The best parties of 2009

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1. The August Wilson Center for African American Culture Welcome and Tribute Ceremony

Close to 800 guests arrived in two waves for the opening of the sleek new center Downtown, marking an occasion that was as happy as it was historic. Constanza Romero Wilson, the playwright's widow, spoke on behalf of the family and served as honorary chair with Milt and Nancy Washington. From soul food to the Harlem Quartet, the evening was a celebration of African-American culture.

2. The Mattress Factory's 2009 Urban Garden Party

Imagine arriving at a party where the Rolling Stones are playing live. Better yet, imagine what it's like to be a Rolling Stone. Chairs Cindy and Rich Engler planned a bash based on their years of experience in the world of rock 'n' roll, giving more than 1,100 guests an All Access pass to party. This annual event is famous for being as colorful and enlightened as the installation art museum it supports.

3. Creating a Scene: The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust 25th Anniversary Gala.

Guests were treated to a peek at "rehearsals" as they enjoyed drinks behind the curtain, then took their seats in the Benedum for an original musical production headlined by Broadway star Kelli O'Hara. The evening honored many of the founders and benefactors who have shaped the Cultural District as it raised $610,000.

4. The Hillman Cancer Center Gala

Pittsburgh's favorite native son, Michael Keaton, served as emcee for the gala at the new Monroeville Convention Center, introducing Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth and other entertainment during a very cool dinner for 650 prepared by UPMC executive chef Brad Kelly. By evening's end, an impressive $3.6 million had been raised for cancer research, prevention and patient care.

5. Pittsburgh Opera Maecenas XXV

The return of Pittsburgh Opera's former director Tito Capobianco, a performance by Renaissance Award-winning mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti and a standing ovation for Nadine Bognar, who received the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award, made the elegant silver anniversary affair at the Benedum a night to remember.

6. Attack Theatre's Dirty Ball

Nearly 600 fished out the fishnets for the fourth annual ball to benefit Attack Theatre. A who's who of local high creatives, cutting-edge entertainment and a dimly lit den of non-iniquity at the 51st Street Business and Technology Center in Lawrenceville combined for a generally titillating time.

7. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Pointe in Time Ball

PBT gave its annual gala a decidedly modern twist, moving it to the Pittsburgh Hilton and into a ballroom decorated to look like a giant Tiffany box. Lighted bars open all night, an after-party for the younger crowd and stellar dancing by both corps members and guests to Gary Racan and the studio-e Band helped raise a grand total of $300,000 by evening's end.

8. Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium Summer Safari

The sun set over a migration of 2,500 guests who trekked through the zoo, stopping to enjoy foods from nearly 40 restaurants and beverage sponsors along the way. From the Village, where The Steelpan Combination Band set the mood, to the Party Tent, it was a hot night of rhythm and revelry that generated $150,000.

9. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Enchanted Evening Gala

More than 525 guests flocked to Heinz Hall for the orchestra's season-opening concert and annual gala, a two-tiered event that included an after-concert soiree at Bossa Nova. Guests were treated to a special performance by violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, who joined music director Manfred Honeck onstage for several standing ovations. An after-concert dinner followed in various dining spaces in the hall, but the high note was the $560,000 the benefit grossed.

10. The Imani Gala

Glen and Diane Meakem served an elegant dinner created by Bob Sendall to 420 guests in their Sewickley home, helping to raise $500,000 for Imani Christian Academy and its 267 students. But the most moving part of the evening came from the videos of those whose lives were transformed by education. The evening offered a heartwarming, uplifting look at what faith, hope and especially charity can accomplish.


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