Fundraiser spices up Saturday night

Published 9:43 pm Monday, February 12, 2018

More than 100 guests enjoyed a night of sizzle, salsa and swoon at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts’s fundraiser on Saturday.

The theme for the annual fundraiser changes each year. Last year was “Blues Brothers,” and the year before was “The Great Gatsby.” For this year’s “One Hot Havana Night,” guests experienced a night filled with the sights, sounds and spicy food of Cuba.

“It’s a fun night for everybody, and it’s also for a great cause,” said SCCA Executive Director Jackie Cherry.

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The event was the hottest ticket in town — tickets were $125 each or $100 if bought before Jan. 16, and the gala fundraiser sold out at 200 tickets, Cherry said. There were also sponsorships that ranged from $1,000 to $5,000.

Guests walked through rooms fashioned into Havana hotspots while enjoying zesty Albondigas meatballs, Cuban sandwiches and more delicious offerings. Many were dressed in costumes fit for a Caribbean party.

“I love the costumes and the feel of it, especially the decorations,” said guest Allie Thorndike.

Virginia Beach-based band 10 Spot performed disco, soul and R&B hits for a packed dance floor. Dance instructor Taylor Burrows and her dance partner, Bernard Baker, twirled through their best salsa moves, and Gary “Ju Ju” Garlic — band director and percussion instructor for Young Musicians of Virginia — provided a vibrant Caribbean soundtrack.

“It’s all about Havana, and I’m just trying to give them that island fever,” Garlic said.

Some were outside in the smoking tent as Raynaud Delgado, representing Cortez Cigars of Maryland, rolled fresh cigars and demonstrated how to properly light and cut them.

“I’ve been doing it wrong for years,” guest Brett Cline said in the smoking tent. “Not just how you cut it, but how you light it, too.”

Many of the guests were excited to see their familiar cultural arts center transformed. Kate Gallotta, a Nansemond-Suffolk Academy graduate, drove up from Charleston, S.C. that morning to enjoy the evening with her mother.

“My prom was here, and my chorus concert. It’s really cool seeing it decked out for a party,” Gallotta said.

Numerous artwork, items and experiences were donated or purchased for the silent and live auctions. Guests put down their names on items like a Harper’s Table gift certificate and University of Virginia football tickets.

Kristy Edwards and her husband kept their fingers crossed for another delivery of tailgating essentials.

“We did it last year, and it was awesome,” Edwards said.

Among the big-ticket items were a one-week vacation to Topsail Beach in North Carolina, a three-day getaway to Williamsburg and a spring oyster roast at Magotha Bay on the Eastern Shore.

“Experiences are really what people are looking for,” Cherry said.

The evening is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts Foundation and supports the center’s educational and outreach programs.

“It’s an extremely important thing for the community, and the only way we can keep it going is with community support,” said McLemore Birdsong Jr., president of the SCCA Foundation board of directors.

Suffolk City Councilman Roger Fawcett said the Center is considered to be one of the “jewels” of Suffolk, a sentiment shared by Harry Cross III, owner of Cross Realty.

“It’s just so important that we support the cultural arts effort here in Suffolk,” Cross said.