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MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA The Winter Party Festival, a fund-raiser for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and for many South Florida lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations, wrapped up March 5 after taking over local beaches and many Miami-Dade and Broward County venues, including Trio on the Bay, Mekka, and Ice Palace Film Studios. An estimated 10,000 guests attended the various events, with 6,000 at Sunday's beach party alone. “I think this was the biggest Winter Party in history, both in terms of attendance and ticket sales,” said Russell Roybal, deputy executive director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
“In 2012, we have been able to match and exceed our numbers for 2010, the strongest year in our history,” said Victor Diaz-Herman, co-chairman of Winter Party Festival, prior to the festival's closing Monday. “If we maintain this steady pace throughout the week, we will undoubtedly exceed our 2012 goals and do better than our 2010 numbers, making 2012 the best year in our 19-year history.”
The six-day festival comprises 22 events and uses 500 volunteers, in addition to staff from across the country that works on the event. “We are truly fortunate, as many of the volunteers return year after year to help us,” said Thomas Bercu of Tom Bercu Presents, the pool and beach parties' producer and overall festival consultant for the past 11 years. “They are an amazing group of dedicated people who are here because they believe in the cause and in our community.”
In recent years, the festival has grown significantly and now caters to a wider audience. “We've added non-dance programming over the years, such as receptions, art exhibits, and lectures,” said Bercu, also noting that programming for women and the Latin and leather communities have been added. “The festival has become a true all-inclusive week for every facet of the L.G.B.T. community in South Florida.”
This year, the Winter Party Festival attracted a new sponsor, Coca-Cola, which joined returning ones like Office Depot, Monster Energy, and Grey Goose and 42 Below vodkas. “Sponsors [are] promoting their brands by various means, from large banners promoting their brands and products, to strategic product placements at key events, to shopping events at local stores, to branded photo booths,” said David Alexander, director of institutional giving for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. For this year's festival, sponsors like Showtime provided a Nurse Jackie drag queen look-alike who helped promote the show.
Part of the new programming this year included a partnership with Gay Village to bring the Italian party to Cameo Nightclub Sunday night, with Italian dancers in gladiator garb and decor flown in from Italy for the “Rome Is Burning” dance party. Other new events included a happy hour at Haven and the festival's first women’s T-dance at Lords South Beach. The festival brought out its largest roster of international talent, including DJs Alyson Calagna, Brett Henrichsen, Hector Fonseca, Danny Verde, Javier Medina, and the Grammy-nominated Rosabel. Joe Gauthreaux spun music at Sunday's Beach Party, which attracted 6,000 people to dance and Saturday's Under One Sun Pool Party, another signature event of the festival, drew 2,500 to the Surfcomber Hotel.
Winter Party also partnered with some of Lincoln Road’s shops for guests to receive discounted rates on clothing and food from spots like Babalu, Kiehl’s, and Rosa Mexicano. The Task Force collaborated with venues known for their art installations, such as the Lords South Beach and ArtScape, where more than 20 artists showcased their work.