The LGBTQ community and its allies are set to converge on Miami Beach yet again.
It’s time for another Winter Party Festival, and this one is an especially big to-do. This year marks the 25th edition of the high-energy, multifaceted fiesta that, in years past, has attracted more than 10,000 attendees.
The 2018 edition will take place Wednesday, February 28, through Tuesday, March 6. In this milestone year for the event, organizers have planned a wide range of parties for people across the LGBTQ spectrum and their supporters.
“It’s one of the only festivals where you can truly be yourself,” says Stephen Seo, chair of Winter Party Festival 25. “If you want to wear a costume, if you want to get dressed up, if you want to wear a Speedo, just be yourself. The tag line of [the National LGBTQ Task Force] is ‘Be you.’ And, on that same note, the tag line for our event is ‘Live hard. Play hard. Give back.’ That’s what we want for everyone.”
The Task Force donates a good chunk of proceeds from Winter Party to LGBTQ advocacy and community groups throughout the region. During the past 13 years — since the Task Force has been producing the event — it has raised more than $2.7 million. Not too shabby for what four guys started as a beach dance party in 1994.
Among this year's roughly 15 or so events, several parties stand out as especially epic. Here are five you won’t want to miss. Tickets are available at winterparty.com.
1. VIP Cocktail Reception. Appreciating the past is just as important as partying in the present. The reception will honor eight former chairs of Winter Party Festival and offer attendees an explanation of exactly what Winter Party proceeds support. Of course, there will be delicious cocktails too. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at Nautilus South Beach, 1825 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $100.
2. Artscape. This platform solely displaying works by LGBTQ artists is pushing queer cultural representation to the forefront. To mark Winter Party's 25th anniversary, a collaborative work of art honoring Gilbert Baker’s rainbow flag will be unveiled. If the cocktails and small bites get you in the buying mood, proceeds from art sales benefit the Task Force as well. 7 p.m. Friday, March 2, at FIU Miami Beach Urban Studios, 420 Lincoln Rd., Suite 440, Miami Beach. Tickets cost $30 in advance.
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3. Masterbeat Toy Factory. This year, Winter Party Festival will rock the James L. Knight Center for two unique, club-tastic evenings. First up are Oscar Velazquez and Alex Acosta, house DJs hailing from Mexico, bringing the beats Saturday. 10 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at James L. Knight Center, 400 SE Second Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $95 to $130.
4. Beat the Heat Brunch. To sate South Floridians' hunger for brunch, Winter Party Festival now offers a brunch event for the very first time. DJ Jean Marc will spin tunes, and $30 bottomless mimosas will be available. Plus, Smart Mouth Cold Brew Coffee will be onsite for those who want to mix their booze with a caffeine buzz. 11 a.m. Sunday, March 4, at the Social Club, 1717 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Admission is free with registration at eventbrite.com.
5. The Beach Party. This is the event that started it all. And for the 25th birthday of Winter Party Fest, the Beach Party is back, bigger and better than ever. DJs Grind and Rosabel will provide the jams while you cruise through thousands of guys and gals on the sands of South Beach. It’s a spectacle. Noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, March 4, in Lummus Park, Ocean Drive at 12th Street, Miami Beach. Tickets cost $125 to $225.
Winter Party Festival. Wednesday, February 28, through Tuesday, March 6, at various venues throughout Miami and Miami Beach. Ticket prices range from $20 for individual events to $5,000 for VIP packages via winterparty.com.