Rigal unfurled his party at The Escondite, a dive bar nestled along the border of Skid Row and Little Tokyo. Partygoers lined up against the parking lot fence in varying degrees of costume swimwear, while event staff inked “TRAMP” across their wrists.
Inside the gate The Escondite faces the DTLA skyline, a magnificent backdrop to the party . Shade structures flanked the edge of the lot, offering chairs, tables, and cover from the gorgeous 80-degree sunshine.
Drag queens waded through bubble machines and squirt guns, other guests waded and splashed adorned with wide-brim hats, parasols, heels, jockstraps, singlets, mesh, and colorful fabrics that billowed over the astroturf.
Rigal himself was spotted in a vintage onesie, boater hat, and sock-garters, weaving through the party as it unfolded into the late afternoon.
Though the vibrant crowd featured all expressions along the gender spectrum, muscled men in speedos made up the majority; the type of setting where you behave like a stranger around someone you’re certain has sent you his good nudes on one of the apps.
Inflatable creatures filled the space, including the human-shaped dolls who met tragic, deflated ends.
DJs rotated every hour, keeping the atmosphere buoyant with heavy, percussive disco beats thundering over the dance floor.
At the center of everything an above-ground pool attracted water-friendly guests, while an inflatable slide drew lines of people willing to scamper to the top and plunge into a kid-sized pool. A giant beach ball descended on the crowd, blocking out the sun as it made drowsy arcs over the party.
SUMMERTRAMP has changed since 2010, when Rigal first conceived the idea of a summer playground for adults.
“I would go to these pool parties,” Rigal remembers. “I always noticed that nobody was having fun. I was like, ‘What happened to summer?’ ”
SUMMERTRAMP thus became a decadent celebration of the season, a community-driven party that united a disconnected LGBTQ population. It also became, as Rigal says, a “living, breathing brand.”
Nowadays, the market has become saturated. When it comes to queer parties, anyone with decent traffic on social media can call themselves a promoter. And yet, seven years later, SUMMERTRAMP stands out as a shimmering success among the noise.
“My biggest intention was to completely reset the brand,” Rigal says, touching on his effort to re-establish authenticity — not only in reinventing the nostalgia of summer pool parties, but in bringing a nostalgic hue to the foreground of Downtown LA.
This effort led Rigal to seek out dive bars like The Escondite, who are “holding the flag up” for downtown spaces that feel authentic and “a little gritty.” As developers gain more territory, and more dive bars close, homegrown businesses like this are becoming a rare find.
And, as Downtown moves through a cultural renaissance, particularly among the LGBTQ community, more crowds seem to have wandered from West Hollywood in search of fresh experiences.
As for the future of Rigal’s pansexual DTLA waterpark extravaganza?
“I’d love to see SUMMERTRAMP turn into a larger festival,” Rigal adds. “A larger queer festival, for every color of the rainbow. Not a gay pride, but a queer summer celebration.”
Don’t miss SUMMERTRAMP at DTLA Proud this weekend, August 26 & 27. The event will occupy the south side of Pershing Square for both days of the festival, partnering with “queer party starters” Milk Milk Lemonade and Silverlake DJ collective Bears in Space.