Diffa Chicago Gala Gets Rock Theme, New After-Party

By Jenny Berg June 16, 2011, 12:40 PM EDT

Photo: Randy Korwin Photography

DIFFA Chicago's "Believe Rock N'" Gala
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Known as the unofficial social kickoff of NeoCon—the trade show for the contract furnishings industry, which took over the Merchandise Mart this week—the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS Chicago gala took place Saturday night, drawing more than 600 members of the design industry to the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile. The event raised $385,000.

This year's rock 'n' roll theme was part of “a series of gala themes based on our base idea of 'Believe,'” said Richard Cassis, event co-chair and principal and creative director of Sparc Inc. “A major area of [the foundation's] giving is directed toward fellowship, and this year's theme evolved as a way to describe our Northwestern Memorial Foundation fellows, whom we see as true rock stars in the fight against AIDS.”

Kehoe Designs, Sparc Inc., and Total Event Resources worked together to bring the theme into the ballroom, giving the space a concert-venue-inspired feel. Decor included tables hand-painted in black and white set with red napkins, glittery skulls, and pillar candles. A glossy black dance floor bore an oversize phoenix tattoo, and a sculpture made of guitars and percussion instruments anchored one end of the space.

At around 9:30 p.m., the new “Rock On” after-party started, offering a performance from '90s rock band the Lemonheads, a dessert buffet, and a set from DJ Jesse De La Pena. “We've always wanted to get more people to celebrate with us on the occasion of the gala, and the after-party allowed us to reach people  who may not want to do a black-tie dinner but still wish to participate in the evening,” Cassis said.

While gala tickets went for $500 a pop, tickets to the after-party could be purchased for $75. Planners promoted the after-party through e-blasts, an email campaign, social media, and word of mouth, and sold 75 tickets.

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