‘I can't believe it!" said overjoyed Dorothy Ross of the Starry Starry Night Gala, which cleared an unprecedented $290,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. People piled out of limos Saturday night in front of the Winnipeg Convention Centre, in black tie and glittering cocktail dresses, to nosh on appetizers and sip cocktails at a big reception behind black curtains in the lobby. Inside, attendees dined on steak and lobster, the Ron Paley Big Band entertained, and people danced the night away under a décor of starry skies.
Ross, who's the regional director for the Prairies and southern Alberta, says they used to make an average of $140,000 at their Winnipeg galas. At their new Fund-a-Cure style dinner events, they start with a family testimonial, and follow that with a specially trained auctioneer asking the crowd outright for different sums of money. With husband Jason and eight-year-old daughter Abby by her side, Brenda Reid spoke about their daily struggles with Abby's diabetes. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. "But, we believe there will be a cure in Abby's lifetime!" said Reid, to heartfelt applause. This year, people were well-prepared and competitive in the auction that followed. "Who will give $10,000 for research?" boomed the auctioneer right off the hop. (Three donors, just like that!) He worked through $5,000, $2,500, $1,000, $500 and $100 requests — scoring $135,000 for JDRF in under an hour. "And 100 per cent of that Fund-a-Cure money goes to research," says Ross.
Spotted: Doug Stephen of WOW Hospitality, politicos Kerri Irvin-Ross, Jim Rondeau, Myrna Driedger, Ross Eadie and Jeff Browaty, mega-businessman Hartley Richardson, Bob and Irene Cunningham of Business Solutions, sports medicine guru Dr. Wayne Hildahl. Bonny and Claude Chapman, chairs of the bash, zoomed around the room making everything run smoothly.
DREAMS COME TRUE — The Dream Factory celebrated with a fantasy night for 650 patrons Friday at the Winnipoeg Convention Centre. Pulling out all the stops, the Events By Emma gang transformed the room with purple light, clouds above the stage and a hot air balloon with a basket floating under it. "The room had a dreamy, in-the-stars feeling," said executive director Grace Thompson. The silent auction was divided into three parts — Hope, Joy and Wonder. For the live auction, popular auctioneer Gregg Maidment of ADESA Winnipeg sold off 47 packages, 12 of them specific dreams for certain kids, all within 90 minutes. Jim Gauthier thrilled the Dream Factory people when he donated $50,000 to the cause. Thompson gave him a big hug up at the podium. "We're still counting, but I can guarantee it will be the best ever — most people attending and most money raised!"
Spotted: Paul LaPolice of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, hockey great and city councillor Thomas Steen, Landau Ford Lincoln's Bob Friesen, Kate and Scott Holden of Deluca Fine Wines, Kyle Romaniuk from ClarkHuot/Cocoon, Brad Kramble from Salisbury House and Free Press director of sales Tracy Mainland.
WINNIPEG SOCIAL, EH? — New York comic Myq Kaplan, who's entertaining at Rumor's this week, confesses he ran into a daunting group onstage — his first Winnipeg wedding social! They were all seated in front of him! "I had a feeling they might not be there to see the comedy," he said. But Kaplan is a little guy with a commanding mouth and they turned out to be a great audience. (A female hockey team was quite another story, he says.) Kaplan's been on all the big shows — Letterman, Leno, and Ferguson — but says Conan O'Brien was the most "generous" in terms of friendliness, and he's been on three times. His last show is Saturday night at Rumor's at 2025 Corydon Ave.
CD LAUNCH / SURPRISE JAM — You never know what you'll see and hear Saturday afternoons at Hwy 75 Blues bar (formerly The Pemby) hidden way in the back. Last weekend yours truly caught June Pepper Harris in town from Toronto for the CD launch of her new album Life, Love and The Bluze. She was entertaining with old buddy George Reznik — he was playing the piano with his left hand and she stood beside him playing the right, to everyone's amazement! Blues mama Tracy K. (formerly from Beausejour) popped into the bar on the way to her airplane for Thunder Bay. She'd just played the Women In Blues Manitoba CD release No. 2. She played harmonica and sang Stormy Monday, jamming onstage with two members of her own band, plus Winnipeg jazzmen Deano Dean, Walle Larsson and Bill McMahon. All for the price of a drink, kids. Only in Winnipeg!
Got tips, events, sightings, unusual things going on? Call Maureen's tip line at 474-1116, email Maureen.Scurfield@Winnipegfreepress.com or send mail to The Insider c/o the Winnipeg Free Press at 1355 Mountain Ave. Winnipeg R2X 3B6.