Sunday, March 27, 2011

Community Comes Out for Mayor's Ball

More than 200 people danced the night away while raising money for Oddfellows Playhouse at the Mayor's Ball on Saturday night.

Stiltwalkers and jugglers mixed with the mostly black-tie crowd at St. Clement's Castle. All the focus was on helping Oddfellows continue their good works with young people, while they recover from the loss of their costume collection in the building collapse of 505 Main on February 2nd.

Fortunately, it was a generous crowd. During a brief but hard-fought auction, bidding rose to $375 for a fanciful chocolate centerpiece, created by Tschudin Chocolates of Main Street. (The winner, Mrs. J.R. Marino, proved doubly generous when she broke up the centerpiece and passed it around to the neighboring tables.)

Caricature artist Bill Dougal had a steady stream of customers as party-goers sat for their portrait - I thought he did a nice job capturing one Middletown Eye reader in particular - that's Greg Harris on paper.

The biggest donors of the evening were undoubtedly the folks from Pratt & Whitney, who were one of the lead sponsors of the Mayor's Ball. Moved by the predicament of the youth theater, they offered a challenge of $15,000, pledging to match donations that come to the theater over the next year, up to that amount. By my unofficial count, it looked like Oddfellows was well on their way with at least $2,000 in gifts raised on the spot.

By the way, the local blosphere was well-represented at the Ball - that's Cathy Branch-Stebbins, on the right, getting a photo of the P&W sponsors and Oddfellows leadership for

Aside from doing good, the Mayor's Ball was a great party and the dance floor was packed. I personally witnessed a city director dancing (briefly) on his chair. As long as you didn't mind shouting in your neighbor's ear, it was also a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Sometimes it was both old and new - Tina (seated below) looked familiar to me, and we quickly figured out that we had been in Lamaze classes together just about 19 years ago. Small world.

More than a few in the crowd mixed their philanthropy with other hobbies, using their hand-held technology to keep tabs on the UCONN game. The victory of the home team was announced by the singer from the band "Prelude" over the intro of a song.

The co-chairs of the event, Town Clerk Sandra Russo-Driska and City Treasurer Christine Bourne, have been working on the event since last October. Sandra noted that she figured the Mayor had asked them to do the job just to prove that a Republican and a Democrat CAN work together, which got a big laugh. The Mayor's Ball had a record attendance this year, and they were able to give a $13,000 giant check to Oddfellows (that doesn't include any of the Pratt & Whitney matching gift!).

And now, a few photos for the Society Page of the Middletown Eye (with captions!):

Bobbye Knoll of the North End Action Team (and mother of expert juggler Evan Knoll) with Oddfellows Artistic Director Jeffrey Allen

Frank Kuan from Wesleyan, Lisa and Bob Santangelo (the sole attending Democratic councilman), and Mike DiPiro from Guilmartin, DiPiro, Sokolowski CPA. (That's my prankster spouse, who should know better, making bunny ears in the background.)

Middletown Mayor Seb Giuliano with Meriden Mayor Mike Rohde, who attended with his wife Nancy.

Melissa (right) and I tried to recruit Allison to write for the Eye....although readers are nice too.

Oddfellows Board President Mike Sciola and partner Frank Kuan.

A close-up of the Oddfellows-inspired centerpiece created by Tschudin Chocolates of Main Street, Middletown.


Anonymous said...

great article!
Thanks for covering this event.

Anonymous said...

Why do the Democratic town council member (apart from Mr.Santangelo) hate Oddfellow's Playhouse?

I am curious to know what the Democratic town council members had to do last night that was more important then this community event supporting this great community agency.

Cathy said...

What a wonderful event last night! Congratulations to the Mayor and the event committee for a job well done.

Jen, nice scoop on the story--you and the Eye are awesome.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

To annon 8:23 we the"democrats" supporting local events with all our hearts ! Thats why you see us at local events, not some orher town. There are many places in Middletown we could "party" but thats a little to simple for most of you to understand. So you try to cmplicate it. Great photos I agree. Good job Jen. Sorry I missed it. It's to bad that those who planned Middletowns only black tie event, DECIDED TO NOT HOLD IT IN MIDDLETOWN. Hope that is clear enough. Support your local business please Middletown

Anonymous said...

I'm curious why the Mayor's Ball wasn't held in Middletown. Wadsworth Mansion or the Inn perhaps?

Frank Sprafke said...

That looks like good fun . I wish we were able to make it .

Mike Sciola said...

Thanks to all who came out to support Oddfellows Playhouse and a special thanks to Mayor Guillano and the fantastic folks from City Hall who make this annual event really count by supporting local agencies and organizations.

Anonymous said...

As to the comments about having it in Middletown, I agree, BUT, there is no place in Middletown that can have this elegant event where you are not split into smaller rooms. While Wadsworth Mansion is beautiful, it is split in three smaller rooms for this type of event and you feel very disconnected in that environment. The same goes for the beautiful Inn at Middletown. There is no other venue that can accommodate this type of event in Middletown. To limit the number of people invited to acccomodate a room just doesn't make any sense. The Mayor certainly supports all Middletown establishments, just watch him every night attend functions, eat out with his family and participate in local community activities. Please, let's not be petty. It is a wonderful event and if the democrats, or anyone else, doesn't attend because they can't cross the bridge, SHAME ON THEM! How small minded and petty.

Anonymous said...

Anon to annon. Your wrong and the shame is on you. The mansion can hold this wonderfull event and its just "what time of the year you hold it". I remember attending a party at the masion where i think some 900 people attended. It was called the "350th Parade". This isnt to discredit the good work put in by the organizers. They donated much time and personnal scrafice. Then Inn can accomodate aprox 500 people on the 2cd floor and a presentation can be put on in that area with a little creativity in March. Wesleyan has some nice places too and I bet with one phone call from an organizer of this event they would gladly offer space and a nice donation (thier in Middletown also), just in case you didnt know. Either way this wont be a problem next year. Who is goin to want to spend 45min to go 1.3 miles (you still have to get in there from a 2 lane road after crossing the bridge) and although I love Seb he is probably not gonna get elected. Petty, yes. Shallow, yes. Democrat, ummmmmm yes. Support Middletown, no I want to hold it in that nice place looking at the Goodspeed Opra House. What do you think of that ?????? At least it wont be in Middletown, you wont have to cross a bridge and I am sure "un-petty people" like you will deffinetly be there. One more, what about the Falcons or the Elks also ? Are "all" these places not...............Elegant enough ???????????