Sawmill Resort in Dade City is more than just a campground. In the seventeen years since the “LGBT community” opened, it has grown to offer cabin accommodations, RV and tent sites, as well as the brand new communal “bunkhouse.” It also offers hiking trails, a heated swimming pool, two bars and a nightclub. Over the years, all members of the Florida LGBT community have come together to have fun at Sawmill.
The staff at Sawmill Resort are inviting you to come to their 17th anniversary celebrations, which will start on Thursday, April 16 with a “Bare As You Dare” (nudity optional) night. On Friday, April 17, there will be a bingo game followed by a dance party. Saturday night will have quite a few things going on. There will be a dinner show featuring the Sawmill Divas, a bonfire, a Studio 54-themed party, and a cash giveaway.
People who attend the anniversary weekend will be given a raffle ticket, and the winner will be chosen during the weekend and given $1000 in cash and prizes. “This is a change from the balloon drops we normally do. Now, the winner is completely up to the luck of the draw,” said Justin Pamplin, promotions director at Sawmill. Then, on Sunday, there will be a tea dance hosted by DJ Reagan, who will be spinning poolside.
I talked with Justin Pamplin about the changes that have happened recently at Sawmill and what gives the resort its charm.
Happy 17th anniversary! What do you think the secret is to Sawmill’s success?
Sawmill started out as something that nobody else had ever tried: it was an entirely gay community. People united around us because it was a place where people could be accepted in a world where not everyone would. The secret is that we’ve continued to evolve. We have to stay with the times and keep current with the events we schedule. We’ve also marketed to all generations, and we love that all people in the LGBT community, younger and older, can stay here and have fun. Sawmill is like a “choose your own adventure” book to me. Remember those books? Well, at Sawmill, you can take a step to the left and enjoy one event, or you can go to the right and have a completely different, but also fun, experience.
Have there been any changes at Sawmill in the past year that you particularly liked?
The implementation of the foam parties last year, that was definitely huge. We’ve reached out a lot more to the community at pride events, and opened ourselves up to all segments of the community in the process. We’ve noticed certain events are very popular right now; for example, our bear weekend events sell out all the time. We’ve already had three in the first three months of the year.
There are weekly events that go on every day of the week at Sawmill. Which one is your favorite?
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! The tea dances on Sunday are packed! The reason why I love the tea dances is because it’s such a cool vibe. In years past, Sunday was the day where people were winding down and getting ready to go home, and now Sunday is like the “turn up” day. DJ Reagan, who also DJs at Bradley’s on 7th, DJs right by the pool. Then we have brunch! You can eat, you can drink, you can dance, you can have so much fun on Sunday. You get to turn up one more time before you have to go back to work. [laughs]
For people who haven’t had the chance to visit Sawmill yet, what would you say to them to get them to visit?
My personal tagline that I like to use when describing Sawmill is “where camping meets nightlife.” There is nowhere else around here where you’re going to find that. You can sit by a fire with friends and have a great time, and if you want to, you can drink, and you don’t have to drive anywhere! You don’t have to go home at the end of the night. You can eat, you can drink, you can swim, you can party, you can have so much fun, and there is never a need for you to go anywhere else. Where else can you party with 200 of your friends for the whole weekend?
Sawmill Resort is located at 21710 US Highway 98 in Dade City, roughly 45 minutes from both Tampa and Orlando. If you are interested in reserving a cabin, RV site or tent pitch for an upcoming getaway, you can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (352) 583-0664. For more information on Sawmill, visit flsawmill.com.