Whoossh Night a flaming success 

An important role in fostering community

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Organizers hoping for 30 participants at a first-run gay and lesbian fundraiser were ecstatic with the 80 people that showed up at the Southside Diner last week.

“It was sold out and absolutely packed,” said Peter Diniz, one of the organizers of the evening, which featured martinis, jazz and a female impersonator at the Creekside restaurant.

The fundraiser generated $650 for Youthquest, a Vancouver-based gay help line, from the $7 a head cover charge.

Diniz says the social event was a natural progression from an informal Whistler ski mix that stays connected through the website skiout.com that wanted to meet socially for dinners and entertainment. But there not being a gay and lesbian bar in the valley, Skiout organizers approached Southside Diner to host regular planned social events that could double as fundraisers.

Dean Nelson says the crowd was a distinct change from the usual five-10 who get together to ski. “It was a diverse crowd, professionals, snowboarders, young people, old people — it was great to see.”

Diniz says the events play an important role in fostering community amongst gays and lesbians who often feel marginalized.

“It’s a place to go and hang out with your peers, and not feel that if you want to put your arm around someone you’ll be pointed at,” Diniz said. “Not that that happens in Whistler but it does elsewhere,” he added.

Nelson agrees. “It’s a safe place to socialize and be able to be yourself, without having to look over your shoulder to see if you’re offending anyone.”

Gays and lesbians from 19 to 50 attended and Diniz says there was an even split of men and women. He says there is a conscious effort on Skiout’s part to include women, who are usually underwhelming in numbers at Whistler gay and lesbian events.

“That’s one thing I don’t like about Vancouver — is that gay and lesbian events are separate. Why should we segregate within our own group?”

The next Whoossh Night is planned for Jan. 14, 2006, again at the Southside Diner. It will be a fundraiser for Lovin’ Spoonful, a support group that provides hot meals to shut-in AIDS victims. Entertainment is still to be decided.

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