Did you miss White Party this year? Staying
home New Years Eve? Skipping Blue Ball in January? Well,
dont lose any sleep over it because when you get the
urge to attend your next circuit party, youll be able
to find one somewhere in the United States just about any
given weekend. With so many party weekends competing for relatively
few bodies, along with that infamous disposable income the
media insists every gay consumer has so much of, promoters
and event producers constantly strive to outdo each other.
has resulted in the creation of some of the most amazing, outrageous, and
over-the-top dance events that consistently impress even the most discerning
partier. For the past six years, one such party in sunny South Florida has
sent more satisfied boys and girls home with great big smiles on their faces
than just about any other, all the while cementing its reputation around
the world as one of the biggest and best. I am, of course, referring to
Roots, Southern Causes
of 1993, a small group of Miami Beach residents left the Morning Party on
Fire Island with a great idea. This idea, spearheaded by Stewart Stein and
Jeffrey Morris, was to throw a similar event in South Beach during the winter.
The timing was perfect, as the gay community in Florida was in the midst
of preparing for a very tough statewide battle with the powerful American
Family Association (AFA). The AFA was attempting to place a referendum on
the upcoming elections ballot that would effectively prevent any municipality
or county in the State of Florida from legislating equal protection for
anyone based on sexual orientation. (A similar measure had recently passed
in Colorado.) Obviously a battle of this size was going to cost a lot of
money, and much of the State was looking to Dade County to bankroll the
who had become quite active in the local political scene, convinced his
friends to take advantage of the sand, sea, and beautiful winter weather
so plentiful in their hometown to throw a huge beach party of their own
to help raise money for this important cause. Stein, Dennis Leyva, Ignacio
Martinez-Ybor, and Clark Reynolds called upon their many friends from Fire
Island to help them plan this massive event. Because of the financial support
they drew from corporate sponsors like Seagrams, Out, HX, and Coors, plus
generous donations from their friends, the entire party was basically privately
underwritten. This allowed almost 100% of the proceeds to be used directly
to help fund the fight against the anti-gay state-wide referendum.
13, 1994, the very first Winter Party took place just a few feet from the
crystal blue ocean under beautifully sunny skies and giant pink palm trees.
Music was courtesy of circuit legend Buc, and Harry Bader provided his creative
talents to design the open-air dance club on the sand. More than 1,000 people
showed up (many more than expected), and over $68,000 was raised. The organizers
were reveling in the success of the party when something very unexpected
happened -- the Supreme Court of Florida declared the verbiage of the AFAs
referendum unconstitutional, and the referendum was promptly dismissed.
(The United States Supreme Court later declared the Colorado measure unconstitutional,
there was no longer a referendum to fight, the Winter Party Committee still
gave the $68,000 to S.A.V.E. (Safeguarding American Values for Everyone),
the non-profit organization created to fight the referendum. Now, however,
the money could be used in more proactive ways, such as hiring an executive
director so that S.A.V.E. could function as an all-purpose political action
committee serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community
in Dade County.
Takes Root and Grows
incredible success of the first Winter Party, corporate sponsors and local
supporters started pressuring the group to throw another party the following
year. Since it was such an effective and fun way to raise money for their
community, Leyva, Martinez-Ybor, Reynolds, Stein, and others decided to
do it all again, but this time they would form a structured foundation so
that they could make the grants to various non-AIDS-related GLBT organizations
throughout Dade County. They enlisted the advice of the Stonewall Community
Foundations founder, Jim Pepper, among others, to establish the Dade
Human Rights Foundation (DHRF).
formed just in time to take advantage of a grant from the National Gay &
Lesbian Funding Partnership (NGLFP). NGLFP was looking to form partnerships
with local community foundations in 10 cities across the United States wherein
they would match dollar-for-dollar all money raised by each foundation over
a two-year period. In Miami, the prominent Dade Community Foundation had
been selected, and it agreed to work with DHRF. The Winter Party Committee
and DHRF were ecstatic and empowered by this unique opportunity not only
to raise money locally for their community, but also to match a contribution
from a prominent national organization.
was just the beginning. In its relatively short life, DHRF grants
have been critical to the growth and flowering of the Miami-Dade GLBT community.
Project YES, SAVEDade, Miami Pride, the film festival these and an
array of other diverse community projects can attribute their inception,
projects, and services to money raised from dance floor boys. In the last
couple of years, DHRF has grown into the third largest organization of its
kind in the country. It has also diversified its funding sources, but Winter
Party Weekend is still the largest source of grant moneys that benefit the
entire spectrum of our community.
grown into a rather complex organism over the years, but the basic concept
of the Winter Party itself has pretty much remained the same to throw
a giant dance party on the beach in the middle of winter. DHRF then adds
the proceeds to its budget, which has included grants to dozens of GLBT
community organizations over its short life. By 1997, the volunteer structure
of DHRF and Winter Party was starting to get overwhelmed. What started out
essentially as a family organization had grown into a serious business,
and the DHRF Board realized it had to hire an executive director to run
the operation. Clark Reynolds resigned from the Board of Directors and was
hired as Executive Director. Other paid positions would follow down the
road, but for now the Board had the focus it needed to continue its operations.
Natures invitation to the third Winter Party must have gotten lost
in the mail, because in 1996 the party was held under rainy skies and cool
temperatures. The turn-out was still impressive, and most peoples
spirits seemed to avoid dampening, but the Committee feared that the bad
weather would negatively affect attendance in 1997. Despite these concerns,
they went ahead with plans to expand Winter Party to a full-scale circuit
weekend by scheduling several other events to take place throughout the
events were successful, and Winter Party established itself as a major national
event. Barton G, who had created the décor the year before, returned
in March 1997 to create another tropical wonderland on the beach, while
DJ Buc resumed his place at the head of the turntables for the fourth time.
Thanks to additional advertising and good word-of-mouth, the party was growing
quickly and gaining much national exposure, but even more dramatic changes
were just around the corner.
New York DJ Julian Marsh was hired to fill Bucs shoes at the helm
of Winter Party, while many internal changes were taking place within the
Committee. Dennis Leyva had decided he liked attending Winter Party more
than organizing it, so he redirected his efforts to the DHRF Grants Committee.
Stewart Stein resigned from the Committee and DHRF Board after four years,
but Reynolds and the band of dedicated volunteers that had grown up over
the years kept the Winter Party going.
The 1998 Winter Party organization had been plagued by a variety of problems,
not the least of which were declining attendance and revenues. After serving
on the Committee for the 1997 and 1998 Winter Parties, Steve Baird (who
edits this magazine) was asked to join DHRFs Board of Directors and
to chair the 1999 Winter Party Committee. Baird accepted this challenge
and presented his idea of DHRFs "ownership" of Winter Party
Weekend to the Board. He then designed and, with the help of DHRFs
staff, implemented many changes in the operation of Winter Party. Among
their projects were expanding the volunteer base, early venue selections
and agreements, an aggressive advertising campaign with a focus on national
and international marketing, a stellar line-up of turntable talent the circuit
had never seen before, a national host committee for the opening night party,
the first up-and-coming DJ showcase on the circuit, and, most importantly,
ownership of the weekends events by DHRF.
Winter Party organization had always done the advertising and promotion
of the weekend, local clubs had been producing and benefiting most from
the surrounding events in past years. Baird and the Committee believed it
was time for DHRF (and thus the community) to reap more fully the benefits
of the weekend they had created and nurtured. This, however, required taking
more risks by producing most of the events themselves and the remainder
in partnership with clubs. It worked. Not only did attendance substantially
increase in 1999, but Winter Party Weekend netted over $215,000 for DHRF,
more than double the previous years earnings. Of course, Baird did
not do this alone. He was joined by an incredible network of scores of other
dedicated volunteers, including DHRF board members Eric Salas, Bob Cole,
Darrell Burks, Richard Wood, Jeffrey McDonel, Elkin Zapata, and Cyril Cohen,
as well as Executive Director Clark Reynolds, independent producer Lily
Majjul, bar manager Digby Liebovitz and new DHRF staff members Arnie Smith
and Craig Smith.
you missed it, DJs Tony Moran and St. Peter opened the 1999 Weekend at the
nationally hosted Thursday night party at Shadow Lounge, which received
rave reviews. Friday saw a retro tea dance at Score and Peter Rauhofers
U.S. circuit debut at Warsaw. On Saturday night, Billy Carroll and Abel
performed in two official venues, while superstar Bette Midler headlined
the weekend at Salvation. At Sundays beach party, a record crowd saw
the return of DJ Julian Marsh under beautifully sunny skies and surrounded
by shiny pink mylar designs blowing in the gentle warm breeze. After a T-Dance
with Monty Q, Neil Lewis took the crowd into the night with a sizzling Tom
of Finland party. Mondays First Annual DJ Showcase was the sleeper
hit of the event. DJs Marsh and Moran also joined forces with Centaur Music
to remix the critically acclaimed (second) Winter Party CD. According to
the latest Circuit Noize, Winter Party Weekend now ranks in the very top
rung of the many "circuit" events.
the Millennium Winter Party 2000
size and complexity of Winter Party having outgrown its purely volunteer
roots, DHRF decided to professionalize the structure of its organization,
which is now led by Craig Smith, DHRFs full-time project director.
Baird continues to serve on the DHRF Board and its Winter Party Committee
in a less active role. On the volunteer side, Joe Guerrero has stepped up
to serve as volunteer coordinator. Dennis Leyva has returned to a more active
volunteer role this year, putting together a deal for Winter Partys
first host hotel, the Surfcomber. In keeping with their mission to raise
grant monies for our community, Smith and DHRF Board member Steve Levin
are spearheading a corporate sponsorship effort that promises to support
an even more successful Winter Party Weekend 2000, to be held in South Beach
from March 2 through 6.
Party Weekend 2000 again boasts an amazing line-up of DJs. You can hear
Victor Calderone, David Knapp, Neil Lewis, Manny Lehman, and the return
of Peter Rauhofer after successes up and down the coast, including an acclaimed
performance at Black & Blue in Montreal. The parties will take place
in some of the hottest nightclubs in the world, including the new Crobar
@ Cameo, the renewed Level at 1235, and Amnesia. Local hero Monty Q takes
over the turntables at the weekends namesake event, the first local
DJ in the partys history. We hear some great performances are planned
for the weekend, too. In any event, attendees can once again look forward
to frolicking on the beach with thousands of the most beautiful men in the
world, while participating in this extraordinary community-building dance
If you would like to volunteer during
the weekend, please e-mail Joe Guerrero at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to get involved with DHRFs Winter
Party Weekend in any other way, please call Craig Smith at
(305) 572-1841 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Your community needs you, and its fun.