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Group targets public nudity at gay film festival in Pasco County

A gay film festival planned for a campground resort north of Dade City has drawn the ire of a group that campaigns against pornography.

Sawmill's Gay International Film Festival is scheduled to start at 7 tonight and run through Sunday at Sawmill Camping Resort, a gated clothing-optional park for gays and lesbians off U.S. 98. The event will feature a concert by RuPaul.

"Sawmill is a private club on 100 secure acres behind a gate. Sawmill caters to the gay community and The Gay International Film Festival recognizes the best in Gay & Adult Cinema," according to a Web site and flier for the event.

The site also says clothing-optional parties will be featured through the weekend in addition to the film screenings — and that's what has gotten the attention of the Florida Family Association.

The festival Web site says: "The 4000-square-foot clothing optional garage area will house the soon to be world famous clothing optional "Hollywood Palace" play area Fantasy decorated representing a variety of Hollywood & Film themes."

"We're concerned about the massive amount of public nudity that's being advertised," said David Caton, executive director of the association. "This is an adult business and there are restrictions about the patrons being naked. They are going way beyond that."

Officials from the campground did not return several calls from the Pasco Times.

The Florida Family Association sent a mass e-mail Thursday urging people to complain to the Pasco County Commission and the Sheriff's Office about the film festival and parties planned at the campground this weekend.

"Will public officials actually allow this S & G event to occur as promoted without legal consequences?" the group's e-mail reads. "Should a campground which is surrounded by rural homesteads be allowed to become one huge adult business with porn films, live nude acts and patrons going naked? The super majority of counties and cities around the country prohibit patrons from being naked in adult businesses for obvious safety and health reasons."

Pasco sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said Thursday afternoon that deputies had not gotten any complaints about illegal activities at Sawmill.

"It's private property and I don't believe that kids are allowed there," Doll said. "We're not looking at anything in the realm of a criminal complaint here."

Kristi Wooden, an assistant county attorney, said a festival permit is required when more than 500 people are expected to gather outdoors for the primary purpose of listening to music and when camping overnight is permitted.

She said her office had sent a letter to Sawmill on Wednesday notifying organizers of the permit requirements.

The campground covers more than 80 acres and has about 30 cabins and 145 sites for tents and recreational vehicles. Security personnel patrol the park and staff the entrance, where a $10 annual membership is required for admittance.

Sawmill officials told the Times in 2006 that nearly 35,000 members had signed up since the campground opened in 1998. Over the years, the campground has raised thousands of dollars from bingo and drag queen shows and donated the money to various charities, such as Healthy Families Pasco, Pasco Kids First, Sunrise of Pasco County's domestic violence center, and the Association of Retarded Citizens of the Nature Coast.

Still, Caton said the campground is not licensed as an adult entertainment venue. His group, he says, has no issue with a gay film festival but that the clothing-optional events are "not an appropriate use of the property."

Group targets public nudity at gay film festival in Pasco County 03/27/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 3:02pm]
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