Versailles on the Miami
Masks are the thing at this AIDS fundraiser
Dayton--The debauchery of pre-revolutionary France was on display on October 21 as AIDS Resource Center Ohio took over the Roundhouse at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds for their fifth annual Masquerage benefit.
Marie Antoinettes, Madames de Pompadour and Cardinals Richelieu were in abundant attendance among the 700 revelers, equaling last year�s figures.
The event raised seven percent more for ARC Ohio�s programs than in 2005.
�It was a great event, and it�s going to be even greater next year,� said executive director Bill Hardy, who in his gold shirt and mask brought to mind Louis XIV of France, known as the Sun King.
Admission to the party came at two levels, regular and Red Ribbon, which entitled ticketholders to partake of the pleasures of the Red Ribbon Lounge. Guests in the Lounge left with a tote bag emblazoned with the Masquerage fleur-de-lis, packed with gifts and coupons including a cocktail shaker, a mini-martini glass with a coupon for a free drink at Therapy Caf�, and cosmetics from MAC, well-known for their support of AIDS prevention, services and research.
Each Red Ribbon Lounge guest also had a chance to win a $5,000 diamond from the Elizabeth Diamond Company. Many cubic zirconia were given out that night, but by press time there was no word on who had the genuine item.
About 45 percent of patrons opted for the higher-priced Red Ribbon Lounge tickets at $140, instead of the $50 general admission tickets.
Sumptuous feasts lay on grazing stations throughout the building, and patrons seemed to be quite sensible in their trips to the Stoli vodka martini bars and the full cash bars provided by Budweiser. Beverage sales from both were donated, accounting for $9,000 of the $110,000 raised by Masquerage.
Two silent auctions, one of gift baskets and one of fine art, brought in about $10,000. The baskets included items ranging from bottles of wine to Air Tran airfare vouchers, and the fine art presented a dazzling array of works, from decorated masks to photographic montages.
Of course, there was dancing too. DJ Patrick played songs for the revelers, while the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, EventCo, SMAG Dance Collective and the iconic Rubi Girls took their turns onstage, enthralling the throngs in attendance.
Upstairs in the Red Ribbon Lounge, the band Sleepybird performed in a more intimate setting, with scattered islands of couches and armchairs providing a comfortable place to rest before returning to the gala.
Associate executive director Nora Vondrell believes the most important aspect of the evening is the good work that it enables.
�Even though it�s a fun party, I don�t think we lost sight of the fact that we were raising money for AIDS,� she said.
The crowd was mixed to an almost unheard-of degree. Vondrell said that, according to post-event questionnaires sent out in earlier years, the average age of attendees was 45, but she believes that it will drop slightly this year.
�I think we�re going to see our median age come down a little bit, which is nice since the disease is affecting more young people,� she noted.
�We literally had people from 18 to 80, white, black, straight, gay--we had them all,� she enthused. �We drew people from Toledo, New York City, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati.�
While some sponsors from previous years declined to come back for this installment, believing it to be too �edgy,� Vondrell noted that most of them expressed their desire to continue to help ARC Ohio, just with some �safer� events.
�It�s not an AIDS walk where everyone is walking hand-in-hand and singing �Kumbaya,� � she laughed.
Despite the shyness of some of the previous supporters, the event still brought in $58,000 in corporate sponsorships.
�The Levin Family Foundation, Lexus of Dayton, MAC, they�re all very good to us,� she said, naming a few of the dozens of corporate supporters.