The toys and gift cards the party raises are split among 23 agencies that work with children across the Atlanta area. This year’s beneficiaries include schools, family support agencies and organizations like CHRIS Kids, which provides a spectrum of services for children and young adults.
Unlike other big parties that rely on live entertainment or outrageous decor to make a splash, the donated gifts have always been the main attraction of the Toy Party.
“We’ve always picked a theme and decorate but the main attraction is seeing the pile of toys build up during the night,” Bess says.
An unwrapped gift of $25 or more will get attendees in the door for the evening and shopping for the donation is often part of the appeal.
“I think another part of it is being able to go back and buy the toys. A lot of us don’t have traditional families, or might be estranged from our family, and this gives the chance to give to children in our community,” he says.
While there is a requirement to how much the gifts must cost, there’s no ceiling on how much someone can spend.
“They can bring as much as they want, but we do ask that that it’s unwrapped to make it easier to sort. We’ll take anything so long as it fits that parameter… sometimes we’ll get items that far exceed that limit. We do have people who give iPads or bikes… if it’s something that’s huge and extravagant like that, we’ll take that as well,” Bess says.
This year’s theme is “Winter Wonderland,” and organizers plan to mix a few new elements into the standard themes. Toy Party will return to Americasmart with its soaring atrium and out lesbian DJ Vicki Powell will once again provide music.
“We have a lot of things that have worked well for us in the past,” Bess says.
Toy Party will branch out with live entertainment for the first time, featuring The Chocolettes, an African-American dance troop modeled after the Rockettes.
“We’ve never had live entertainment at the event before — we’ve always been afraid because of the size of the venue and the size of the crowd that it would be lost — but we’re going to try and do it up front and try to draw people’s attention to that,” Bess says.
A VIP ticket, which starts at $250, will also get more access to this year’s party. Organizers have added a second VIP area and, as in previous years, will have an open bar.
“We wanted to add a second VIP area on the ground floor because some people felt like they weren’t part of the main party,” Bess notes.
More holiday happenings
In addition to Toy Party, Atlanta’s LGBT social scene includes a bevy of Christmas, Hanukkah and general holiday parties. Many were still being scheduled at press time, so visit www.thegavoice.com and pick up our Dec. 9 and Dec. 23 print editions for more details.
Pets Are Loving Support has themed its monthly bingo fundraiser “Babes in Toyland” for December. Congregation Bet Haverim will have a Hanukkah Shabbat service Dec. 23 and host lesbian Rabbi Myriam Klotz the weekend of Dec. 9. Atlanta’s many LGBT and LGBT-inclusive churches will also offer special services for Christmas Eve and / or Christmas Day.
The Atlanta Executive Network and Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce have announced their holiday parties, both for Dec. 8, and many more LGBT organizations are sure to follow.
From Thanksgiving Day forward, Piedmont Park gets into the holiday spirit. The Rink at Park Tavern returns through Valentine’s Day, with ice-skating hours extended until midnight this year.
The Atlanta Botanical Gardens is also offering holiday lights, stringing its grounds with 85 miles of colored lights.
Calendar of upcoming holiday events
Hope for the Holidays
Dec. 1, 6-9 p.m.
Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Dec. 3, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Art House Gallery
3193 Paces Ferry Place, Atlanta, GA 30305
Jingle Bark benefit for Mostly Mutts Animal Rescue
Dec. 2, 6-9 p.m. at Bellissima
560 Amsterdam Ave., Atlanta, GA 30306
‘It’s Christmas’ concert and silent auction
Dec. 3, 1:30 and 7:30 p.m.
First Metropolitan Community Church
1379 Tullie Road. Atlanta, GA 30329
Dec. 4, 5:30 – 9 p.m. at AmericasMart Building 3
250 Spring St., Atlanta, GA 30303
Stepping Stones: Holiday Season Support Group
Every Monday through Jan. 9, 7-8:30 p.m.
The Rush Center
1530 Dekalb Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307
Atlanta Executive Network Holiday Party
Dec. 8, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. at Mixx Atlanta
1492 Piedmont Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30309
Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Holiday Party
Dec. 8, time TBA at Hotel Melia
590 West Peachtree St.
Atlanta, GA 30308
Charis Holiday Party & Sale
Includes Calvin Ramsey book signing
Dec. 8, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Charis Books & More
1189 Euclid Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA, 30307
Feliz Navidad Party
Dec. 9, 10 p.m. at My Sister’s Room
1271 Glenwood Ave., Atlanta, GA 30316
Atlanta Santa Speedo Run
Dec. 10, 2 p.m. at Hudson Grille – Midtown
942 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30309
PALS ‘Babes in Toyland’ Bingo
Dec. 14, 7:45 p.m. at Jungle
2115 Faulkner Rd., Atlanta, GA 30324
Naughty & Nice Sexy Santa Party
Dec. 18, 8 p.m. at Bellissma
560 Amsterdam Ave., Atlanta, GA 30306
Hanukkah Shabbat service
Dec. 23, 6 p.m. at Congregation Bet Haverim
862 Columbia Drive, Decatur 30030
Top photo: Toy Party offers a feel-good start to the LGBT holiday season, with thousands of attendees donating toys and gift cards for needy kids in Atlanta. (by Dyana Bagby)