event — which this year kicks off on Oct. 23 — is the largest gay Halloween celebration in the country and recently earned a featured exhibition in the permanent collection of the Stonewall National Museum and Archives. In addition, it is a completely volunteer and donation-based charity event, with 100 percent of its proceeds going to Project Lazarus, a transitional house for people living with HIV/AIDS. Since the beginning of the relationship between the two organizations, Halloween New Orleans has raised almost five million dollars to benefit Project Lazarus.
“I think that the prices of the events may be a little scary if you don’t know what is involved, but part of this whole thing is that so much has been donated so that we can benefit Project Lazarus, and this really helps push money to them,” says Ryan Cochran, the volunteer chair for Sunday’s events. Cochran further notes that there are student discounts on tickets (although all events are 21 and over) and that all four events have open bars.
Each year, the new volunteer board selects a theme for the weekend. This year’s theme is “Descent: Journey Into the Inferno,” based both on the idea of visitors from all over the country descending on New Orleans and on Dante Alighieri’s epic poem. Revelers can look forward to a sinful, seductive journey into the underworld of New Orleans before claiming their spots in paradise on Sunday morning.
“Each event is really different, and someone could go to all four and have a completely different experiences,” Cochran says. “While there are some crossovers, there are a lot of differences in all the nights, too.”
The Lazarus Ball
Thursday, Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
This kickoff event, with mostly locals in attendance, features a black tie-preferred dress code, music by Groovy 7, cuisine from local chefs, and is “the event you could bring your coworkers or your mom or your straight friends to,” says Dustin Woehrmann, the executive chair of this year’s Halloween New Orleans volunteer board.
The silent auction includes donations from New Orleans artists like David Harouni, Arthur Roger Gallery and George Rodrigue Foundation. Also featured are clothing from local boutiques, housewares, restaurant certificates, spa packages and more.
The Neon Underground
Friday, Oct. 24, 9 p.m.-2 a.m.
This casual dance club night tends to be the kickoff event for out-of-towners, according to Woehrmann. Neon is the suggested attire, and DJ Blacklow will provide the music. Additionally, there will be a VIP lounge for hosts and patrons, those who have financially donated to the weekend’s festivities.
Descent: The Inferno
Saturday, Oct. 25, 10 p.m.-4 a.m.
Marigny Warehouse Space, 2121 Chartres St.
This is the main event of the weekend, featuring music by DJ Tristan Jaxx. Costumes are mandatory, with a costume contest beginning at 10:30 p.m. According to Cochran, it’s encouraged that costumes follow the theme, although you can expect to see “a lot of creative costumes on Saturday night” regardless.
Paradise Brunch & Second Line
Sunday, Oct. 26, 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
The close to the weekend returns the revelers who have descended through the underworld back to Paradise for a gospel brunch. Featuring performances from Frenchie Davis, Tanya and Dorise, and the St. Peter Clavier Gospel Choir, this event is all-you-can-eat in addition to having an open bar. After brunch, there will be a second line down Canal Street to Bourbon Street, and then down Bourbon to St. Ann Street.