How LGBTQ+ Folks Spent Summer Vacations in the 1990s

By Mel Frizzell, Special Collections Assistant


This is a continuation of my blog posts referencing Our Own Community Press, a Virginia LGBTQ+ community newspaper which ran from 1976 to 1998. 

With the Fall semester starting, I thought about the timeless “What I did on my summer vacation” essay that so many of us were asked to write upon returning to school.  With so many summer activities and vacations cancelled this summer due to the current pandemic, I thought I would highlight what LGBT folks did for summer vacations in the 1990s.  While many LGBT folks did the same things as everyone else – such as visiting the beach, going on cruises, or enjoying theme parks – there are LGBT specific things that are mentioned or advertised in Our Own Community Press so I thought I would highlight some of these.

One did not need to travel far to find summer activities such as sports, recreational clubs, conferences and gatherings, festivals, or other events catering to the LGBT community.  Local LGBT sports teams, clubs, and activities included the Lambda Wheelers, an LGBT bicycling group; the Mid-Atlantic Amateur Softball Association; volleyball tournaments at Stockley Gardens and Northside Park in Norfolk; and the Mid-Atlantic Bowling League.  Other recreational activities included canoeing, hiking, rollerblading, women’s golf, and even skydiving. 


Local summer benefits included pool parties sponsored by the Tidewater AIDS Crisis Taskforce (TACT) and the AIDSCARE Sunset Sprint Music Festival held at Ocean View Beach Park in June 1997.  Some LGBT folks attended the biannual Stockley Gardens Art Festival held each May. 

Local cruises on the Elizabeth River were popular.  The Mandamus Society, an LGBT social group, held an annual cruise on the Carrie-B during the 90s.  At least one year, there was an LGBT cruise on the Spirit of Norfolk too.  While “Gay Days” at Busch Gardens had not yet become a thing, the first “Gay Days” at King’s Dominion was held in July 1997.  “Gay Days” at Disney World in Florida began in the summer of 1991. 

Beach vacations were also quite popular.  Virginia Beach had its very own “Gay Beach Resort.”  The Coral Sand Motel located on Pacific Avenue catered to LGBT clientele.  The Outer Banks provided nearby beach getaways for LGBT folks.   Rehoboth Beach in Delaware was also a popular choice.  The Mandamus Society and Dignity, an LGBT Catholic group, both planned trips there in the 1990s.  Our Own contains advertisements for Rehoboth Beach Resorts.


LGBT conferences and gatherings ranged from the serious to the fun.  Many catered to diverse populations within the LGBT community.  Serious conferences included the annual Lesbian and Gay Health Conference and AIDS Forum; the Southeast Lesbian / Gay Conference in July 1991; the International Lesbian & Gay Conference in Acapulco in 1991; and a Lesbian Writer’s conference in 1992. 

Fun favorites included many women’s festivals and gatherings such as the Richmond Women’s Festival in 1990; the Roanoke Valley Women’s Festival in 1991, an annual East Coast Lesbian Festival; and WomenFest in Key West, FL in 1997.  Regular women’s festivals were held at Twin Oaks campground in Luisa, Virginia and the INTOUCH women’s campground in Kent’s Store, Virginia.  Music festivals were especially popular among Lesbians.  These festivals included the Northeast Women’s Musical Retreat; the annual Virginia Women’s Music Festival held at INTOUCH; and the annual Rhythm Fest Women’s Music, Art, and Politics Festival held at Lookout Mountain in Georgia.  Some men held camping gatherings too.  These include the annual Gay Spirit Visions Conference in Highlands, NC and a men’s gathering held at Twin Oaks in 1993.  Women’s and men’s gatherings sometimes highlighted LGBT-affirming alternative spiritual beliefs including New Age, Pagan, and Earth-based spirituality. 

Film festivals were also popular among LGBT folks.  Among these were the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival the summer of 1997 and Outfest, an annual gay and lesbian film festival held in Los Angeles.  

Many conferences highlighted the diversity among LGBT folks – the Golden Threads Lesbian Celebration for Lesbians over age 50 in 1990; the National Gay Young Adults Conference also in 1990; a 1990 gathering of North and South American Native American LGBT folks; a 1996 conference and AIDS institute for gay men of color; and an annual “Women Celebrating Our Diversity” Gathering at Twin Oaks Campground.   Gay geeks weren’t left out as the Gaylaxicon science fiction convention, which was founded in 1988, continued throughout the 1990s and beyond. 


Other big events of the 1990s included the Gay Games, an Olympic style event for LGBT athletes.  The Gay Games started in 1982 and continues to this day.  In the 1990s, the event was held in 1990, 1994, and 1998.  Many LGBT folks also attended the 1996 International Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA.  The Atlantic States Gay Rodeo is mentioned in Our Own articles for 1996 and 1997.  Many LGBT folks attended the GALA performing arts festival held in Tampa, FL in 1996.  Maya Angelou was a keynote speaker at the event. 

The 1990s were a great time for LGBT vacation packages.  In the 1990s the travel industry took note of a perceived “disposable income” within the LGBT community.  The idea is that many LGBT professional couples have extra income that isn’t going toward raising children that they can spend on leisure instead.  While this myth persists even today, and there are many affluent people in the LGBT community, there are also many LGBT folks who aren’t especially wealthy or have dependents – LGBT parents (notably Lesbian mothers), LGBT folks from low income communities, and LGBT folks who have met with job discrimination.  During the 1990s the LGBT travel industry flourished.  Companies such as Toto Tours and Alyson Adventures offered tours, cruises, and destinations specifically for LGBT travelers.  Sometimes there were separate women’s and men’s vacations, and other times the events were mixed.  Local travel agencies such as Moore Travel (Norfolk), UNIGLOBE ITA Travel (Norfolk), and Four Seasons Travel (Williamsburg) arranged LGBT vacation packages.  Bed and breakfasts and private resorts catering to LGBT folks offered options for those looking for smaller, low-key vacations.


LGBT travel magazines and guides promoted the LGBT travel industry.  Such publications included magazines like Our World and Out and About; global guides such as Damron’s many guides, Ferrari’s Places of Interest: Worldwide Gay & Lesbian Guide, and Women Going Places 1993/94: A Women’s Complete Guide to International Travel; and city specific guides like Betty & Pansy’s Severe Queer Review of San Francisco and Washington, D.C.: An Alternative Guide For Those Who Don’t Necessarily Travel the Straight and Narrow. 

So, while most of us are hoping that 2021 will be a better time than 2020 for joining in recreational activities or going on vacations, we can always look back at what folks did for fun in the 1990s.  Perhaps looking through the articles, advertisements, and event listings in Our Own will provide you with nostalgia for the days when we could go out without masks and social distancing.  Better yet, it might give you an idea for something to do when this pandemic is over. 

Archived issues of Our Own Community Press are available digitally at:

Plastic clips: Friend or Foe?

by Lara Canner, Allan Blank Curator of Music Special Collections

Last year, my brilliant co-worker created animal sculptures made from binder clips.

Meet the clip art dogs! One day we will open a clip art zoo!

The binder clips used in the sculpture were originally part of an already processed acquisition. After reviewing the collection, the clips were found to be causing harm. Once a helpful tool to separate paperwork in folder, now the binder clips needed to be removed due to tearing, creasing and potential for rust stains. That got me thinking about archival best practices, how processing has changed over time and how even good intentions can harm collections in the long run. I absolutely hate paperclips. Paperclips rust to paper causing staining and can create tears when removed. Ugh

Yet, the archival alternative, clips made of plastic, can cause damage too, if not used properly.


Archival grade plastic clips will not rust, tear paper and come in an assortment of fun colors…they are the superheroes of the paperclip world! However, problems occur when archival processors rely on too much on the clips for separation. Okay…what does that mean?

So, the very basic definition of a paper clip is to both keep paperwork connected and also keep that paperwork separated from other materials. This reasoning becomes tremendously important in the archival theory of original order. At the same time, the processor wants to keep the collection formulated the way the contributor first had the papers organized, but in a way accessible for researchers. Thus, plastic clips become a way to at once keep original order yet maintain separation for general clarity.

An example of this is found in the Allan Blank collection. In my most recent processing, I discovered sketches for a Trio (Clarinet, Flugelhorn and Piano) all in the same box, but separated by other sketches, scores and reference materials. I could keep all of these sketches separate based upon the original order, but it would be much easy on a researcher if the sketches were altogether. However, if I were to use plastic clips, I could maintain original order and still have ease of access. Great! Problem solved! Yeah…not really. Okay…why are plastic clips bad if too many are utilized?

Notice how the clips bow the folder? When pressure from additional folders is added, this will cause the materials to bend. (Don’t worry, this is just an example. No artifacts were harmed during the taking of these photos!)

Now, in archival ancient times, it would have been fine to put a bunch of paperclips on the materials and call it good, but best practices have changed. Lots of plastic clips separating paperwork while a seemingly innocent way to keep order, can actually cause harm.

I prefer the method of clear organization within series and sub-series. Researchers can easily access materials using a clear finding aid, while the papers maintain original order within the folders. Over the course of processing, I have used approximately two plastic clips. Adhering an envelope to letter and for keeping a small note to a score.

In the end, archival processing theory is an evolving process. New products are introduced that help keep records safe, but archivists still need to be careful when protecting documents. Plastic clips are definitely an archivist’s friend!

Wiki Wiki What?

By University Archivist, Steve Bookman


While Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) is offering limited appointments for the ODU community only, we are still open virtually to answer any reference questions you may have about our collections! One of the ways you can find out information from our archives remotely is through our Special Collections and University Archives Wiki page. Here you can find frequently asked questions and quick facts about ODU’s history. You can browse by popular topics such as athletics, buildings and grounds, events, and student life, or you can use the search bar at the top of the page. Although not a complete history of ODU, entries are added on an ongoing basis, so please check back periodically as new information is added.

Find out all about the history of Big Blue on our Wiki!

In the past, archival repositories have answered reference questions, and once they have been answered, unless it is written down, the information is lost. To reduce the need to answer the same questions repeatedly, we created the Special Collections and University Archives wiki as a knowledge base to store answers to those questions. As a result, more information is shared with researchers and our archivists do not spend as much time on reference questions as in the past.

The wiki was produced using a WordPress theme called WikiWP as well as the Posts in Page and Table of Contents Plus plugins. These plugins and them make the WordPress page look and feel more like a Wikipedia page. With these helpful tools, anyone can create a similar wiki website to store useful and helpful information.    

Yay for fall! The students are back, and so is our blog!

I know it’s been hard living without our blog for the past few weeks, but we decided it needed a summer vacation. Luckily, after a couple of months relaxing on the beach, the blog is back and ready for fall! So grab yourself a maple vanilla latte, put on a comfy sweater and light that one pumpkin scented candle you always bring out in September and enjoy!