A gaytime atThe FruitBowl
By BREE PRICE
TROPICAL Fruits boss Brett Paradise has declared the Northern Rivers the gay and lesbian country capital of Australia.
Mr Paradise spoke of the booming pink dollar at the opening yesterday of The Tropical Fruit's new clubhouse, The Fruit Bowl, in South Lismore.
He said the gay and lesbian community had brought up to $8 million in tourist dollars into the region this year, and many straight businesses had benefited.
The Tropical Fruits hold seven dance parties a year that draw revellers from around the world, the most popular of these events being their New Year's Eve Dance Party, held at the Lismore Showground.
Events are also staged at the Italo Club in North Lismore, Coorabell Hall and at Repentance Creek.
Mr Paradise said the area was seen as an alternative to capital cities.
"The New Year's Eve party last year was the largest dance party in Australia," he said.
Mr Paradise also said many members of the gay and lesbian community were relocating to the Northern Rivers.
"People who are over the whole city thing are moving here and bringing skills and people to the region," he said.
"I chose to live in this area for organisations like The Tropical Fruits."
Co-ordinator of the opening, Erif Benham, said the centre was an important space for the region's gay and lesbian community to socialise in a positive environment.
"It's a drop-in centre, a home centre and a resource centre. This is a space for us to interrelate and support each other," Ms Benham said.
"It's about making a space that's safe, beautiful, productive and positive.
"This is a need of all people to be with their own kind. I have an en- dearing biological family, but I still need to be with my gay family for social interaction."
As well as providing a sanctuary, the clubhouse will offer yoga and art classes.