New Fruit

Cherry makes ''a fresh start'' with new events and new beneficiaries

When Cherry co-chair mentions the goal of ”a fresh start” for Washington’s long-time gay party, he’s speaking specifically of his work to bring ”some new DJs to our city that a lot of people aren’t familiar with, but that those in the know just seem to gather toward.”

But he could easily be referring to the guiding philosophy for this year’s entire Cherry event.

For example, Cherry is taking a fresh approach to attract more youth and women. Most parties this year are open to anyone 18 and older, and new partners are putting on a full lineup of women’s parties, including a welcome party Friday night at Adams Morgan’s Tom Tom Club and a closing party Sunday night at U Street’s PUR (formerly Bar Nun).

Cherry is also concentrating its focus this year to one cause.

”HIV infection rates in D.C. continue to be among the highest in the U.S., so we decided to take a bit stronger stance on HIV/AIDS,” says Cherry Fund Chair Paul Marengo, noting that most of this year’s beneficiaries work to help tackle the epidemic that still shows no sign of decline. At all of its parties, Cherry will be distributing condoms and stressing the importance of safer-sex practices and HIV testing.

The 2008 beneficiaries are focused strongly on HIV/AIDS: Advocates for Youth, Metro TeenAIDS, National Youth Advocacy Coalition, Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry, Pediatric HIV/AIDS Care and the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League. Although the amount of money raised by the Cherry Fund events has varied from year to year, over the past decade it reports having raised $877,000 for charity.

Marengo is optimistic that the organization will be able to give back a sizable amount after this year’s event. Most of the venues are offering their space for free or at a reduced rate. And many of the parties are being thrown in conjunction with already established parties or party promoters, including Apex Thursday and Friday, the women’s party Lure at RnR Bar & Lounge Saturday and Pasha on Sunday.

”I’m just looking forward to making sure all our events make money, so we can give back as much as possible,” says Marengo.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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