Not everyone is lucky enough to discover their purpose in life is also their dream job. Event coordinator Angie Celeste says she now knows exactly what her purpose is, but when she started planning events and weddings in 2008, that purpose was not so clear.
“It all changed for me when I did the LGBT Wedding EXPO in 2014,” she explains. The event featured LGBT-friendly wedding vendors, but it also featured a mass commitment ceremony at The Mansion on Forsyth Park, where more than a dozen same-sex couples exchanged vows and celebrated their special day with friends and family. Georgia still did not legally recognize same-sex marriage at the time.
“To be in that room and feel the love and see the excitement in the families — it made me realize, that this is what I want to do ... I want to do things that benefit our community and create a safe space for people to be themselves.”
And that’s why last year she created another LGBTQ-friendly event, Tybee Equality Festival. This year’s fest takes place Aug. 24-26 on Tybee Island and features a wide variety of events, many of them free and family-friendly. For a full schedule, find Tybee Equality Fest on Facebook or go to eventsbyceleste.org.
According to Celeste, the festival’s theme is “Unity, Love, Respect” and offers a safe space for people of all identities. She adds it’s important to make many of the events family-friendly so the entire family — including children — can enjoy their time together in a space where intolerance is not allowed.
She admits that there is a bit of a stereotype when it comes to LGTBQ-friendly events.
“We do enjoy having a good time like that, but we are also people who live normal lives and have families and want to enjoy other activities as well, so it’s important to have these types of family-friendly events. Plus, when I think about going to the beach, I think about bringing the whole family along.
“And a lot of these families don’t know other families that look like us. And these children get to see families like their family and know it’s OK — there are so many different types of families.
“And when these children are accepted, they are empowered. People who come out here will know there are people here for them and that we love them ... It makes such a big difference to know it’s OK and to be accepted.”
The weekend kicks off from 4-6 p.m. Aug. 24 with Happy Hour at Coco’s with drink specials and complimentary app buffet. Then it’s time for Reggae Respect Unity from 6-10 p.m. at Bubba Gumbo’s with live music from Kana Kiehm. The night wraps up at 10 p.m. with the Rainbow Drag Show at Huc-A-Poo's.
Aug. 25 begins early, at 8 a.m. with kayak tours with North Island Surf and Kayak. The cost is $35 for this kid-friendly adventure and reservations are recommended. Then at 10 a.m., it's time for Sip! Sip! Hooray! Brunch at Beachview Java and Juice. Be sure to grab your favorite Hawaiian shirt and coconuts for the Equality Fest Luau from 1-4 p.m. at Salt Island Fish and Beer.
Live music and dancing will take center stage at the VIP Equality Fest Party from 4-8 p.m. at Hotel Tybee, featuring the Christy Snow Band, special guests and DJ Barri. The day ends at the White Party from 8-11 p.m. at Fannie’s.
Finally, Aug. 26 kicks off with Stand-Up Paddleboard Yoga at 11 a.m. Cost is $50 and reservations are recommended. But if you’d rather just get some food, you can enjoy a fun brunch at Fannie’s from noon-3 p.m. featuring some of your favorite local drag queens. The day wraps up with a beach sweep, sunset yoga for $10 with Dancing Dogs Yoga and the Farewell Party at North Beach Grill.
Celeste adds that everyone is welcome to come out and enjoy the festival. “Unity is key ... and you can’t have unity unless you include everyone.”