Anatomy of Giving

13 Apr, 2011

by Julie Ferris

        My after work cocktail turned instantly into a lesson in event coordinating and I learned there’s no better school than the prep hour before a celebrity Blu-Tender event at the Pfister’s Blu. 

        I arrived very early and witnessed an incredible transformation. See, I’m a part of many charity and fundraising events myself. I’ve been on the “Who has the nametags?” end of things, the “We need a 9-volt battery, stat” side of the event and the “What do you mean our host/guest of honor/celebrity’s flight didn’t come in?” fringe of fiasco. Now, here I was, witnessing the breakdown and build up of an event like a fly on the wall, or maybe more like a monkey on the wall because I think my grinning and darting glances around the room at all the players and organizers weren’t too subtle.
        The ladies at the bar weren’t there for the autism event, they were simply sharing an after-work drink (and cholesterol numbers and worries, which I thought was perfectly acceptable as they sipped their red wine). The couple in the corner was enjoying the view and had bypassed the first few steps of having drink at Blu* and were easily engaging each other. The white-haired man in the pair talks with his hands and the story moves from wiggling fingers to double-handed expansive gestures which then incorporate his shoulders and he finishes with a head bob and a smile, dancing through one fantastic tale of gardening. He moves on to the next topic, one hand paralyzed by the drink he holds, he executes the details with an overactive pointer finger. They are not there for the evening’s event. 

            The next couple that walks in is. And the next, and the next. The gorgeous pair in crisp summertime looks, egging on our warm weather and full of wishful thinking, sneaks in the back and the woman, tugging at the man, strides into the middle and looks cautiously around, asking “where are people?” and immediately answers her question with an outstretched arm and a dragged-along husband as she crosses the bar to the others who are now pouring in the main entrance to the bar. 
             There’s a singer. You’ll know her by her sparkle. Big jeweled, glittery studs adorn her cardigan and though she spends most of her prep time worrying about her three microphones, her voice, unamplified, booms through the room as she works the early crowd with jokes and pushes them to start drinking and donating. She’s a natural, and she’s not just ready to make a great evening, she’s clearly in it to fundraise. She’s got plans with the bartenders, the charity staff and more. She doesn’t just sing; she strikes a perfect chord with donors. 
            Men with pins start arriving with their wives. Lion’s Club, Rotary, American Legion and the blue autism support ribbon pin. Suit jackets and loafers and big grins and handshakes that come with pats on the back for free—the crowd is arriving. A battery for the microphone is found, the wireless mic is on the ready and the singer is threatening folks with it—order a drink (proceeds to charity) or she’ll be over to your table to incorporate you in her act. It’s ten minutes after the start time for the event and the population of the room has tripled. Ten minutes later, it’s a party. The bar top is full, literature on the cause is everywhere, organizers have passed out nametags and the bartending talent has arrived. This is the moment I love the most when it’s an event I’m organizing. It’s that moment where I step back and sigh and start having fun, that moment where it’s all worth it.
            I’m sure it will be worth it, too. The faces and eagerness of attendees were bright and ready. The cause was one everyone was ready to champion. The music, the drinks, the scene…all perfect. And just as I left them to their charitable partying, the sun made ready to set. 

*it should be mentioned, all people who come into Blu perform similarly. Step 1: take a seat at the windows; Step 2: watch out the windows to the point of nearly fully ignoring your compatriots because the view is so amazing (but that’s ok, they’re ignoring you for the same reason) and Step 3: after the scenic sensory overload hits, then begin relaxing and enjoying your company.

About the author

Julie Ferris

Julie is a devout Iowa Hawkeye fan despite her new Wisconsin roots, loves to read and is a sucker for good creme brulee and bad puns.

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