This year’s Indigo Ball surpassed fundraising goals, with organizers saying they are looking to make next year’s event bigger and even more welcoming to younger participants.
The ball raised more than $70,000 for William Way LGBT Community Center, its largest and most-anticipated event of the year.
Erin Busbee, the center’s interim development director, said she was thrilled about the positive feedback after organizing her first major event, but added she’s already working to surpass it next year.
“I’m proud of the space that we were able to put together and the people who were able to connect in that space. We’re looking to make the event younger and more exciting in the years to come. We want to make sure new people are coming into the event and get the message out that it is open to everyone,” said Busbee. “First invitations usually go out to our cornerstone donors and people who have been to the event in the past, but we want to extend that invitation to anyone who is able and willing to spend the night with us. The gala isn’t exclusive to just the members of the center.”
More than 200 guests filled the reception hall of the M.V. Hamilton Building at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Participants dressed in their best gold, shimmery silver and 1920s-inspired fashion in honor of the night’s “Golden Years” theme.
The cocktail reception featured live burlesque dancing, music provided by DJ Robert Drake and live fashion illustrations by artist Denise Fike. Guests were dazzled by the “champagne dress” — a metal, circular hoop skirt that held close to 100 champagne flutes. A woman stood in the center of the dress, handing guests drinks and posing for pictures.
Chris Bartlett, executive director of William Way, said the goal of the night was to “honor a number of LGBT seniors who have given their lives to our movement and made such a difference. It’s a reminder to the community that these are the folks that created gay liberation, fought the AIDS epidemic and created so many of the institutions that serve our community now.” It’s important to think about how to honor and acknowledge what they’ve done and continue to support their leadership, he added.
Indigo Ball also recognized the AARP and the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging with the Community Partners Award. Steve Brando, a former board member of William Way, received the John J. Wilcox Jr. Leadership and Service Award for his longtime support.
Bartlett presented the inaugural Unsung Hero Award to Marty Sellers, founder and CEO of Sellers Dorsey, one of the gala’s sponsors.
“Nothing I can give to the community could ever measure what the community has given me,” Sellers said.
Les Harrison, the city’s first African-American drag-queen performer, stole the evening with his accompaniment of “I Am What I Am” by Gloria Gaynor and “This Is My Life” by Shirley Bassey. Despite an audio glitch, Harrison brought the crowd to its feet. Harrison also received the Lifetime Achievement Award that evening.