Nightlife :: Special Events

Winter Party Festival Set to Heat Up Miami

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Sunday Feb 12, 2012

This article is from the January 2012 issue of the EDGE Digital Magazine.
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Every year at the end February, party boys and girls flock to the warmth of Miami for the Winter Party Festival, an annual bacchanalia of fun in the sun. Beach fetes, dance parties, shopping, cultural and community events are specifically tailored for men, women, leather aficionados and circuit boys. It all culminates in a spectacular all-day dance party set right alongside the ocean in the heart of South Beach. Winter Party Festival 2012, scheduled for February 29th thru March 5th, is once again set to live up to its reputation as the hottest party in the world.

"This is our 18th year, and the Beach Party is always the centerpiece, a huge event with the Art Deco district in the background," said Festival Co-Chair Chad Richter, who has volunteered his organizational services for the past eight years. "But Miami has evolved into more than just a beach town; there is much more to do than just dancing or laying at the beach, and we are trying to give that to our guests."

The Winter Party Festival is one of the year’s two largest fundraisers for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the other being their annual October Recognition Dinner for South Florida LGBT organizations.

Together, the events have raised nearly $1.2 million since the Task Force took over Winter Party Festival in 2004. Hundreds of volunteers (and a few paid staff members) help stage the festival, which raises needed funds for local LGBT organizations.

"The Task Force does such important work for the rights of GLBT Americans," said Richter. "As volunteers, we know firsthand that this is a party with a purpose, and helps the greater work they are doing. At some point it’s not even enough money, because they give so much of it back to [local] organizations. But it is a way of furthering their commitment to being a part of the grassroots community, and bettering the place where they have a presence."

The Winter Party Festival raises funds that are shuttled to local organizations via grants made through The Miami Foundation. Last year, the event raised more than $204,000 for local LGBT organizations, including a suicide hotline, the Pridelines Youth Services, and Miami Pride.


Plenty of Dancing...

People come from across the country and around the world to attend the Winter Party Festival. Not all are only interested in dancing the day, afternoon, and evening away. In order to attract participants beyond the circuit boys (and girls: there are also women’s dance parties, like the Latin-infused Pa-Ella), organizers have created shopping trips and cocktail parties.

The Festival kicks off on Feb. 29th with an opening reception at the Surfcomber, a gorgeous Art Deco oceanfront hotel. The next afternoon, the Women’s Winter Party opens with live acoustic music at ArtScape at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. Circuit boys will get to start their five-day dance fest when legendary DJ Phil Romano arrives to "Ignite" the opening dance party. "People should get to this one early," said Richter. "In the past we’ve had an opening DJ, but Phil is so well-received that we felt he could handle this big event by himself."


Expect More for the Beat

Cariocas keep the party going on the afternoon of March 2nd, when the Surfcomber hosts the Brazilian-themed "Hell & Heaven at the Pool." "We are eager to provide a higher ’white-glove’ service to our Winter Party guests this year," said Mario Casal, director of sales and marketing at Kimpton’s Surfcomber Hotel. (Kimpton’s support for the LGBT community is well regarded by advocates.)

Take a break from dancing (you’ll need it) and augment your wardrobe by walking Miami’s fabled shopping street with "Passport to Lincoln Road," where select shops will be offering deep discounts and complimentary beverages. It’s one of the breakout events that will keep partygoers enjoying the diversity of Miami’s cultural offerings.

"I love working with a group toward the common goal, with that goal being having a huge and successful weekend," said Richard King, the director of dance events for the Task Force. "Each year, I give myself a goal of having the dance events be more spectacular than the prior year. We’ve set the bar very high for ourselves for Winter Party Festival 12."

King said that with so many events, he couldn’t pick just one favorite. The March 3rd "Under One Sun Pool Party" is a favorite, with Showtime Networks’ original series The Borgias as a sponsor. That evening, special guests can enjoy a VIP cocktail reception.

Or, get your chaps polished up for "Sweat - A Leather Event," while the ladies shake their booties to New York City’s DJ Whitney Day at Industry. Circuit boys will get their own asses in gear at the featured dance party, "Flare."

Looking for the hair of the dog that bit ya? Ladies, head to a very special Sunday Brunch featuring Brazilian singer-songwriter Monica da Silva.

"I’m a huge supporter of equal rights for all, and I’m happy to be supporting such a great cause!" said da Silva. "I think people should support Winter Party, especially if they care about human rights." Da Silva will perform songs from her new CD, Brasilissima, and introduce the first single from it, "Aí Então," which will also be featured on a Putumayo World Music release, Brazilian Beat, out this month. You can get a preview here:




Grab a catnap after Saturday’s bacchanalia before heading to Miami’s Lummus Park on Sunday to dance the afternoon away at the legendary Winter Party Beach Party. DJ Joe Gauthreaux once again takes over the turntables. That same day you can attend "Boiling Point," a daylong dance party at Cameo on Washington Avenue. The festival wraps up on Monday, March 5th, with "Afterglow," the official after-party.


The Winter Party Festival benefitting the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force will be heating up South Florida from February 29 - March 5. For info on special Winter Party rates including discount offers on hotels, and multi-event ticket passes, visit the event website at www.winterparty.com or call 800-546-7866.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/

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