Gather 2,000 of the city's youngest, hippest and most creative types together on a summer night in Bloomfield and the result was a party of legendary proportions. In eight years the benefit has grown from a little sprout into a beanstalk of a bash. In that way it mirrors the Sprout Fund, which gives seed money to smaller community projects and public art. Annexing the former Don Allen dealership car lots created the perfect venue for a county fair/carnival-themed evening with a midway, vaudeville stage, cabaret acts, DJs and games such as the Ring Toss of Death.
2. The Dirty Ball to benefit Attack Theatre
Exotic, erotic, terrifically quixotic, the zebra velour-covered bar and red velvet walls lit by little more than grinning guests kept VIPs secluded for the Dirty Donor Reception during Attack Theatre's fifth annual Dirty Ball. The evening at the former Sports Rock Cafe in the Strip celebrated the 15th anniversary of the dance company founded by Michele de la Reza and Peter Kope and featured 15 dancers and 15 performances. Once general admission began, the first and second floors quickly filled with more than 1,000 guests. Two major dance floors, the Dirty Secrets Booth and phones for "anonymous" chats occupied guests.
3. The 1960 Victory Gala to benefit Pirates Charities and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
It was the first time in center field for most of the 400 guests who attended the black-tie gala at PNC Park. But the 11 members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 1960 World Champion team who were introduced felt right at home, especially after newly found footage of the final World Series game in Forbes Field was shown. The benefit for Pirates Charities and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy raised $231,000 and hopes that someday the Pirates would triumph again. "I'm reminded of my responsibility to relight that fire, and I'll do everything I can to restore that opportunity," promised Pirates chairman Bob Nutting.
4. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Arts Gala-ree!
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust took an evening to reflect on all it has created during "Arts Gala-ree," a celebration of the diverse programming that fuels the Cultural District. The benefit began on Seventh Street, where a mini Three Rivers Arts Festival in front of the Benedum Center greeted the 400 guests. Inside, Sean Jones and friends played jazz during cocktails onstage before the crowd migrated to dining spaces constructed in the Benedum, Theater Square and the Trust Arts Education Center. The Duquesne Club catered a splendid supper, which was followed by dancing to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (in from L.A.) back onstage. The evening raised $400,000.
5. Maecenas Unmasked XXVI to benefit the Pittsburgh Opera
The fearsome Valkyries made a spectacular entrance, rising up in a cloud of smoke from the scissors lift in the floor to lead guests from cocktails into dinner. Maecenas Unmasked XXVI was an unmistakable success at the Pittsburgh Opera's new home in the Strip District, and with 370 guests it was the best attended and highest grossing since 2005. If it were a performance, an encore would have been demanded, and in a way the Unmasked@Knight, which began at 10 p.m. for the new generation of opera fans, was just that. Youth poured in like a shot in the arm to keep the party going into the wee hours.
6. Rivers Casino Grand Opening to benefit the Mario Lemieux Foundation
Frank Sinatra crooned "Luck be a Lady," but luck was a Lemieux during the Rivers Casino grand opening. More than 2,500 guests showed up to christen the gaming tables and chip in for charity, filling the 86 table games to capacity. Still, Mario and Nathalie Lemieux drew a crowd of onlookers as they placed their bets at a blackjack table in the High Limit room. The high limit for all games during the benefit was just $5, encouraging guests to take a gamble. The house take went to the Mario Lemieux Foundation, which has raised more than $10 million since its inception in 1993 and gained a cool $30,000 during the opening.
7. Consol Energy Center VIP Opening
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Consol Energy Center hosted the party as more than 700 invitation-only VIPs streamed into the $321 million venue for the grand-opening reception. Greeted with a glass of champagne, soaring walls of windows and that new-arena aroma, they rode the escalators, christened the Lexus Club and enjoyed self-guided tours to all levels. The evening's only slip up was when Gov. Ed Rendell took a tumble on the ice while heading out to the podium. He made a quick good-humored recovery before everyone scattered to the food stations and bars set up throughout the second level of the glorious new facility.
8. Carnegie Museum of Art Women's Committee Art in Bloom Preview Gala
A French-themed "April in Paris" preview gala opened the three-day "Art in Bloom" exhibition that paired some of the museum's most memorable paintings with floral arrangements. Lampposts, a flower cart with cut blooms and a projection of the Eiffel Tower turned the Scaife foyer into a Parisian street scene while mime Howard Mincon, chanteuse Vida Malcanas, violinist Steven Vance and plein-air painter Thommy Conroy peopled it with "characters." Paris 66 and La Gourmandine provided the French fare that supplemented Parkhurst Dining's menu at food stations throughout the Hall of Sculpture, encouraging the 450 guests to sample as they strolled. Coming out of hibernation after the winter, it truly felt like spring.
9. The Jewish Community Center's Big Night
Searchlights and a red carpet said this was going to be big! Nine hundred guests were welcomed with champagne and specialty drinks as they arrived for "Party With the Presidents" at the JCC's Irene Kaufmann Building. It was the biggest of the Jewish Community Center's annual Big Night benefits. A roving appetizer table carried by four people (think Cleopatra) was just an amusing footnote to an evening filled with convivial socializing and entertainment. Guests mingled among auction tables before two performances by the Capitol Steps, dinner and dancing in the gym. The party had all the energy and excitement of a good old-fashioned high school dance. The party did have another purpose, which was to pay tribute to 13 of the JCC past presidents.
10. Fairmont Pittsburgh Hotel Grand Opening
Pittsburgh's newest hotel officially opened its doors with a black-tie gala attended by more than 400 of the city's movers and shakers. It was a first glimpse for many of the elegant Fairmont Pittsburgh and Three PNC Plaza, in which it is housed. The hotel went all out to impress, with a sumptuous buffet and an open bar of top-shelf libations. On hand to welcome the guests were Tom Storey, president of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Fairmont Pittsburgh general manager Leonard Czarnecki and PNC chairman and CEO Jim Rohr. While aerialists from Cirque Productions climbed up to the ballroom ceiling and the Roger Humphries Big Band alternated with Joe Negri, a silent auction raised $11,000 for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.
1. Epilepsy Foundation Western/Central Pennsylvania 16th annual Mardi Gras Gala
More than 800 guests paraded behind a Dixieland band into the ballroom, which was decorated to the hilt with balloons and Bourbon Street goodies, including feathered masks and fancy beads. But the best part was a new addition -- empty boxes that could be filled at the candy buffet -- courtesy of Bayer Corp. and its CEO, Mardi Gras King Greg Babe. Total take: $350,000.
2. "On With the Show: A Gala Celebrating 10 Years of Pappas at the Public."
"It flew by. I was in rehearsal the entire time," said an astonished Ted Pappas of his dynamic decade as producing artistic director of Pittsburgh Public Theater. The benefit sold out and filled the Fairmont Pittsburgh ballroom with 450 guests eager to pay tribute -- to the tune of $400,000!
3. The Mattress Factory Urban Garden Party
"Summer in the City" attracted a sold-out crowd of 1,200 very cool guests on a hot night. Skateboarders were the first in a lineup of urban-themed entertainment that included Pittsburgh Heat Hip Hop Dance Company and MTV's America's Best Dance Crew Jungle Boogie. But the highlight was, as always, the fabulous socializing.
4. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Bella Notte
Thunderous applause and standing ovations for soprano Renee Fleming and music director Manfred Honeck were at the center of the sold-out Bella Notte Gala in Heinz Hall. More than 450 patrons mingled under chandelier-adorned tents in the plaza. The two-tiered event began with cocktails before the concert and ended in Heinz Hall with a dinner catered by the Duquesne Club.
5. "Celebrate! A Future Without Cancer"
More than 750 guests gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute at the Monroeville Convention Center. A wonderful dinner prepared by the UPMC kitchens and a performance by the legendary Gladys Knight helped to raise an impressive $4 million for research through UPMC's Hillman Cancer Center.