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National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Winter Party on Miami Beach draws crowd for a good cause

winter

The Winter Party Beach Party took place on Sunday on Miami Beach and was of the biggest gay events of the year. Thousands gathered on a huge dance floor on the beach on 12th Street. Click here for more photos. LILLY ECHEVERRIA / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

BY PARADISE AFSHAR, pafshar@MiamiHerald.com

Lizzz Kritzer and her girlfriend, Danielle Lise Desrochers, are not typical snowbirds.

Sure, they migrate from the South Hamptons to Miami Beach once a year to warm up. But for the past two years they have come with a mission: to party in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at the Winter Party Beach Party in Miami Beach.

``The gays are our people,'' said Kritzer, 52, who is staying with Desrochers at their South Beach nest -- and whose first name really does have three Z's. ``We love them!''

The party on the beach at 12th Street and Ocean Drive is part of the Winter Party Festival, a week-long series of events benefiting the gay and transgender community.

Since 1994, the annual festival and its sister event, the Miami Recognition Dinner, have raised $2.3 million for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the festival's development coordinator David Cook said.

Cook said the task force would distribute the net proceeds of the beach party's $80-- to $95--admission fee to HIV-prevention organizations, suicide hot lines and other charitable causes. Thousands of people passed through the gates Sunday.

``It's a party with a purpose,'' Cook said of the Mardi Gras-themed party on the sand.

HARD TO MISS

Like any good beach party, this one was hard to miss. Not only were the neon colors of the tents and banners easily visible along South Beach, but the thump-thump-thump of house music could be felt two blocks away.

``It doesn't get much better than this,'' said Matthew Carrigan, 35, who drove from Atlanta for the party. ``I've come every year since '98. It's a good cause and it's a good break from the cold.''

Matthew Sicher compared going to the beach party to being in a fish bowl, though he welcomed the attention of onlookers peeking inside through the party's fence at the sea of shirtless men.

SENSE OF COMMUNITY

``We have a stronger sense of community. These events help to show the outside world that there are gays here,'' said Sicher, 40, of Kendall, who has come to the beach party for the past six years. ``At the very least we can help to create awareness.''

This year he came with his partner, Angel Cuarts, who is originally from Colombia.

``You would never see this happen over there,'' said Cuarts, 28, of Fort Lauderdale.

The Miami-Dade Department of Health was on hand, giving away condoms and information about HIV/AIDS. The South Beach AIDS Project and other activist groups had a presence, too.

``I think AIDS made the community stronger,'' Kritzer said. ``It gave gay people a reason to mobilize.''

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Omg. I would've sooo been at this event if I had knew about it!!! Glad everyone had fun in my hometown!!

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