Gay Asians group host Int’l Friendship Weekend

 A mass commitment ceremony is one of the activities planned for the 14th annual International Friendship Weekend, to be hosted by Asians & Friends-Pittsburgh Aug. 28-Sept. 1.

        “Here’s an opportunity to [have a commitment ceremony] in front of your friends at no additional expense to you,” said Paul Alarcon, chair of the IFW committee. “You pay for the rings, we will provide the rest: We have a pastor, a three-tier cake and the hokey pokey.”

        The annual IFW event allows Asians & Friends organizations from around the country to come together, share information and celebrate the gay Asian community. The conference typically offers lectures and workshops as well as tours of the host cities.

        But to keep the program fresh, organizers have looked beyond ordinary conference fare. The Labor Day weekend event in Pittsburgh will include a river cruise on the Liberty Belle, a shopping spree, workshops and seminars on HIV in the Asian population and a health and beauty seminar—“not drag 101,” organizers said, “just regular guys who want to look good.” But Alarcon believes the most notable addition this year is the mass commitment ceremony.

        Alarcon told Out the committee wanted to develop new activities for the conference because the events are “getting to be repetitive.” The idea for the commitment ceremony resulted from the desire of Alarcon and his partner, who were joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2000, to renew their own vows. The plan began to take shape after it occurred to Alarcon that other local couples and visiting delegates might like to participate in a ceremony.

        So far, three visiting delegate couples have expressed an interest in participating in the ceremony, but Alarcon said he expected other couples would sign up before the Aug. 31 event.

        More than 200 people attended the conference when it was held in Pittsburgh in 1993.

        Prior to the ceremony an annual drag show will choose Mr. and Ms. IFW 2003, who will act as best man and maid of honor in the commitment ceremony. “Other contestants will be the bridesmaids and ushers,” Alarcon explained.

        Plans for the weekend were still being finalized at Out’s deadline. “One of the new things we [would like to offer] is kind of a workshop seminar—Sex Toys 101—like that little old lady on TV. We’d like to find a little old lady in Pittsburgh,” Alarcon joked.

        The Country Inns & Suites at 5311 Campbells Run Rd. will serve as host hotel for the IFW event and will be the site of many of the weekend’s social activities.

        Asians & Friends-Pittsburgh is a non-profit, volunteer association formed to promote friendship and increase understanding among gay Asians, Asian-Americans and non-Asians through social and cultural activities, education and services. The group was formed in 1990 as an offshoot of the International Friendship Alliance, which consists of organizations that strive to promote interest in gay Asian society and culture in many major cities throughout the United States.

For more information about the International Friendship Weekend or to participate in the Aug. 31 commitment ceremony, visit the Web site at www.afpgh.org or call Paul Alarcon at

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