In an era when barely there bikinis and beachwear are all the rage, hosting an event that celebrates early 20th century modesty as personified by the one-piece swimsuit would appear, at first blush, to be a non-starter. But don’t tell that to the participants and spectators at this year’s Galveston Island Beach Revue.
Scheduled for May 20-21 at the Hotel Galvez & Spa, the modern incarnation of the event, organized by the Islander by Choice (IBC) organization, is patterned after the famed Galveston Bathing Beauties pageants of the 1920s and ‘30s began in 2009 and has grown from what at first seemed a one-off ode to vintage swimwear, clothing and sensibilities has morphed into a weekend-long party that includes live music, craft beer tastings and a classic car and trailer show.
“The idea to resurrect Beach Revue came out of some Islander By Choice meetings we had prior to Hurricane Ike. After the storm, we thought bringing a new event that had historical roots in Galveston was important. It was met with a great response and has continued to grow each year,” said Will Wright, IBC co-owner.
Wright says the event’s roots date back to the summer of 1920, when the pageant was dubbed the “Pageant of Pulchritude” and served to mark the un-official kick off of tourist season on the island. The pageants became enormously popular, attracting thousands of people to Galveston to check out the spectacle of attractive women dressed in clothing that was deemed downright scandalous for the times. But as was the case for many aspects of popular culture back then, the Great Depression brought the curtain down on the pageant until its resurrection eight years ago as a considerably less bawdy, all ages welcome showcase.
“For two days in May, we can all take part in a celebration of Galveston’s original Golden Age,” Wright said. “It’s held near its original location next to the Hotel Galvez and offers family-friendly fun in the sun.”
Forty contestants from around Southeast Texas, as well as from several other states, are expected to don vintage swimwear—some suits custom made specifically for the contest and some outfits dating back to the 1920s—to compete in the Bathing Beauty Contest, scheduled to begin at about 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 21. Wright says considerable care is taken in the contestant selection process.
“We have always tried to appeal to contestants—even some men—who really enjoy the vintage and historical nature of the event. We require interested contestants to apply for a spot in the competition, then we review the suit they want to compete with to ensure there are no duplicates and that it adheres to our rules of what is vintage,” Wright said.
New York’s Dandy Wellington and His Band brings its own unique brand of vintage-meets-modern style and sound to the proceedings as the headlining musical act on Saturday night, while Galveston’s Own Harbors Over Highways is set to perform on Friday night.
Wright says over 50 classic cars and trailers are expected to be on display in the Tom Schwenk, Realtor Hot Rod & Classic Car & Trailer Show on Saturday. This year’s charitable partner is the Galveston Diaper Bank, whose mission is to provide disposable diapers to low-income families. For more information on this year’s Beach Revue, visit GalvestonBeachRevue.com.