“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.

Holiday events

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)

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