In the Buff

Most Northerners would give anything right now for just five minutes of our warm, balmy, non-ice-laden weather. Yet many of us still complain when the temperature drops below 72 degrees. Rather than bitch about the two days a year that require more than a tank top and sandals, we should be taking advantage of our geographical good fortune. And if you attend this year's "Midwinter Naturist Festival" at Sunsport Gardens Family Nudist Resort (14125 North Rd., Loxahatchee), you can spend five days being the envy of your homebound friends up north.

Since 1965, Sunsport Gardens has been located on about 40 acres in the heart of Loxahatchee Groves -- one of the few remaining parts of rural Palm Beach County unfettered by the specter of encroaching development. For sports, there are volleyball, tennis, and petanque (French bocce) courts, as well as ponds for boating and fishing. For dining, there's a vegetarian-friendly restaurant. And for general recreation, there are campgrounds, a jungle nature trail, and a swimming pool.

All of this makes Sunsport Gardens the perfect location for a naturist festival, especially considering the 172 activities planned for the event. Where else can one dance to live music, relax nude in a heated spa, and see a dermatologist, all in the same day? It may sound like a wide range of disconnected activities, but it's all related, says Sunsport Gardens owner and festival organizer Morley Schloss.

"It's an eclectic mix of things, but it's all in the same direction," Schloss says. "I don't know if 'new age' is the right term, but everything has to do with healing and freedom. A lot of the workshops, whether energy work or political forums, are tied into the feeling of natural freedom that goes with that."

The festival includes entertainment, natural healing and energy workshops (Oriental medicine, acupuncture, massage), personal growth workshops (stress management, Wicca, hypnosis), arts (body-painting, photography, writing), relationship activities and a singles meet, and children's activities, such as making paper airplanes.

But wait, there's more. "One of the more interesting events is the pudding toss," Schloss says. "Participants take 14 restaurant-sized cans of chocolate and vanilla pudding, gather in a designated area, and shoot pudding at each other." Can you think of a more romantic V-Day activity? Schloss adds that on Friday, festivalgoers take part in a nude play on the beach at Singer Island, noting that the group obtained a court injunction for its performance (which would have helped the short-lived nude peace sign they formed last year in opposition to the war).

Oh, and if you're the modest type who would prefer to keep it covered, don't fret -- clothes are prohibited only in the swimming pool, sauna, and spa. "People don't have to be nude to come here," Schloss says. "It's a chance for people to try new things and grow in a caring, loving, and supportive environment."

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Jason Budjinski