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TORONTO With a new firm at the helm—Spinradius Events took on the task of producing Bloor Street Entertains for the first time this year—the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research hosted 18 dinner parties for 700 attendees, followed by an after-party for 2,000 guests at the Royal Ontario Museum on Wednesday. “With the transition, you just never know what you're walking into. When it's a new event you can build it from the ground up,” Paul Oakley of Spinradius said of the challenges involved in planning an event with a 14-year history. “Once we got a handle on the way things generally work, we were able to mould it.”
Oakley reported that he and business partner Scott Koch not only focused on the logistics, but attempted to bring a renewed energy to the event. “It's an annual event, and when people run annual events, you have to be careful not to fall into the pattern of the same old, same old,” he said. “You often need a fresh vision. That just helps the event to keep getting better and better.”
In an effort to ensure that each dinner went off without a hitch, Oakley hired venue managers for each venue. “All of the venues and guests will notice a change in the way each dinner is run in terms of the volunteers,” Oakley said. “We partnered with Staff Your Event to bring a bit of polish to this volunteer-driven event. At each of the venues there is a point person, someone who is comfortable running an event.”
Each of the 18 dinner venues worked with a chef and florist to create a unique experience for guests. “We encourage each venue to style and entertain according to their own themes and philosophies,” Oakley said. At Holt Renfrew—where guests dined on a menu prepared by chef Corbin Tomaszeski of Holt's Café—event organizers dressed the space in a palette of gold, red, and pink, a nod to the after-party's Venetian theme.
For the dinner at Boss Bloor Street—catered by chef Margaret Mackay of Hearth & Garden at Campbell House—Dawn Bellini, director of PR and marketing for Hugo Boss Canada, worked with David A. Vallee Inc. to create an '80s-style space inspired by Bemelmans, the bar that once occupied the retail building at 83 Bloor St. West.
Teatro Verde hosted a champagne reception in the store's Veuve Clicquot boutique followed by a dinner on the main floor. Decor for the dining tables, designed by co-founder Shawn Gibson, included tables with a Grey Gardens theme, a Pixyland display, and a loft Christmas look. Meanwhile, at Diesel guests got a glimpse of the brand's new spring/summer Movie Action collection while dining on a menu created by chef Marc Thuet of Petite Thuet.
For the after-party, Canfar called on Seneca College's event management students to dress the event space at the Royal Ontario Museum. The team, led by professors Brian Wickens and John MacBride, adopted a Venetian masquerade theme with oversize masks as decor and students dressed as gondoliers.
“I was really pleased with it. I thought there was a great buzz,” Canfar president Chris Bunting said of the event, which is the organization's largest annual fund-raiser. “We tried to focus on getting key messages about the cause communicated throughout the night ... people need to celebrate and have a good time and remember why we're there.” Event organizers placed various cards with facts and statistics about H.I.V./AIDS at dinner tables in every venue and broadcast video messages emphasizing the importance of H.I.V./AIDS research during the after-party.
Event sponsors included Sun Life Financial, TD, BMO Financial Group, Aldo, AirSprint, Holt Renfrew, Labatt, Chum FM, CP24, Zoom Media, and Toronto Life.