“The performers are going to be acting as the wait staff and breaking out into performances,” Boybutante Foundation Chair Gulley said. “We did a brunch last year and it was amazing… and this time we’re moving into a bigger venue.”
Boybutante Ball started as a few friends throwing a party and has grown into one of Athens’ biggest social events.
“I think we are one of the few events that brings together all of Georgia, we just happen to do it in drag,” Gulley says. “We don’t have just people from Athens; we have people from Atlanta, from smaller communities, from across Georgia really.”
The ball is also one of the few events that crosses social lines in Athens.
“Athens is a small town — it has the college feel, but people still don’t talk about HIV or AIDS… and this is a great event where you can come out and have fun but we all still know what we’re there for,” Kearney says. “The week before, all the stores in town sell out of ladies’ clothes, everyone really gets involved and you can’t tell who is straight, gay or whatever.”
Support for AIDS Athens
The money raised by Boybutante goes to AIDS Athens. Since its inception, the Boybutante Ball has raised over a half-million dollars for the organization, and this year Gulley and his board hope to donate a record $35,000.
“When we first began AIDS Athens did not have a fundraising board of their own, they didn’t really have a way to raise funds,” Gulley says. “We continue to do it because AIDS Athens does such a great job of outreach, not just in Athens but throughout northeast Georgia…
“People think that we don’t need HIV and AIDS services, but there are still people coming into this world, coming into their sexuality, every day and they need to need to know,” he says.
Olivia Long, executive director of AIDS Athens, said the funds Boybutante donates every year are a significant part of the agency’s yearly budget.
Long said federal grants often do not fund education and outreach, and the ball’s funds allow the organization to offer testing and education to Athens and much of northeast Georgia.
“Hands down without a doubt we would not be able to do what we do without their support,” she says.
Photo: Wild Cherry Sucret performs at Boybutante Ball, a key fundraiser for AIDS Athens. (Courtesy photo)