Leah McCracken, right, of Cranberry, and daughter Kimberly, center, overload daughter Ariel with prom gown choices at last year's Run for the Gowns sale.
By Karen Kane Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
This year's Run for the Gowns in Cranberry will have more than double the number of dresses, two fewer shopping days, but the same fire-sale prices that enticed nearly 400 shoppers from throughout the region last year.
It will be the second year for the event that raises money for charity by matching bargain-hunters with brand-new formalwear at a fraction of the original sale prices.
"It worked out so well last year that we decided to do it again this year," said Gretchen Moran, of the Cranberry Township Community Chest, a nonprofit that supports other charitable organizations within the community.
The first day of the three-day sale will be noon to 4 p.m. Jan. 31 in the Cranberry Municipal Center on Rochester Road.
The nonprofit raised about $4,000 with the sale last year that began as something of a fluke. A formalwear shopkeeper, who wished to remain anonymous, was changing locations and didn't want to move his inventory, so he gave it to the civic group.
No such donation was made this time around. The bargains for customers this year will be the fruits of many hours of shopping, begging and negotiating, Ms. Moran said. "There's been a lot of wheeling and dealing going on," she said.
Volunteers shopped on eBay and cajoled dressmakers and shopkeepers from far and wide to come up with more than 225 gowns in a variety of colors, styles and sizes. Each will sell for $50 the first day, although the original price tags for the never-been-worn items range from $199 to $750, including designer labels.
The price of gowns that are unsold on the first day will be reduced to $30 each for the next day's sale, which will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 1. The day after, prices will drop to $10 for the sale from 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 2.
Even though the agency had to spend some money to build the inventory for this year's sale, it expects to turn a profit that could exceed last year's because of an increase in the number of dresses for sale. Last year, about 110 dresses and gowns were available.
All money made will be returned to the community through allocations to civic groups. Among those granted money in 2009 by the agency included the Victims Outreach Intervention Center, which operates a shelter for victims of domestic violence; the Gleaners food bank; the American Heart Association; the Friends of the Library; Habitat for Humanity; Junior Achievement; the Miracle League; and others.
Ms. Moran said the Run for the Gowns was more than an effort to raise money for nonprofits, though. It's also a way to link girls and women with beautiful dresses that they may not otherwise be able to afford.
"We heard last year that there were some girls who wouldn't have been able to go to the prom" if they hadn't been able to get their dress for such a good price at the sale, she said.
Indeed, many of the 400 or so people who turned out for last year's event said in interviews that they were hamstrung by a difficult economy and that formalwear was not in their budget.
"I think there's a real need for this," Ms. Moran said.
And then there's the fun factor, she added; "Who doesn't like a bargain?"
Although it is dubbed the "Run for the Gowns," the crowd that turned out last year was controlled and orderly. Shoppers were given numbers and escorted by groups into the sale area -- a space usually used as the senior/teen center.
The number of shopping days has been reduced because of the difficulty in occupying the senior/teen center for a longer time. "We had to keep moving the dresses around last year [to keep them out of the way of other activities]," Ms. Moran said.
Leave checks, credit and debit cards at home; only cash will be accepted.