Two rival parties will compete for the tourist dollar this New Year’s Eve in Lismore, and tensions between the organising groups are running high.

On one side of the Wilsons River: the Tropical Fruits dance party, Rainbow Circus 2002 -“ The Return. On the other side: the Tribal Fruits dance party, Platoon. Both parties (which will be about 500 metres apart) are aimed at gay and lesbian partygoers.

The Tropical Fruits social club organised New Year’s Eve dance parties in Lismore for many years but did not organise a party last year, so a new group stepped in and hastily set up a party called Tribal Fruits. This year, Tropical Fruits want back in, but Tribal Fruits is staying put.

Tropical Fruits chair Erif Benham said the Tribal Fruits organisers were entrepreneur businessmen.

The money’s going into their pocket, she said. They haven’t got the punters in mind, they’ve got their profits in mind.

Money raised from the Tropical Fruits party, Benham said, would go back to the community.

But Tribal Fruits organiser Craig Truslove rejected these assertions, saying that a range of local charities would benefit from the Tribal Fruits party by operating the car park, the cloak room and other components of the party. Truslove said Tribal Fruits approached Tropical Fruits several months ago with an offer to be one of these benefiting charities, but the offer was rejected.

It seems a bit silly them [Tropical Fruits] risking a certain amount of money to go up against another party, when they could have been part of this one and walked away with money in their pocket and no risk, Truslove said.

Attendances at the Lismore New Year’s Eve parties have hovered around the 2,000-2,500 mark over the past few years. It’s not known what effect the two parties will have on overall tourist numbers.

Benham said Tropical Fruits were anticipating a smaller crowd of 1,000; Truslove said he thinks competition won’t make a huge difference to Tribal Fruits.

We’re selling tickets in Melbourne, and Tropical Fruits, as far as I’m aware, aren’t advertising in Mel-bourne, Truslove said. Fifty-five percent of the people who attended last year were from Melbourne and Sydney.

Andrew Lovett from the Lismore City Council economic development unit said the gay and lesbian dance party on New Year’s Eve was of enormous economic value to Lismore, although the Council took a neutral position regarding the two parties.

A Southern Cross University study of the Tropical Fruits party in 2000 showed that tourists spent an average of $790 during their stay in Lismore, which added up to a combined economic impact of just under $1.6 million.

The party is incredibly important, Lovett said. Lismore is off the coast, so New Year’s Eve is generally a quiet time for us, but the party fills accommodation in town for up to two weeks.

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