By Amanda Shaffer
Imagine yourself taking a nighttime stroll down Zaragoza Street in Downtown Pensacola. You past the Museum of Commerce, which has a soft, jazzy tune coming from it. You peak inside to see all 60 people, dressed in 1920s period clothing, are drinking and having a great time.
But you’re stopped at the door. You don’t have the secret password.
The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council hosted A Night at the Speakeasy on Thursday night, with proceeds from the event going to a fund for future interns, whose job is to write proposals to get international visitors to visit Pensacola. Paper invitations were sent out with the secret word earlier this month to anyone who wanted to attend the speakeasy. In the envelope was a piece of paper that had the word “duckie” written on it in lemon juice. The receiver would have to iron it to reveal the password.
The council is one of 93 non-profit organizations in the United States that the Department of State trusts to receive international delegates. There have been over 900 visitors from almost 170 countries.
“The most exciting part of the night, for me, was that people came dressed in period dress,” Executive Director Jena Melancon said. “Flappers were so scandalous.
“We just liked the idea of strong women, and change. From that point flappers were going to be a part of this party,” she said.
In the back corner, the New Orleans Ramblers sat with their instruments, playing jazz music.
“Then we had the idea for a speakeasy,” Melancon said. “I figured, if I’m going to spend my time away from the international visitors, that I was going to make it a party that my friends would want to come to.”
Nathalia Cerceau, a University of West Florida senior graduating in December, is one of the council’s paid interns. She is an international student from Brazil who is majoring in International Studies.
“I have gained a lot of experience and things to add to my portfolio,” Cerceau said. “The events are the most exciting thing about being an intern.”
Cerceau said that meeting all of the different delegates has been her favorite part of being an intern.
Visitors often come to Pensacola on professional exchanges. The council sets up appointments with the delegate’s professional counterparts.
For example, six different people from Russia could come to discuss environmental issues. They would be set up to meet with organizations like the Department of Environmental Protection and Project GreenShores.
“There’s always someone here from out of town,” program coordinator Matt Rizzo said. “The council averages about three international delegates a month who are in town.”
Local volunteers host delegates for dinner parties at their homes to get a more cultural perspective of America.
“Home hospitality is where they really get the American aspect,” said John McMahon, chairman of the board of directors.
To learn more information about getting involved with the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, visitwww.gulfcoastdiplomacy.org or call 850-595-0817 for more information.