MIAMI BEACH, FL -- (Marketwire) -- 01/24/13 -- They are the people and the places that have captivated hundreds of thousands of guests over two decades and have made Winter Party Festival "The HOTTEST Winter in the World" and one of the most successful LGBT fundraisers on Earth. They are the biggest names in music on the planet -- Victor Calderone, David Knapp, Neil Lewis, Manny Lehman, Tony Moran, Abel, Ralphi Rosario, Brett Henrichsen, Joe Gauthreaux, Hector Fonseca, Ana Paula, Chus & Ceballos, Alyson Calagna. They played some of the most legendary venues anywhere -- Salvation, Warsaw, Paragon, Mansion, Score, Shadow Lounge, Cameo -- and, of course, the sands of South Beach. Even the Divine Miss M herself, Bette Midler, performed at Winter Party as did Deborah Cox and Kim English.
The story of Winter Party begins in 1992, 15 years after Anita Bryant's efforts led to the repeal of Dade County's first human rights ordinance. That year, Dade Action PAC, chaired by Clark Reynolds, led a successful campaign that resulted in the unanimous passage of a gay civil rights ordinance in the City of Miami Beach. The following year, the American Family Association (AFA) initiated a statewide referendum that would have prevented any municipality or county in Florida from legislating equal protection based on sexual orientation. Their goal was to get the referendum on the November 1994 ballot. Ignacio Martinez-Ybor joined Reynolds and other activists to thwart the AFA referendum campaign.
In August 1993, Reynolds and fellow Miami residents Stewart Stein and Dennis Leyva attended the Morning Party on Fire Island, a fundraiser for the Gay Men's Health Crisis, and left with the idea of throwing a similar event in Miami Beach during the winter. They thought the sun and sand of South Beach would appeal to northern tourists. Their party would be a fundraiser to fight the AFA-championed referendum.
The three men and Martinez-Ybor created the first Winter Party, which took place on February 13, 1994. They were successful in getting the event entirely underwritten through the support of their friends and four sponsors: H/X Magazine, Out Magazine, Coors Beer and the City of Miami Beach Visitors and Convention Authority. Music was courtesy of circuit legend Buc and Harry Bader designed the open-air dance club on the sand. More than 1,600 people showed up -- many more than expected -- and raised $45,000.
Shortly after the event, the Supreme Court of Florida declared the language of the anti-gay referendum unconstitutional and the referendum was promptly dismissed. Without a referendum to fight, the Winter Party Committee gave the $45,000 to S.A.V.E. (Safeguarding American Values for Everyone), the non-profit organization created to fight the referendum and the predecessor of today's SAVE Dade. S.A.V.E. used the funding to function as a political action committee serving the LGBT community throughout Dade County.
For the second Winter Party, the Committee formed a new foundation so that proceeds could be given out as grants to non-AIDS-related LGBT organizations throughout Dade County. Thus, the Dade Human Rights Foundation (DHRF) was born and took over the production of Winter Party.
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