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May 15, 2021

Jubilee fit for a queen – or 300

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Chris Dobney

Maude-Erif-AnnMarieCalihanna-wpTomorrow night the northern rivers’ gay and lesbian community group Tropical Fruits celebrates its 25th anniversary in style – with a suitably royal bash at the Lismore showgrounds.

‘Expect crowns, tiaras and tits,’ event organiser Michael Gates (aka Maude Boate) told Echonetdaily ahead of the annual Queens Birthday Ball.

‘The silver jubilee masquerade will also feature lots of masks, lasers and smoke machines – plus DJ Les Smith (also celebrating his 25 anniversary with Tropical Fruits) and local DJ Lady K.’

Normas @ Showgrounds is a new venue for Fruits parties but one the crew is confident the community will enjoy.

‘Located underneath the grandstand, it’s an intimate venue with a sprung dance floor, and a smoking area and fire out the back. There’s also an informal party area on the grandstand itself,’ says Michael.

And to think that Tropical Fruits began as a series of gay and lesbian house parties in 1989, with the Queens Birthday Ball being its first.

The parties quickly moved into local venues such as Repentance Creek Hall, finally spilling over into the showgrounds for the first time at its 2003 New Years Eve Party.

Another ten years on, income from the big event has allowed the Fruits to embark on some important projects.

Under the benign reign of Queen (er, president) Erif, the organisation set up and ultimately purchased a centre, the Fruit Bowl, and extended its support for young people through the youth-run Fresh Fruits.

Erif, who is fondly remembered by members from the era, passed away in 2009 having given tremendous service to the community.

While the LGBTI community doesn’t normally need a reason to frock up and celebrate, they certainly have a big one tomorrow night.


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  1. It’s not often The Echo gets it wrong, but …

    “Tropical Fruits began as a series of gay and lesbian house parties in 1989” — wrong, wrong, wrong!

    1. It didn’t start with house parties; it started with a meeting following a call made on the 2NCR-FM GayWaves radio show.

    2. It didn’t start in 1989; it was started in May 1988, initially called, for want of inspiration, Summerland Gay Group, after a previous, but by then defunct, organisation. The name The Tropical Fruits was adopted in June 1988 just prior to the Breakout Ball; formal incorporation (adding the “Inc” to the name) occurred in late 89 or early 90.

    3. Its first event wasn’t the “Queens Birthday Ball”; the Fruits’ first social event was a dance party, the Breakout Ball, held at Broken Head Hall on 11 June 1988.

    Yes, we had plenty of house parties, but those came after the Breakout Ball. There were also house parties prior to the formation of The Tropical Fruits, but these were under the auspices of private individuals and two earlier local groups (somewhat short lived): Northern Rivers Gay People and Summerland Gay Group. There were also parties hosted by the gay-owned vegan restaurant Double Dutch in South Lismore.

    Perhaps one should consult one or more of the founding Fruits for historical fact, not the Johnnies- and Jennies-come-lately.

    Echo, you’ve published wrong information from a non-original source. That’s below standard. Tut tut.


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