During the summer of 1976, a restaurant in Fire Island Pines, New York, denied entry to a visitor in drag named Terry Warren. Fire Island Pines is a beach community on Fire Island east of New York City with a gay majority population that was at the time more affluent and conservative than the population of nearby Cherry Grove. When Warren's friends in Cherry Grove heard what had happened, they too dressed up in drag, and, on July 4, 1976, with Cherry Grove's 1976 Homecoming Queen Thom Hansen (aka Panzi) in the lead, sailed to the Pines by water taxi. The boatload of drag queens that stormed into the Pines that day—to a surprised but exuberant welcome—was the first "invasion," an event now repeated each year.
It all started in a small (by Fire Island Pines' standards) two-bedroom house in late July 1996, when Moskowitz and company decided to transform their regular house supper into a drag dinner. From its humble beginnings, the gender-bending gathering has turned into one of the biggest and most eagerly anticipated parties on Fire Island, with a cross-dressed crowd exceeding 500 guests annually all decked out to fit a theme unique to each year.
A Labor Day weekend tradition since 1998, the Fool's Paradise Drag Party is distinct in more manners than dress code. Unlike nearly all of the over-the-top parties held weekly in The Pines, with equally over-the-top admission price tags, all that is required at the gate for the Fool's fancy dress fete is drag - hopefully taken to some serious extremes.
As stated on the event's website (created in 2008 after the party grew to a point requiring one): "We proudly tell our guests that we don't charge admission; we only ask that you dress up - Drag is mandatory! The spirit of the party is rooted in our guests coming together and challenging their comfort zone in a safe, fun environment. It doesn't work if some people come in costume and others just come to stare at the people in costume."
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