The penultimate day of the annual International Friendship Conference ( IFCON ) began on the morning of Sept 4. with a board meeting which, among other agenda items, decided upon the locations for the event over next two years ( Montreal, Canada and Palm Springs, Calif. ).
The day concluded, in the best traditions of IFCON 2016's host city of Chicago, by transforming the hotel ballroom of the Magnificent Mile's Doubletree by Hilton into a 1920s speakeasy.
Event attendees arrived in period finery both dapper and eye-popping. Gangster Al Capone was represented by a loyal contingent of his fan club.
As reported by Windy City Times, IFCON is the result of a merger between two eventsLong Yang Club International ( LYCi ) and Asian & Friend's International Friendship Weekend ( IFW ).
This year, more than 150 people attended from cities across the United States, Canada and, in a few cases, worldwide.
"I started coming to IFW in 2003 in Pittsburgh and I've met so many people since then," Co-chair of The Asian & Friends umbrella group International Friendship Alliance Wesley Hung said. "It's why I come back every year regardless of where the [host] city is."
Hung moved to Canada 30 years ago.
"As a gay man it was very hard for me to find and meet people," he recalled. "Asian & Friends helped. There are a lot of couples who met during conferences like this. I made a lot of friends over the U.S. and Canada and I regularly visit them. IFCON is a way to reach out and meet people while teaching them about Asian culture. This year was definitely a success. On the boat cruise last night and on the dance floor, it has been all about fun."
The sentiment was echoed by Asian & Friends Chicago Board of Directors President Angel Abcede, who was not only co-chair of IFCON 2016 but also a part of the entertainment for the Sept. 4 banquet.
Abcede donned a flapper dress, an intricately detailed white wig andalongside fellow performers from the Joel Hall Dancers and Centerwowed IFCON attendees with a rendition of All That Jazz from the hit musical Chicago.
It was part of a menu of acts that included Lyric Opera singer Rodell Rosel and Joel Camden who, earlier this year, played the role of Sebastian in a production of The Little Mermaid held at Cicero's Jedlicka Performing Arts Center.
"We welcome people from all parts of the country who are creating and generating communities of gay Asian men and people who appreciate Asian culture," Abcede said. "We create social situations in cities where it's difficult for gay Asians to find and have a voice. In North America, we feel like we are a minority within a minority. We want to feel valued. We want to feel loved. These environments are created to celebrate that."
"Chicago is a hidden gem," Abcede added. "So the approach that we took this year was for our Chicago members to develop mini-tours. We took a water-taxi down the [Chicago] river to Chinatown, we went on a gay bar tour; so many things that showcased the city and its local Asian group."
Abcede stressed that IFCON is more than just a party.
"It values the gay Asian community," Abcede said. "When people start to understand that, they become big supporters."