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Back to Higbee's for the holidays
Cleveland--A new event brought the holidays back to the Higbee’s building on Public Square on December 14, while also sparking a new winter tradition.
Winter Wonderland, organized by the Cleveland LGBT Center, brought together a dozen community organizations, all of whom signed on as hosts for the party, selling tickets and spurring attendance.
Their efforts were not in vain, as almost 200 people attended the inaugural event held in the Silver Grille, the department store’s historic restaurant, now owned by the nearby Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Higbee’s flagship store, featured in the film A Christmas Story, closed in 2002 after ten years as a Dillard’s.
After riding to the tenth floor in elevators that still list the departments on each level, guests checked in and saw the Grille’s Art Deco splendor arrayed before them, complete with a fountain in the center of the room.
Two buffets provided fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats and other comestibles on either side of the fountain, while behind it was a dance floor, filled by the sounds coming from the system of DJ Freeze.
While the requested attire was “semi-casual,” confusion over the term meant that patrons’ clothing ran the gamut from suits and relatively formal dresses to jeans and polo shirts. Regardless of the garb, everyone seemed pleased with the results of the evening.
“I was really happy with the turnout and to see all these different LGBT organizations get together to celebrate the holidays as one community,” said Cleveland LGBT Center executive director Sue Doerfer. “I think people appreciated that it was a party just to have a party, no special purpose, no speeches or anything, just a celebration.”
“I think people appreciated that and had a good time,” she concluded.
There were two tiers to “hosting” the event. At the “star host” level, North Coast Athletics Volleyball donated $500, as did Todd Saporito, W. Douglas Anderson and Brian P. Tavolier, all of whom are on the board of the volleyball league and co-own Triad Event Management.
At the basic host level, organizations donated $100. Those groups included Female to Male International of Ohio, TransFamily, PuNané, Plexus, People of All Colors Together Cleveland, the Human Rights Campaign Cleveland Steering Committee, Asians and Friends Cleveland, Cleveland Pride, the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, the LGBT Center and the Gay People’s Chronicle.
Regardless of the level, each host committed to selling ten tickets to the event. The host system allowed the center to put the party together without having to expend as many resources promoting the event as they normally do with their proprietary events, like the Summer Party, and also gave them a starting budget for it.
“Part of the goal of this event was to keep it as simple as possible,” Doerfer noted. “It was really a turnkey event for us.”
She said that the Cleveland LGBT Center was not interested in raising money with the event, just making sure everyone had a good time.
However, when the final tallies came in, so did the good news: the center had made money.
“We made about $1,000 on it,” she said, bringing a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that they should have more events where they are not trying to bring in cash, since Winter Wonderland did better than some other events.
“We would like to continue having it, making it an annual party,” Doerfer commented. “We’ll be looking at other venues as well, but we really liked the Silver Grille at the Ritz.”
She also anticipates using the event to highlight the talents of a variety of DJs and performers in the Cleveland LGBT community over the coming years.
For Doerfer, however, the important part was seeing the cooperation and fellowship of the myriad groups in the community, “really seeing the organizations coming together and having fun together.”