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Rhinestone Cowboys

There's nothing like a good, old-fashioned hoedown. Country music blaring as the dance floor fills with men and women following a set of choreographed steps. Cowboy hats and boots as far as the eye can see. Guys with chiseled abs that peek through their unbuttoned, sleeveless flannel shirts, exposing oversized belt buckles glistening beneath the friscalating lights of an oversized disco ball. Women do-si-doing one another as rainbow-colored bandannas swing from their pockets. Then you realize this might not be your typical Achy Breaky Heart country get-together. But other than the fact that this weekend's Spring Break Hoedown is hosted by Southern Country South Florida, the area's oldest and largest organization dedicated to promoting country-Western dance in the gay and lesbian community, everything is straight... er... pure country.

The hoedown is the semiannual convention of the International Association of Gay/Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs, better-known by its ridiculously long abbreviation, IAGLCWDC. Fort Lauderdale is the ideal backdrop for the more than 300 dancers from around the world who will converge for the four-day event, especially considering that nearby Wilton Manors has recently been recognized as one of the nation's most bustling gay communities.

There are workshops available for dancers at every level to brush up on their skills with some of the best country dance instructors from around the world. For more advanced dancers, there are competitions for individuals and teams to contend for honors in two-step, waltz, swing, line dance, and more. There are also workshops and parties with proceeds benefiting the Comprehensive AIDS Program in Palm Beach County, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of South Florida, and Project Yes, a youth suicide prevention program. Similar events hosted by Southern Country South Florida have raised nearly $30,000 for charity.

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Paul A. Leone

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