So, there I was finalizing my preparations for my trip to the “Big Easy” where I was to present results of one of my studies on swinging at a scientific conference, when a friend of mine asked me if I was also attending the Swingers’ Convention taking place at the same time in New Orleans. I had no idea there was a swingers’ convention the same week of my conference, so I decided to find out more about the event. I contacted Bob Hannaford from French Connection Events, the convention organizers, and Bob invited me stop by and have a look while I was in town.
I have been to many swingers’ conventions all over the world, sometimes as an invited speaker, sometimes with my wife as a participant. Some of these conventions were organized by the Lifestyles Organization (an organization now defunct from what I’m told) and others were organized by online swingers’ clubs, on- and off-premise clubs, social swingers clubs, etc. My evaluations of such events haven’t always been positive, but I was in for a pleasant surprise in New Orleans.
Bob Hannaford and his partner, Tess, received me cordially and they afforded me complete access to all of the events of the convention. The event itself was hosted at the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel on Canal Street and Bourbon Street. The hotel was, to say the least, “swinger friendly.” The staff was courteous and helpful and the curious stares, often a hallmark of other hospitality facilities, weren’t noticeable. About 425 couples attended the Convention and occupied all 14 floors of the hotel reserved for the event.
One of the first things that stood out was the sheer size and scope of the events. The 7,000 sq ft floor space, dedicated to party rooms, including the two mezzanines of the hotel (the biggest play area of any previous convention according to Bob) was impressive. One of the mezzanine floors was divided into several party rooms. The Group Party Room occupied the floor space in a large meeting hall. Ceiling to floor red curtains added an atmosphere of sexual titillation, and separated several play areas. Additionally, there were several “theme”rooms on the same floor such as the Ladies Only Room, the Threesome Room, the Dark Room, – yes, there was absolutely no light entering this room, thus sexual activity was pot-luck…and extremely exciting for those with a sense of adventure – and the famous Chocolate Room where a bevy of eager ladies could satisfy their cravings for inter-racial sex.
Then there were the twice-daily social parties that took place every afternoon at several of the clubs on Bourbon Street that had been reserved for the Convention’s attendees. Finally, the daily activities culminated with the themed evening balls that took place in the 8,500 sq ft Grand Ballroom of the hotel.
The Convention started on Wednesday with a welcome reception for all attendees at the Cat’s Meow on Bourbon Street, a rather interesting and wild karaoke bar, followed by a seven-block parade that included the Treme Brass Band, Mardi Gras floats and a police escort. The parade ended at Colettes’s, a local on-premise singers’ club two blocks off Bourbon Street.
The Convention’s schedule was varied and appealing. Interest Seminars took place every morning and included topics such as Tantric Sex, Couples Massage, Whips and Floggers, as well as more educational and information-based topics such as round table discussions on the experiences and particulars of swinging, swinging research and studies on the Lifestyle, and adult travel opportunities and destinations for swingers. Surprisingly, all seminars were well attended and spurred dynamic and informative dialogue among the participants. Some of the seminars I witnessed at previous conventions had not been well attended, and at times, the topics weren’t of interest to the participants. Perhaps seminars that convey relevant information and playfulness do have a place at Lifestyle conventions.
The afternoon parties hosted at several bars on Bourbon Street would kick off a day and night of fun and games. The convention organizers included a “poker run” game that rewarded all of those who attended every single afternoon party. To start to describe in detail the sensual and sexual atmosphere of each of the parties would only leave you sorry you did not attend the convention. The host bars run the gamut from strip clubs to blues clubs, and a T-shirt party at a club appropriately called The Beach (note: t-shirts didn’t stay on for long and many varied “oral” activities were taking place with the encouragement of the club staff).
But the crown jewel of the day was the Formal Grand Ball that took place each evening. On the first evening, the theme of the ball was Lady in Red Ball. I must admit I have seldom seen so many sensual and sexy ladies in sexually fashionable red dresses of all lengths and expressive style (some dresses even concealed red hot lingerie). Several gentlemen abided by the theme and dressed in fashionable and alluring red outfits from satin red shirts to other scarlet accoutrements. All in all, everyone seemed ready for dancing and seduction.
The second evening’s theme was Pirates and Wenches Ball and what can one say about pirates and wenches? There were long period dresses, feathers and corsets, long boots and fishnet stockings, swords and eye patches, and even a parrot. Most of the participants went all out in their attempt to be authentic, and some of the outfits were not only exquisite and pompous, but exceptionally well put together and showed a level of creativity worthy of a Shakespearean play. The wenches were provocative, delicious and delectable. Personally, I would have tied a couple of them to the main mast and have my way with them. Arrrrrrgh, mate!
The Annual Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball capped the events on the third day of the convention. This was the “piece de resistance” of the Ball series. Imagine yourself amid the most rambunctious, sexiest masked-individuals who ever participated in a Mardi Gras event and you start to get the picture. The festivities included the participation of the Mardi Gras Indians famous New Orleans. From then on, well, you would have to have been there. I have been to the Carnival in Rio and I would say the Annual Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball rivaled any other sexually induced debauchery anywhere.
Overall this was a grand event, well organized with much attention paid to detail; the decorative efforts in all of the venues were, to say the least, superb. Coordination of the events, security and care for the well-being of the attendees was commendable and appreciated. In speaking with a large number of the couples in attendance I heard nothing but praise for the event and the organizers.
So, was this just a feast of sexual blissfulness and joy or were there areas for improvement? Vendors were circumspect by their absence. Except for a couple of the swingers’ travel organizations, there wasn’t a large presence. Representation from business related to the needs (and wants) of the swinging community could have been interesting. For example, the convention lacked “toy” manufactures and distributors, condom manufacturers or distributors, gels and lubricants, erotic artwork, video producers or video distributors, representation from the online swinging web sites, etc.
In conclusion, size does matter when it comes to hosting an event such as this. I think that as the needs of the swinging population changes so should the strategies for hosting events that will attract a large number of participants. Location matters and so does organization, innovation, and understanding of the Lifestyle market place. I would highly recommend an event such as this one (and no, I’m not getting paid for saying this). I’ll cherish the many friends I made at the convention, and I truly appreciated the accommodating assistance from everyone in the organizing committee.
Oh yes, I almost forgot the original purpose of my trip to New Orleans. Presentation of the results of my research on swinging was well received at my conference.