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Summer Solstice Celebration Shines On with Winter White Ball Fundraiser

Guests dazzle in white for an evening extravaganza at the Butler Event Center to benefit the 2012 Santa Barbara festival

The Winter White Ball fundraiser for the 2012 Summer Solstice Celebration recently held at the Butler Event Center was a fun-filled extravaganza for supporters and party-goers that turned into a delightful exercise in unlimited fantasy.

“The Winter White Ball fundraiser is to ensure the 2012 Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration is even better than this year’s three-day festival, which brought thousands to Alameda Park,” said Solstice Executive Director Claudia Bratton, who has run the event for 14 years.

“Fantasy” will be the theme for 2012, and for many die-hard and devoted Solstice fans the Winter White Ball celebration was merely a hint of the impending festival and parade expected to draw more than 100,000 spectators from around the world next summer.

The 2012 Summer Solstice Celebration will open June 22 and run through June 24 with the highly anticipated Solstice Parade scheduled for Saturday, June 23.

“The 38th Annual Solstice Parade will be another creative masterpiece,” Bratton said.

The invitation for the evening’s winter event called for all-white attire, and many of those in attendance adhered to the request as the Butler Event Center quickly filled with artists, musicians and poets creatively showcasing the imagination necessary to fulfill the dress code.

Guests arrived at the newly renovated 6,000-square-foot conference facility at 3744 State St. wearing elaborate floor-length gowns embellished with sequins and feathers, and others donned lace, corsets, faux-furs and stylish lace-up leather boots.

Others turned up the glare wearing theme-inspired costumes, including a fairy princess and Greek goddess who rubbed elbows with a pirate, a modern-day Robin Hood and a medieval knight.

Warren Butler, owner of the Butler Event Center that opened in April of this year and managing partner of the Marmalade Café, dressed in a smart white tuxedo complete with a matching bow tie.

Butler was all smiles as he greeted guests and said he was thrilled to host the event.

“For some time I’ve wanted to develop an affordable space for Santa Barbara businesses and the community to meet,” Butler said. “And this location can accommodate up to 400 people, so it’s ideal for events like this.”

During the festivities, guests considered an assortment of silent auction items donated by community members throughout the rooms and gathered in small groups at the bar and lounged on bar stools.

And, in the rear of the room, concealed behind sheer curtains, tarot and astrology consultants were busy telling fortunes to guests for a donation toward the Solstice cause. Professional astrologer Peggy Sanders exclaimed her interpretations would point out a client’s potentialities.

“Astrology is a map of the stars when we were born and it’s our contract to be here,” she said. “I feel that I can help eclipse people to get them through some of the rough spots and tease them a little about the fun spots.”

A buffet table filled with platters of fresh pasta dishes, cheese, grapes and crackers with scrumptious clam chowder was prepared by a handful of South Coast restaurants ready to appease the most finicky pallets.

Guests dined at tables and booths where in one room a disco ball spun in full force to the thumping bass of soul music penetrating through the walls.

The dance floor was packed with swaying bodies by the time the band Area 51 struck the first cord of funk, soul and R&B classics, accompanied by special guest DJ Steven J.

Summer Solstice is a nonprofit corporation that produces the Solstice Parade, the Solstice Festival and the Solstice Community Arts Workshop from donations and sponsorships. Established in 1974, the Summer Solstice parade began as a birthday party for Michael Gonzales, a popular local artist, and since then the festival and parade have flourished.

Alameda Park is now home for the festival, which caters to more than 75 craftsmen and artisans who sell their wares from booths as local restaurants offer food with a beer and wine garden plus a variety of live world music.

The parade, known for its magical spectacle of pageantry, features people-powered floats, flamboyant costumes, street performers, musicians and carnival-like dance troops, and is often compared to the extravagant and much larger New Orleans Mardi Gras.

“We’ve been looking for ways to increase our exposure in fundraising so the board decided to focus on a big event,” said Stacie Bouffard, president of the Summer Solstice Celebration Board of Directors. “And we’re hoping that this becomes a tradition every year. That’s the idea.”

Winter White Ball started in the 1980s as a fundraiser held at the Las Tejas Estate in Montecito, where everyone dressed in white while enjoying live entertainment in the afternoon and bid on auction items to benefit the Solstice event.

“Summer Solstice is a wonderful community event,” Bouffard said. “But it takes money, and we need to appeal to our community for support so that it doesn’t go away.”

For donation information and to sign up for the poster and T-shirt art contest, contact the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration office at 805.965.3396 or click here.

» Solstice thanks the gracious sponsors of the Winter White Ball: Aldos, Frescos, India House, Pascucci, Shepard Greens, Trader Joe’s and Allied Beverages.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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