1. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's "Happy Birthday Benedum"
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust celebrated the 25th anniversary of Benedum Center with a fabulous gala on two sites. The evening began with cocktails in a large tent across the street, with giant pyrotechnic candles above the marquee announcing it was time for dinner onstage. The Duquesne Club served espresso-rubbed filets they grilled outside the building, with birthday cake for dessert. Megan Hilty, star of NBC's "Smash" and a CMU grad, entertained and chairs Rich and Scheryl Harshman and trust president Kevin McMahon joined the nearly 500 A-list guests in applauding the evening's special honorees, Alice Jane Jenkins and her family. The late Paul Jenkins was a founding trustee and former head of the Benedum Foundation. Guests went back to the tent for more dessert, drinks and a chance to mingle with Ms. Hilty, helping to raise $575,000 by evening's end.
2."Raising Pittsburgh's Promise"
A perfect summer evening lasted almost until dawn, with waves of revelers gathering at Stage AE for the multitiered "Raising Pittsburgh's Promise." The event celebrated the four-year anniversary of the scholarship program that promises to provide up to $40,000 for higher education to qualifying Pittsburgh public school students. In a night of speeches (including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Linda Lane and board chair Franco Harris) the most anticipated came from Sasha Heinz. She arrived with her husband, Chris Heinz, and the stylish young couple added a note of glamour to the night, which began with cocktails in an adjoining tent and continued with dinner. When the evening ended for most, some elected to stay on for the concert featuring Ashanti, G Love and Special Sauce and a Dance-a-Thon chaired by Mike and Kiya Tomlin. The second half attracted another 500 guests and went on until 4 a.m. On a school night!
3. Riverlife's Party at the Pier
Everything that Riverlife works so hard to achieve was on display when 670 guests gathered at the Rivers Casino amphitheater for Party at the Pier. Breathtaking views of the river and beyond could be seen from the giant steps that led down to the Gateway Clipper, which took short trips upstream and down. A tented dance floor with DJ Tommy J anchored the riverbank while white couches encouraged the people-watching that's especially fun when the crowd skews young and fashionable. Throw in colorful, starting with chairs Lucas and Renee Piatt, who was flashing a fiber optic wrap and hair ornament. Action, adventure, warm breezes, cold drinks and a "Neon & Nature" theme combined for Riverlife's biggest and best benefit yet.
4. Pittsburgh Public Theater's "You've Gotta Have Art!"
A crowded dance floor is always the sign of a good party. But when guests are dancing up a storm before cocktail hour is over, you know you're in for a good time. So it was at the Wyndham Grand where Pittsburgh Public Theater's "You've Gotta Have Art" event honored the contributions of Art Rooney II to the theater and the community. PPT producing artistic director Ted Pappas was one of the first showing off his happy feet. The high energy vibe continued into the evening's auction, helping to raise nearly $700,000 and becoming the most successful event in PPT history. Apparently you do "gotta have art!" Having Jack Barbour and Dan Onorato as co-chairs didn't hurt either. The event drew more then 700 guests, who were treated to a very funny video tribute featuring Roger Goodell, Lynn Swann, Hines Ward and others.
5. The Mattress Factory Urban Garden Party
There were rabbit holes everywhere, but the biggest ones were patched so none of the 1,300 guests would fall through the looking glass. Actually the holes are part of the charm -- the Mattress Factory's Urban Garden Party is held each year in the rugged outdoor space, and regulars (of which there are quite a few) know to wear shoes that can handle the terrain. That didn't preclude going all out in the costume department, and the "Alice at the Factory" theme inspired many mad hatters to don gay apparel. The outrageous costumes are always a good part of the fun, as is the food. Fried green tomato sandwiches and fab mojitos inside made way for an eclectic array of foods donated by 40 local restaurants under the big top outside. DJ Zimmie and DJ Eli Escobar entertained for the sold-out party that grew bigger by the minute anyway and raised $220,000 for the installation art museum.
6. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Pointe in Time
A rosy glow filling the Westin Convention Center ballroom caused 400 guests to gush "c'est manifique" as they arrived for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Pointe in Time Ball chaired by David and Gabriela Porges. The theme was "A Parisian Cabaret," and the spectacular dinner would have made Julia Child proud. Seared scallops, herb-rubbed filet, French pastries -- everything was perfection and that was before the spirited crowd took to the dance floor with encouragement from Gary Racan and the studio-e Band. The evening featured cocktails including an absinthe bar, a sampling of performances by PBT dancers and a live auction with offerings like a two-week adventure in South Africa and more than 70 bottles of French wine. By evening's end the gala total was $450,000, but a truer measure of success was how much fun the guests had and how late many stayed.
7. The Senator John Heinz History Center's "History Uncorked"
With so many of the big singles events going the way of the dinosaur, the annual History Uncorked party just keeps getting bigger and better each year. More than 1,500 guests made their way from the ground floor to the top floor ballroom, with food and bars and music wherever they stopped to flirt. "Red, White and Blue" was the Uncorked theme, centered around the exhibit "Stars & Stripes: An American Story." The party to benefit the History Center came together thanks to a sizable committee chaired by Tracy Weigand of Tiffany & Co. in Ross Park Mall. It was DJ Madd Maxx who really got the party started in the ballroom, but the many food stations and libations sustained the dancers well into the night. Keeping it colorful was Joe King, dressed as his American hero, Evel Knievel.
8. Epilepsy Foundation Mardi Gras
Now in its 18th year and much imitated by other chapters of the Epilepsy Foundation, Western/Central Pennsylvania's Mardi Gras Gala on Fat Tuesday always manages to pack them in. This year, an expanded candy buffet, complete with make-your-own s'mores, offered yet another way to party hearty, which is the draw of this sold-out event. With more than 750 guests, a Bourbon Street parade and enough bling, baubles and boas to fill the Westin Convention Center ballroom, the good times rolled and rolled. A highlight was the crowning of the king, and Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers, didn't disappoint. His entrance was heralded by dancing Mounties -- a reference to his Canadian heritage -- and his sparkler scepter set off other sparklers in the centerpieces. There was dancing to the John Parker Band as well as a wonderful dinner. By evening's end, $325,000 had been raised to support those with epilepsy/seizure disorders.
9. Pittsburgh Glass Center's Art on Fire
The silent and live auctions are a big part of the Pittsburgh Glass Center's annual Art on Fire event in the corporate headquarters of American Eagle Outfitters on the South Side. But it's the wonderfully prepared food that keeps this party going. Set in the cafeteria, the 440 guests can graze as they gaze at the glaze on so many of the delicate auction items. Artist John Kiley was this year's honorary chair with John and Kim Dingess. The pairing of wine and food from around the world was in keeping with Mr. Kiley's famous technique of joining blown glass of different colors. Chefs did the same, pairing Italian wine with bubbling hot brick oven pizza or kielbasa with the correct libation, such as a craft brewed beer or a vodka concoction.
10. River Rocks to benefit the Aspinwall Riverfront Park
The second annual benefit for the Aspinwall Riverfront Park project sold out early, with 550 enthusiastic rockers ready to party at Fox Chapel Golf Club. This year, another rock 'n' roll theme had some guests dressing the part. Those who did, (such as John and Kelley Denny, who went all out with fake tattoos, wigs and a fishnet T-shirt) really made an impression. Also getting attention were the neon green-haired stage door groupies who danced to the band "Bon Journey." The evening grossed nearly $95,000 as event chairs Sarah Tuthill, Wendy Todd, Heather Delaney and Lark Champion tapped into their wild side for the cause. Also feeling the rock in the roll were Susan and Currie Crookston, founders of the movement to turn the Aspinwall Marina into a park.
First Published December 18, 2012 5:00 AM