Sprout Fund holds benefit at Bakery Square

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If people make the party, 3,000 of them make for one awesome bash. That's especially true if they're young, hip, well-dressed and engaged in making this community a more interesting place. That's the mission of The Sprout Fund, which provides seed money for small-scale community programs, businesses, public art and other projects that contribute to the vibrancy of the Pittsburgh region.

On Saturday, the seventh annual Hothouse 2009 was held at the new Bakery Square, the mixed-use, LEED-certified office and retail development under construction on Penn Avenue in East Liberty. It was yet another cool find for Hothouse, which migrates each year to assorted large venues. Taking advantage of both the outside public spaces and the cavernous sixth floor of the office complex was a continual flow of people. Of course, people-watching was half the fun.

Thommy Conroy, the super creative "event architect," devised the carnival-inspired decor in all white for a stunning effect. Samuel McUmber, in white tails, played the piano on a raised stage during the VIP reception that preceded the main party. The walls were lined with silent auction items and artworks for purchase, and big Catering provided the eclectic fare, which included truly fab pierogies and spicy hoagies. At 9 p.m., the doors opened to the crowds, and a host of other restaurants and food purveyors stepped up to bat with Moroccan tacos, brisket barbecue, lobster salad and terrific chocolate chip cookies from East End Food Co-op.

The drink situation was not as rosy -- lines were 20 deep and more at the bars that simply couldn't handle the numbers. That caused some serious grumbling, as did the ineffective valet system. Both deserve, and will certainly receive, major attention next year. Fortunately, the entertainment was nonstop phenomenal both inside and out on a massive stage. DJs, Zombi, Harlan Twins, Humanaut, Noetik5000, Edgar Um Bucholtz and Variety! Variety! Variety! joined Flamenco Pittsburgh, Accordion Pool Party Orchestra and other performers for a lively showcase of local talent. Information about Seed Award winners was on display, with things such as honey tasting at the Burgh Bees booth.

Who was there? Everybody, but especially Sprout Fund executive director Cathy Lewis Long and husband Rob Long, who donated the lighting, along with staff Matt Hannigan, Tim Blevins, Ryan Coon, Curt Gettman, Jocelyn Horner and Mac Howison. Also there were Walnut Capital partners Gregg Perelman (with Susie) and Todd Reidbord (the developers of Bakery Square), Damian Soffer, Big Burrito's Tom and Amy Barron, Dr. Ken Thompson and Dr. Andrea Fox, Marty and Ann Davis, Scott Izzo and Terri Wolfe, Steve and Susan Zelicoff, Mardi and Bill Isler, Drs. Todd and Helene Blodgett, Caryn Rubinoff, Gavin Dick and Emma Tedeschi, Rob Brandegee and Ava DeMarco, Heather Abrahams, Susan Mauro, Carole Horwitz and more.


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