“As you are there, you get to see the toys, which is an impactful part of the event,” he says.
The silent auction, containing hundreds of donated items, is also a significant part of the night.
In its first incarnation, the Toy Party was an event put together by Alex Wan, now the first openly gay man on the Atlanta City Council, for about 75 of his friends.
According to Bess, no one had any idea it would grow so much.
“None of us ever dreamed it would be what it is today,” he says. “We are so very pleased with the turnout and support from the community.”
He acknowledges that that crowd is still largely gay and lesbian, although it has become more diverse over the years. Besides cocktails and free nibbles, DJ Vicki Powell will spin.
Once the party ends around 9 p.m., the official after party — Playground — begins at Opera Nightclub, sponsored by Fenuxe Magazine and Brad Williams. Bess describes it as an upbeat dance event, ideal for those not wanting to head home just yet. DJ David Knapp mans the turntables.
Atlanta Holiday Ball returns
Also that same weekend is what is billed as the first annual Atlanta Holiday Ball, hosted by Atlanta Women’s Business Network, although a similar event has been held in the same location.
It used to be an annual holiday event staged by Good Friends for Good Causes and open to women. There was no event in 2009, however, and the organizers decided to open it up this year and grow it.
This year, the Holiday Ball is slated for Dec. 3 and has been reformatted, according to spokesperson Cheri Church; the goal is to create an upscale, festive, formal or semi-formal fundraiser for the entire local LGBT community. Tickets begin at $85, with sponsorships ranging up to $2,000.
“We want to have an event that is welcome to everyone in the community – men and women, the transgendered community and the straight allies,” says Church.
Having it at the Druid Hills Country Club serves a mission, she says, beyond just “being a great facility.” The venue was the source of controversy several years ago when the city of Atlanta’s Human Relations Commission ruled that the club violated the city’s antidiscrimination ordinance by refusing spousal benefits to two gay couples. Church says that the country club staff has been extremely accommodating in getting the ball planned. “It’s great to be able to do something like this here,” she says.
The goal in this re-invented year is to have a solid crowd and re-establish momentum for the future. Money raised will go to Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative and Circle of Sisters. Special guests will be DJ Vicki Powell, who will spin in the event’s ballroom, and Penelope Williams performing piano in the lounge. Additionally, goodie bags will be given out.
Songs of the season
Atlanta’s LGBT music lovers should have plenty to keep them busy. OurSong – the Atlanta area’s only mixed gay and lesbian chorus – also has its annual holiday production, “The World Sings: Songs of Wonder and Hope,” Dec. 3-4 at Oakhurst Baptist Church. Board President Jerry Garrison has been with both the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus and OurSong (now for three years) and feels there is room and a need for both in the community.
“I love the camaraderie of working with men and women,” he says.
OurSong performs throughout the year, including a popular cabaret in the summer, but the holiday show is it’s best attended event. The musical selections here will celebrate finding home (“Betelehemu”), mother (“Lo How a Rose/The Rose”), peace (“Stars I Shall Find,” “Ose Shalom”) and children and gifts (“Some Children See Him,” “Angels We Have Heard on High”), as well as many more selections. He says the chosen numbers have a great international feel. A reception will follow each night’s show, says Garrison.
The gay Atlanta Freedom Bands perform a “Hope for the Holidays” concert in partnership with Emory’s Hope Clinic and AID Atlanta’s Evolution Project on Dec. 4 at St. Paul United Methodist Church, bridging World AIDS Day and the holidays into one evening of music that reflects themes of spirituality and remembrance.
The evening also includes information on the fight against HIV.
“Although it is a concert of serious music for a serious occasion, the music expresses our sense of optimism as we look toward a future where we no longer lose loved ones to HIV,” says AFB President Cliff Norris.
Finally, the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus will have its annual holiday show Dec. 10-11, this year called “Holiday Lights,” featuring special guests the Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde.
According to Kevin Robison, artistic director for the AGMC, the concert also includes the world premiere of noted composer David Conte’s “Ring Out, Wild Bells.” Conte, whose “An Exhortation” was featured in President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, will travel from his home in San Francisco to attend all three shows.
Robison says around 100 members of the chorus will be performing at the show. Since they are highlighting children and a sense of family, they decided to incorporate songs from animated classics into the mix as well, such as “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and the return of traditional pieces such as the audience favorite “Ave Maria.” The concert is being held again in the Cathedral of St. Philip, which Robison calls a guest star on its own.
“It’s reverent beauty and ringing acoustics greatly add to the experience for both our audiences and the chorus itself,” he says.
This weekend, openly gay sax man Dave Koz will play the Cobb Energy Centre Nov. 27 with guests including South African guitarist singer Jonathan Butler; lesbian duo Indigo Girls performs a holiday show at the Tabernacle on Dec. 10, while pop diva Taylor Dayne will visit Jungle Dec. 11 for a one-night only gig.
Queer Justice League’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is Equal Rights’ rally Friday, Nov. 26, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Intersection of Peachtree Road and Lenox Road www.queerjusticeleague.net
Dave Koz and Friends: ‘A Smooth Jazz Christmas’ Saturday, Nov. 27, 8 p.m. Cobb Energy Centre 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Marietta, GA 30339 www.cobbenergycentre.org
‘Every Christmas Story Ever Told’ AEN’s theater night Wednesday, Dec. 1, 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Actor’s Express 887 West Marietta St., Suite J-107 Atlanta, GA 30318 www.aen.org
Midtown Pop-Up Shop artist market and holiday shopping experience Thursday, Dec. 2-Sunday, Dec. 5 Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. 999 Peachtree St. www.midtownatl.com
First Annual Atlanta Holiday Ball Friday, Dec. 3, 8 p.m.-midnight Druid Hills Country Club 740 Clifton Road, Decatur, GA 30307 www.theatlantaholidayball.com
‘The World Sings: Songs of Wonder and Hope’ Concert by Oursong Friday and Saturday, Dec. 3-4 8 p.m. both nights Oakhurst Baptist Church 222 East Lake Drive, Decatur, GA 30030 www.oursongatlanta.com
Congregation Bet Haverim celebrates Hanukkah Friday, Dec. 3 – Saturday, Dec. 4 Friday’s service includes music from the CBH Chorus and the Decatur High School Chorus Saturday includes a party at 7 p.m. with dancing, games, craft tables for the kids, “No Limit Texas Hold’em Dreidel” for older folks, and a dessert and latke potluck Both events at CCUCC, 2676 Clairmont Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30329 www.congregationbethaverim.org
MEGA Family Project Toy Drive & Holiday Party Saturday, Dec. 4, Party details TBA Visit www.megafamilyproject.org for details
‘WMCC Christmas Radio’ Silent Auction and Christmas Show Saturday, Dec. 4, shows at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. First MCC, 1379 Tullie Road, Atlanta, GA 30329 www.firstmcc.com
‘Hope for the Holidays’ Saturday, Dec. 4, 8 p.m.-10 p.m. Atlanta Freedom Bands in partnership with Emory’s Hope Clinic and AID Atlanta’s Evolution Project St. Paul United Methodist Church 501 Grant St. SE, Atlanta, GA 30312 www.atlantafreedombands.com
Seventh annual Christmas Carol Sing Along Sunday, Dec. 5, 5 p.m. Sanctuary of Saint Mark United Methodist Church 781 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 www.stmarkumc.org
Eighth Annual Toy Party & Silent Auction Sunday, Dec. 5 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Americas Mart 3/Atrium Building 250 Spring Street, Atlanta, GA 30303 www.forthekid.org
Playground, the official after-party for Toy Party Sunday, Dec. 5, Doors open 8:30 p.m. Opera Nightclub 1150 B Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30309 www.operaatlanta.com
‘Pine Cones and Holly Berries: A Christmas Cabaret’ Tuesday, Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m. Wade Hall at Saint Mark United Methodist Church 781 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 www.stmarkumc.org
‘Hard Candy Christmas’ PALS Bingo with Bubba D. Licious and Nicole Paige Brooks Wednesday, Dec. 8, 6:30 – 10 p.m. Jungle, 2115 Faulkner Road, Atlanta, GA 30324 www.palsatlanta.org
Charis Holiday Party Thursday, Dec. 9, 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Charis Books & More 1189 Euclid Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307 www.chariscircle.org
‘Holiday Lights’ by Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10-11 The Cathedral of St. Philip 2744 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, GA 30305 www.agmchorus.org
Atlanta Santa Speedo Run fundraiser for Camp Twin Lakes Saturday, Dec. 11, 1 p.m. Begins at Manuel’s and wind through Virginia Highland Manuel’s Tavern 602 N Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30307 www.atlantasantaspeedorun.org
Top photo: Toy Party, slated for Dec. 5, is the largest LGBT holiday event of the year. (courtesy ProjectQAtlanta.com)