The second Friday of every month the streets of Pensacola, a small city right on the Gulf of Mexico, transform into a huge party for retirees. Rock and blues bands perform from roof tops and various balconies singing to an excited group of swinging grannies, beer bottle in their hands. Florida is known for its large population of seniors and they all come out to play on a night Pensacola calls Gallery Night. All the local stores open their doors, often hosting a performer of their own, offering free samples and special sales. New exhibits open for this night featuring art that brings together eclectic flavors of nearby cities like New Orleans and Atlanta with the serenity of beach-living. I wanted to buy it all.
Certain areas of the city are blocked off, which makes it impossible to drive, but ideal for gallivanting through every block. Especially when 80% of the people present at this massive event were feeling it, if you know what I mean. It’s kind of like a city-sponsored red solo cup party. The bar scene in Pensacola is massive for such a small city – two whole blocks are dedicated to these well-trafficed bars. It’s like no other business may open on those two blocks. This would be awesome… if I was 21. Still, all I want now is to come back to a Gallery Night when I am 21 so I can party with all these cool old people.
Don’t get me wrong, not everyone was old, I’m kind of exaggerating the circumstances. I saw some adorable new moms with their babies strapped onto to them so they could easily hold shopping bags in one hand and a beer in the other.
This was one of my favorite parts of the night – just the idea of this I thought was genius. He really did sit there and write a poem on his typewriter. The little boy pictured would tell the poet what he wanted the story to be about and the poet would swiftly (and remarkably effortlessly) write it. Just like that. Unfortunately the line was hella long and I was unsure if he charged so being the cheap-skate that I am walked away thinking to myself I can write a poem. That’s my one regret from the night! Should have waited…
The crowds really started to pick up in size and in youthfulness as the night wore on. Time-wise the event ended around 10pm, but the bars continued to press forth all night. One especially beautiful thing about Gallery Night was all the lights strung over different buildings. It felt so welcoming and really set the mood for a great night.
When traveling, finding an event like this is a window into local life. I got to see a whole lot of local flair in a short period of time, while having inexpensive fun. Can’t beat that. The people I got to talk to whether about their art or just about life in Pensacola were so friendly – so friendly that my cheeks hurt after the night from smiling so intensely. I couldn’t help it. I closed out the night with a mango, pineapple, etc. smoothie from this hippie coffee place that also serves “fine wine”… random, but ok I guess the best of both worlds? I sat inside freezing because I stupidly wore shorts not realizing how cold it gets at night-time in Florida, forgetting that they’re just now recovering from their “coldest winter ever.” (It was a whole twenty degrees for two days!!! Oh my goodness! How could they possibly survive?!) As I sat there enjoying my smoothie I people watched and smiled. A lot. Every old couple holding hands melted my heart a little bit more until I just as liquid-y as the smoothie I was enjoying so much. I saw a real community out there – one that loves the sun but loves to party more. I want to be that cool when I’m 75.