Charity Begins at Aqua Girl 2012
Since 1999, Aqua Girl has been one of South Florida's most prominent fundraising festivals for girls who like girls.
Where else can you spend an afternoon by the pool at the Surfcomber, and fund the fight against LGBT bullying? Or watch a drag king show at a nightclub, and provide scholarships to women? Or see the cast of The Real L Word, and support South Florida LBT organizations with grants?
That is some of what Aqua Girl 2012 has to offer. Produced by the Aqua Foundation for Women, a not-for-profit foundation, Aqua Girl is a women's festival with purpose.
Their web site asserts: "100% of the proceeds from Aqua Girl benefit Aqua Foundation for Women... whose primary mission is to serve as a funding catalyst for lesbian, bisexual and transgender wellness and equality in South Florida through grants, scholarships and initiatives."
The foundation awarded a grant to The Pride Center, so they can create an online directory of healthcare providers who address the concerns of LBT women. PFLAG in Fort Lauderdale and Safe Schools South Florida are also grant recipients.
Aqua Girl actually started as a one-night dance party called Sweet Charity, which supported the work of Gilda's Club and Cancer Link.
Founder and Co-Chair for Aqua Girl, Alison Burgos, recalled how it all came together: "my friend Susan Burdian and I recognized the lack of fundraising, and engagement in the LBT community. We reached out to community leaders, organizations, promoters and celebrities. We had an amazing event and knew we had something special - Aqua Girl was born."
Entering its 13th year, the festival expects 11,000 attendees.
It has become internationally renowned with "women coming from... Britain, Germany, Argentina, Canada, Australia," Burgos confirmed.
Although many visitors travel a great distance, Burgos also attested that last year "32 percent of attendees [were] from South Florida."
South Florida attendees in 2012 will welcome the reappearance of a local favorite: "Our first DJ was Tracy Young, who has done a lot of work with Madonna. We're very excited to have her back," Burgos said.
Tracy Young will appear at the Surfcomber with the Miami Heat Dancers-this is one of many dance-related events taking place by a hotel pool. They don't call it Aqua Girl for nothing.
Lest you think this festival is reserved for the young, lithe and bikini-clad, Burgos highlighted other options: "We want to be inclusive, so we have cultural events like the Women's Spotlight Film at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the Night of Comedy featuring Jessica Kirson, the Sip and Savor Wine & Cheese Reception, and Brunch Serenade, which features live music."
Be forewarned: some events are pricey. The film screening of Girl Trash: All Night Long is $30 ($25 for members of the Aqua Foundation for Women). And those are tickets purchased in advance. At the door, tickets cost $40. However, this includes entrance to an after-party at the Shore Club-so you get your money's worth. Plus it's for a good cause.
Yet Aqua Girl tries to stay accessible to as many women as possible. The Rachel Robinson exercise session is free. Dance parties such as Traffic Jam, the Splash Pool Party and Afterglow are $7-$17. The happy hours charge no cover.
"We offer a number of free and affordable events," Burgos said. "So that every woman will be able to enjoy a piece of Aqua Girl."
Whether you raise your glass to a girl in a bikini or have brunch with friends, Aqua Girl is a celebration of who we are. But it also shows the community's continued support for the ongoing work of organizations and individuals within the LBT community.
More of this kind of revelry is needed.
May 2-6, 2012, South Beach
For complete schedule of events, travel information, discounted multi-event passes or tickets:
visit AquaGirl.org or call 877-764-2782.
Before May 2, tickets can also be purchased at New Moon in Wilton Manors or the LGBT visitor center in Miami Beach (some restrictions apply).