Winter Party Festival is a red hot party that raises funds for LGBTI causes

The winter party festival miami gay causes

Everyone feels guilty if they party for a whole week. To get around these feelings, all you need to do is find events that let you cut loose while raising money for important causes. And if you need to cut really, really loose, you’ve got The Winter Party Festival.

The week-long celebration will be held on 27 February to 5 March on Miami Beach in order to raise funds for the LGBTI community locally and nationally. It’s organized by the National LGBTQ Task Force, who lobby the government for the betterment of queer people in the US.

The Winter Party Festival in Florida

Photo: National LGBTQ Task Force

The Winter Party Festival miami florida

Photo: National LGBTQ Task Force

However, when it’s party time, it’s less petitioning politicians and more barely clothed people dancing in one of the most LGBTI-friendly places in Florida.

The event has grown from its humble beginnings in 1994 as a huge dance party on the beach into a whole program of events. Expect everything from cocktail parties to stage shows to health advocacy programs… as well as a huge dance party on the beach.

Winter Party Festival in Miami Florida

Photo: National LGBTQ Task Force

The Winter Party Miami LGBT Trust

Photo: National LGBTQ Task Force

It also happens to be one of the more diverse queer parties. The Task Force and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau found 55% of all attendees in 2018 identified as non-white. Which is why this year’s theme is With Open Arms, meaning everyone is welcome to the event.

They’re also making efforts to make their talent more diverse, with more women on their setlist than ever. Sharon O Love, Anne Louise and MORABITO will be DJing for your pleasure.

LGBTQ Trust Winter Party florida

Photo: National LGBTQ Task Force

The funds don’t just go to the Task Force, but South Florida LGBTI organizations too. In 2018, they donated $215,000 (189366.63EUR) to the LGBTQ Community Fund at the Miami Foundation.

So when you’re doing shots surrounded by these beautiful people, remember you’re doing it for a good cause.

The Winter Party Festival is hosted on Miami Beach, Florida on  27 February to 5 March 2019. Tickets are from $20 to $1000 for VIP packages. 

See also:

Lou Queernaval, France’s first queer carnival, is back and gayer than ever

LGBTI fans can board a Golden Girls cruise from Miami next year

Author: Tom Capon

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Lou Queernaval, France’s first queer carnival, is back and gayer than ever

Nice Lou Queernval

France’s first ever queer carnival, Lou Queernaval, is returning to Nice two years after leaving a rainbow shaped hole in our lives.

The festival is part of the world-famous Nice Carnival, a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages. But while the heteros dominate the streets for most of the three day festivities, the real fun comes on Sunday 24 February when the carnival gets an LGBTI twist.

Originally debuting in 2015, Lou Queernaval is held in the Place Massena, transforming the area into one giant dance floor.

Lou Queernaval Nice France queer festival

Photo: Stephan Bare

Lou Queernaval nice france lgbt festival

Photo: Guillaume Eymard

While there’s no parade, they have a dramatic mobile stage. Expect fabulous creatures, spectacular costumes and artists’ troops, alongside stunning drag queens, live singers, and the hottest gogo dancers around.

Also, the extravaganza will be blessed with the Godmothers of Lou Queernaval: comedian Mado the Niçoise and dance house duo Sister Queen.

The Queernaval is a celebration of love and fun, inviting everyone from the LGBTI community and beyond. Families of all kinds are welcome as well as fun-loving party goers, with between 10,000 and 15,000 people attending in 2015 and 2016.

Lou Queernaval France first gay carnival

Photo: Guillaume Eymard

Lou Queernaval Nice France gay festival

Photo: Guillaume Eymard

The original carnival celebrations were authorized by the Catholic church as a pre-lent blow-out. For centuries it gave the citizens of Nice the chance to don masks, feast on delicious foods and drink wine in a celebration of indulgence. Performers often used it as an opportunity to challenge authorities without fear of consequences.

Which is something the LGBTI community has been doing for years. So you might as well take up that noble tradition by the sapphire seas of the French Riviera.

Lou Queernaval will be held at Massena, Nice, France on 24 February. A contribution to expenses for adults is asked at 5 Euros ($5.67). It is free for children under 12 and people with a disability card. 

See also: 

Men brawl at gay XLSIOR Festival in Mykonos to The Greatest Showman song

He.She.They, the London-based gender inclusive parties, are coming to the US

‘No one was wearing masks this time,’ why this Mumbai Pride was important

Author: Tom Capon

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Why the deserts of Arizona are surprisingly great for a gay USA road trip

What to see in Arizona gay

Arizona is a state of contradictions.

On the US political map, most of it is a deep shade of red, but it’s also home to some of the most diverse cities in America. Most of the place is a desert, but it’s lush enough to grow vineyards. It’s a modern state, but with a more than a touch of the Old West about it.

And I was ready for an old-fashioned American adventure. I landed in Phoenix, hired a car, and took a road trip through the southern part of the state.

Hitting the road

I visited three cities: Phoenix, Arizona’s largest city, and its capital; Bisbee, a tiny former mining town about 3.5 hours’ drive from Phoenix; and Tucson, about halfway between the others, the former state capital, and home to the University of Arizona. Thanks to the ease with which American interstates can be tackled, you can comfortably navigate this route in a week.

Arizona roadtrip gay

Arizona is pure road trip territory | Photo: Andrew Gonsalves

As mentioned earlier, Arizona is pretty darn lush. There were a couple of days of belting rain when I visited in December (it’s sunny about 85% of the year), but if the state got any more rain, it would lose desert status altogether. This makes the Sonoran Desert feel more alive that you’d ever expect.

A note about driving in the USA. This was my first time doing so and it was the easiest thing I ever did (and, driving along the Gate Pass Road towards the Desert Museum, of the most beautiful).

My only advice is to make sure you have a satnav and, if you can, consider getting a car that’s a step up from the economy model. The distances are vast – I traveled a little over 700 miles in a week – so you’ll want to know exactly where you’re going, and you’ll want to be sat in something comfortable.

The best way to experience the deserts is to get into them. By night, I made for the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix for Electric Desert. This is an immersive experience, where the desert is brought spectacularly to life using lights and music. Seeing a mountain (a small one, admittedly, but a mountain’s a mountain) illuminated while a Mexican band sang Christmas songs was a spine-tingling experience.

ARizona cactus

There’s more than a few wonders waiting for you | Photo: Andrew Gonsalves

Touring Tucson

I started my time in Tucson with a tour from Tucson Bike Tours. Spending just a couple of hours with my guide, Jim, brought the whole of the city to life. This included the huge, just-like-the-movies University of Arizona campus and an accompanying frat house, where I may’ve imagined I was in House Bunny.

It’s a fantastic way to get under the skin of Tucson’s history, see some super-pretty houses, and explore the city’s relationship with the desert. At two hours long, I thought I’d build up an appetite for dinner (or at least burn off breakfast) but, as we stopped midway for the very best empanada I’ve ever eaten, my calorie deficit remained non-existent.

Sufficiently biked-out, I headed to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is a veritable treasure chest of life in the desert. Reached through the Gateway Pass, probably the prettiest road I’ve ever driven along, it’s less a museum and more a zoo.

I got up close and personal with the surprisingly large number of critters that call the Sonoran home. My favorite was the mountain lion who was clearly used to tourists, and gave zero f***s about being on display. I was also very much there for the river otters (…not for that reason) and the hummingbird aviary was breathtaking. The museum also offers a selection of nicely thought-out trails, so you can lose yourself in the desert without actually getting lost.

Arizona airplanes desert see

Everything looks more dramatic in the desert | Photo: Andrew Gonsalves

Desert-based, but not desert-related, the PIMA Air & Space Museum, outside of Tuscon, is essentially a giant parking lot for old planes. I gaped at the Air Force One that ferried JFK around the world and stood in awe at the permanent exhibition on women in flight.

A particularly poignant moment came as I admired a B-52 that flew over Germany during WWII. The elderly guide, Richard, started telling me his story. He was based in Norfolk, UK, during the war, flying B-52s. An attack of food poisoning meant he couldn’t fly one morning, but the rest of his crew set off.

Their plane was shot down over Germany in 1942. There were no survivors. 

Eating through Arizona

Arizona was once a part of Mexico, (it didn’t become part of the US until the mid-1800s), and where you’re most likely to feel this Mexican history is in Arizona’s food.

Forget the usual Tex-Mex mush, you’ll find some truly delectable tacos at Contessa’s Cantina in Bisbee and Downtown Kitchen and Cocktails in Tucson. The latter has a mouthwatering locally and seasonally based menu. I also loved Tucson’s Barrio Bread. Its hand-crafted loaves are obscenely delicious; trust me when I say that you’ve not tasted bread until you’ve tasted a warm jalapeño-cheddar loaf.

churos where to eat in arizona

If I could marry these churros, I would | Photo: Andrew Gonsalves

The culinary highlight of my trip was Phoenix’s Barrio Café. Run by Silvana Esparza, who gave up everything at the age of 41, bought a backpack and set off on an adventure through Mexico. She visited every region, finding out what they cooked and how they cooked it, before opening Barrio (no relation to Barrio Bread) with her then-partner, Wendy, in 2002.

The food is magnificent; far, far removed from the nasty tacos and yellow cheese you associate with Tex-Mex. Everything I tasted at Barrio was an explosion for the senses. The colors and flavors left me longing for a stomach twice the size of my own. Whatever you do, leave space for the churros.

Scouting the scene

Given that you’re reading Gay Star News, there’s the chance that you’ll want to sample the scenes in some of the places you visit.

More importantly, you’ll want to know you’re safe doing so. Here I bring good tidings. All three of the destinations I sampled were liberal, welcoming and, in my opinion, very safe. (While we’re chatting about bigotry, it’s also worth noting that no one I spoke to in the Arizona thought Trump’s wall was anything other than a bad idea.)

Phoenix and Tucson have thriving LGBTI scenes; there’s a wealth of bars and restaurants, and a live and let live attitude that permeates both cities. Indeed, the LGBTI people I spoke to felt just as comfortable in ‘straight’ bars and restaurants as any space on the scene.

Visit Arizona

So. Many. Steps. | Photo: Andrew Gonsalves

The biggest surprise, however, was Bisbee. Officially the City of Bisbee, it’s really no more than a large village, with just over 5,500 full-time residents. You’d be forgiven for thinking that small-town, southern America would be just what you expect.

It isn’t. It’s like a desert version of Brighton. The very first thing I saw as I drove into the town was a rainbow crosswalk. This was followed, almost immediately, by a shop proudly flying the rainbow flag. The city’s probably the the smallest place I’ve ever visited that has its own pride – every June.

Beyond the queerness, it’s a wonderful, bizarre place; like someone’s mixed small-town America with a winding hill town in Italy. There are over 1,000 stairs in Bisbee, making exploration more of a hike. If, like Mariah and I, you don’t do stairs, you can book a jeep tour. They’re big, purple versions of the jeep Stuart Jones from Queer as Folk drove.

The tours take in the smallest bar in Arizona – the Silver King, an establishment with four seats – and the old town jail, which John Wayne converted into a home. I also headed to Erie street, just outside of the town. It’s been preserved as it was in the 50s: with an old-school diner and classic American motors littering the sidewalk, and was easily the most Instagrammable man-made stop on my trip.

Friends in the desert

I left Arizona on a high. It’s easily one of the prettiest and friendliest states I’ve visited so far. The food is divine, the landscape magnificent and the people warm. I don’t feel like I’ve begun to scratch the surface. I’ll be back for sure.

Plan your trip to Arizona at visitarizona.com.  

See also: 

St Louis is the Midwest’s hidden gay gem just waiting to be discovered

How this city-living gay guy found a love of the great outdoors in Scottsdale, Arizona

Is The Chase Park Plaza the perfect spot to rediscover historic St Louis?

Author: Andrew Gonsalves

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