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SwingFest joins South Beach’s Swim Week fun

While Swim Week events invade Miami Beach this weekend, there is a sexier, more discreet party happening at the Catalina Hotel and Beach Club.

SwingFest 2012, a three-day event for pleasure-seeking couples, kicked off Friday afternoon on the rooftop pool of the Catalina Hotel. Barely clothed and nude couples lounged at the rooftop bar enjoying the opening-day events, which included a swimsuit fashion show and poolside shows.

Everyone wore color-coded wrist bands to signal other swingers of their swap preferences, a visual cue to help make connections easier.

For Catalina Hotel owner Nathan Lieberman, events like SwingFest 2012 are normal and welcomed. He sees the event as a natural fit with the hotel.

“To me, the Catalina is a place were the guest can come to let loose and have a good time while being in a beautiful environment,” Lieberman said. “I’m all for it as long as everyone is safe and comfortable.”

While swinging culture is generally not practiced openly, there are an estimated 26 million people in the United States who choose the lifestyle. Many are cautious about sharing their lifestyle because they worry about the social stigma. For this reason, event organizers Arnold Soliman and Tiffany Johnson-Soliman started their company, Swingfest Events.

For the past two years, the couple have hosted Tropic Miamibeat on South Beach, and several other events around the country, for people to get away, learn about the swinging lifestyle and explore in a safe and discreet way.

“We want to be a convention, but education is the most important part,” Johnson-Soliman said. “People can go to the workshops, learn more about this lifestyle, explore and start new relationships.”

The safe environment is exactly what brought newly wedded couple Larry and Laura Brandt to Miami from Arlington, Texas, this weekend. The two were married two weeks ago, but have been together for two years. Still, they’re new to swinging lifestyle and have only tried it for a year. For them, SwingFest is an opportunity to meet other couples and talk about their lifestyle, something they can’t do openly in their hometown.

“We live in a conservative state and it’s kinda nice to be around other people who are more open- minded,” said Larry Brandt, who is a 38-year-old IT specialist. “We’re not very open about this at home because people wouldn’t understand.”

For the couple, practicing this lifestyle is a way for them to be open and honest with each other about who they are.

“I can pretend that he doesn’t look at other women and I can pretend that I don’t look at other men,” said Laura Brandt, a 33-year-old social worker. “Or you can be open and straight up about it and explore together.”

“Anytime you do something together as a couple it strengthens the relationship,” Larry Brandt added.