Layman’s Guide to U.S. Burlesque Festivals
To obtain the print copy of this guide along with a handy (and adorable!) map illustration of all the locations below, pick up your copy of the Winter 2012 Best of Pin Curl issue, available here.
Annual burlesque festivals have sprung up all over the country as the burlesque revival, now two decades strong, continues to grow. No matter where you are in the great states, there’s a burlesque festival somewhere near you. If you’re itching to take a racy road trip around the United States, we’ve got your itinerary right here!
Everything starts to heat up on Valentine’s Day with the 7th Annual Southwest Burlesque Showcase, February 14-16, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information about this fabulous festival, see http://swburlesqueshowcase.com.
Or you could head down to the Lone Star State to start off your festival circuit at the 5th Annual Dallas Burlesque Festival, in Dallas, Texas. We don’t know the dates for this burlesque and pinup celebration yet, but all the info will be available at http://dallasburlesquefest.com.
Another option in February is the 4th Annual Key West Burlesque Festival in Key West, Florida. For some wild burlesque and variety entertainment, watch for the dates at http://www.keywestburlesque.com.
For more burlesque-y goodness, visit the 3rd Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Fest, March 21-24, in Atlanta, Georgia. There’s sure to be plenty of variety, and plenty of workshops at this fast-growing festival; find out more at http://southernfriedburlesquefest.com/.
Also beginning March 21 is the 10th Annual Moisture Festival in Seattle, Washington. As the website (http://www.moisturefestival.org) says, “The Moisture Festival is the world’s largest Comedy/Varietè festival, running for four weeks every spring in Seattle.” The festival lasts until April 14 so you’ll have plenty of time to catch some of it.
March 28-31 brings the 16th Annual Viva Las Vegas rockabilly festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. Touted at “The biggest rockabilly party in the world,” this festival includes a smorgasbord of activities including burlesque and pinup events, a classic car show, and a killer music lineup. Check the website for more details: http://www.vivalasvegas.net.
However, you’ll have a difficult choice to make between Viva Las Vegas and the 7th Annual Great Burlesque Exposition in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Taking place March 29-31, this burlesque festival includes an impressive variety of classes, a historical costume display, and an art show “for interesting and innovative pieces from painters, photographers, sculptors, graphic artists, and anyone else who has found their muse at a burlesque show.” See http://www.burlesque-expo.com/home.cfm for more.
April 11-13 gives you another chance to visit Texas, for the 6th Annual Texas Burlesque Festival in Austin. The coming year will include performances, workshops, a competition, and “Austin’s First Ever Burlesque Ball.” Get all the late-breaking news on this one at http://www.texasburlesquefestival.com/home.php.
You could also attend the 3rd Annual Kansas City Burlesque Festival on April 25-27, in Kansas City, Missouri for the crowning of the next Kansas City Queen and King of Burlesque! Find all the details at: http://www.kcburlesque.com/HOME.html!
Back after a short break is Tease-o-Rama, which began bringing the burlesque community together in 2001 with performances by “The Best of the Best in Burlesque”, workshops, a photo safari, and Tea&Gossip with the Legends of Burlesque. The event has been held in New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and L.A., and we can’t wait to see what http://www.teaseorama.com/2012/ will say about the 2013 schedule.
As no dates have yet been revealed, we can only hope that there will be a 2nd Annual New York Boylesque Festival. “Celebrating the Male Performer and the Best of Male Burlesque”, New York, New York’s first boylesque festival, in 2012, provided workshops and networking geared toward the menfolk, and performances that everyone could enjoy! Keep checking the website (http://www.nyboylesquefestival.com/) to see what’s in the works for 2013– I know I will be!
May 2-5 brings an exciting new experience, FIERCE! The First International Queer Burlesque Festival, in Columbus, Ohio. Check it out at http://www.fiercequeerburlesque.com.
The month of May alsobrings us back to the Show Me State, for the 4th Show Me Burlesque and Vaudeville Fest, May 16-18, in St. Louis, Missouri. This burlesque and variety extravaganza includes workshops along with striptease, circus, and vaudeville acts. I treated myself to the 2012 festival, and I can assure you that you will not be disappointed! Find out more here: http://showmeburlesque.com/.
Although we don’t have the dates yet, May is the time for the 7th Annual Americana Burlesque and Sideshow Festival in Asheville, North Carolina. Featuring workshops, burlesque, sideshow, and vaudeville performances, you can learn about ‘ABSfest’ at http://www.absfest.com/.
June 6-9 brings us to a truly difficult decision. One option is the 12th Annual Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “The largest annual celebration of Tiki culture on the East Coast, the Hukilau is a celebration of Polynesian pop culture with live music and entertainment, and much, much more. Book your trip at: http://www.thehukilau.com/2013/!
The alternative June 6-9 trip is to the star-studded Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. Presenting absolutely amazing burlesque, boylesque, and variety performances, the BHOF Weekend includes a Q&A with the Legends of Burlesque as well as a Legends performance and tribute night, marvelous workshops, a photo safari, plenty of mingling and boozing opportunities, and features the Queen of Burlesque competition formerly known as Miss Exotic World. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s exhibition space to view some of the “art, artifacts and personal histories of the art’s biggest names and brightest stars.” http://www.burlesquehall.com.
Next year’s dates are TBA, but June is the month of the 3rd Annual Carolina Burlesque Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. This burlesque and variety festival offers workshops, live music, and a pageant; stay posted by checking http://www.carolinaburlesquefestival.com/index.html.
The next one is high up on my bucket list – the annual Mermaid Parade at Coney Island, New York! Founded in 1983, “the Mermaid Parade pays homage to Coney Island’s forgotten Mardi Gras which lasted from 1903 to 1954,” and each year a new King Neptune and Queen Mermaid are crowned. The parade is followed by a ball and burlesque and sideshow performances: http://www.coneyisland.com/mermaid.shtml. But that’s not all! There’s ‘Burlesque on the Beach’ all summer long at Coney Island. Burlesque on the Beach is “a revival of the most glorious and notorious of the “girlie revues” in Coney Island history. A blend of old style burlesque, sideshow freaks, strange women, new vaudeville and toe tappin’ music,” you can see the lineup as it’s released at http://www.coneyisland.com/burlesque.shtml.
Although we don’t yet know when, the 4th Annual Pennsylvania Burlesque Festival will most likely take place in June, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Formerly known as the Jim Thorpe Burlesque Festival, this event features burlesque performers from around the country: http://www.paburlesque.com/.
July also has some great festivals: this year will mark the 4th Annual Windy City Burlesque Festival, in Chicago, Illinois as well as the 4th Annual Colorado Burlesque Festival, in Denver, Colorado. Each event provides classes and top notch burlesque performances. More information about these two stellar festivals can be found at
Another option for July is visiting the annual Circus City Festival, Inc. in Peru, Indiana. Held July 13-20, in “The Circus Capital of the World,” this event boasts “longest running circus parade in the United States.” http://www.perucircus.com/
August gives us another opportunity to visit Ohio, for the 3rd Annual Ohio Burlesque Festival, in Cleveland, Ohio. The dates are TBA, but this festival hosts burlesque and variety performances, and is unique in that it chooses a charity to support each year. Learn more at http://www.ohioburlesque.com/index.html.
We’re also awaiting announcement of the 2nd Annual ABurlyQ! Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which made its debut last August with a burlesque and sideshow lineup and festivities: http://www.aburlyq.com/.
Depending on the dates that are decided upon, you’ll either have a very busy month travelling to all the magnificent September festivals, or you’ll have some very difficult choices to make. 2013 will bring us the 11th Annual New York Burlesque Festival in New York, New York. Along with performances, classes, and parties, this event includes an extra special competition, The Golden Pastie Awards. These awards honor member of the biz with titles such as “The MacGyver Award,” “Performer Most Likely to Start a Harem,” and “The Performer You Would Call with Your One Quarter from Jail.” Find out all about it at http://www.thenewyorkburlesquefestival.com/index.php.
The 5th Annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana, has a more traditional title for its competition winners: Queen of Burlesque! The weekend is chock full of workshops and shows, all appropriately located near Bourbon Street, which “featured the largest concentration of burlesque clubs than anywhere in the U.S…from the mid-1940s through the 1960s.” Look for updates at http://neworleansburlesquefest.com/.
September also means that it’s time to visit Chicago again, this time for the 4th Annual Superstars of Burlesque. Catch all the latest about this burlesque festival at http://superstarsofburlesque.com/.
As if October weren’t an exciting month already, it will now bring us the 2nd Annual Alabama Burlesque Festival, in Rocket City (Huntsville), Alabama. We don’t have dates for the return of this brand new festival, but the place to watch for updates is http://rocketcityburlesque.com/. A portion of the proceeds from the 2012 festival benefitted The Pinup Angels’ mission to send care packages to our troops!
And speaking of pinups, a 2nd Annual American Pinup Burlesque Fest is already set for October 25-27 in Tampa Bay Area, Florida. This event will consist of the Miss Pinup America Pageant, Burlesque America Competition, a Car Show, Bike Show, Tattoo Contest, and workshops! Check it out at http://www.americanpinupburlesquefest.com/.
November brings the opportunity to round out your year with a very special convention, the 6th Annual Burlycon in Seattle, Washington. As stated on their website, “BurlyCon is an annual Burlesque Educational convention that provides educational offerings, professional growth and in-person social networking for the Burlesque Community. Our aim is to further the development and historical knowledge of this rare American art form that is experiencing a popular resurgence worldwide.” There are no performances, but there are over 100 classes taught by the best in the biz! Keep in the know by checking http://burlycon.org/ for updates.
One last group to keep in mind when making your performance-art-based travel plans is the United States Association of Fringe Festivals. Dating back to 1947, the original Fringe Festival was created in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Fringe performing arts festivals can now be found worldwide. “A celebration featuring theatre and related live presentations with a special emphasis on original and innovative forms and formats,” there are a plethora of these productions to choose from in the U.S.: http://fringefestivals.us/festival.