New York's Top 100 Events 2011

These annual gatherings make a big impact on their respective industries and communities (and on the city) while innovating to stay on top.

By Brendan Speigel with reporting by Anna Sekula March 3, 2011, 9:35 AM EST

Photo: Victor Castro

With New York experiencing a slow but steady economic recovery, the event industry has found its footing. Heavyweight benefits from the likes of the Robin Hood Foundation are reporting record-breaking hauls. Industry summits such as Fashion Week, the Armory Show, and the CMJ Music Marathon continue to expand, spawning offshoots and imitators. And a host of innovative new events are shaking up their respective industries—and while some of these newbies haven’t cracked our annual list yet, they’re worth watching in the year to come.

Advertising Industry Events
1. Advertising Week, launched in 2004 as an agency summit, has mushroomed into a 60,000-person conference with considerable media exposure and live coverage on CNBC. October 3-7.

2. Advertising Council’s Public Service Awards bring together 1,000 industry leaders for a dinner, co-hosted in 2010 by Brian Williams and Jimmy Fallon. November 16.

3. New to the List: Clio Awards, honoring the best ads of the year, are now owned by Prometheus Global Media and returned to New York in 2010 for the first time in a decade. Spring.

4. Ad:Tech, online media’s upstart alternative to Ad Week, tours eight cities before stopping at the Javits Center. November.

5. One Club’s One Show is the marquee draw of the One Show Festival, which expanded in recent years with additional events during spin-off Creative Week NYC. May 12.

Art & Design Events
1. The Armory Show draws such a crowd—60,000 collectors, critics, artists, dealers, and curators—that a dozen other art fairs now run simultaneously. March 3-6.

2. International Contemporary Furniture Fair showcases cutting-edge designs to 23,000 attendees, and its Editors Awards put new designers on the map. May 14-17.

3. Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards expanded to 10 categories in 2010 and raised $1 million for the newly renovated Cooper-Hewitt museum. October.

4. New to the List: Architectural Digest Home Design Show grew by 30 percent in 2010, when it expanded by joining with a host of popular events, all held in and around Pier 94 over the same week. In addition to the hundreds of home product displays that have attracted consumers and design industry insiders in past outings, concurrent happenings included AIDS fund-raiser and tabletop design showcase Diffa’s Dining by Design (a perennial Top 100 event in its own right) and the Go Green Expo, which touted eco-friendly products at adjacent Pier 92. In total, the event drew a record 31,000 attendees. That number can be expected to grow even more in 2011, when the lineup expands even further with the addition of Chicago-based Merchandise Mart Properties’ fine art fair the Artist Project. March 17-21.

5. The Art Show, the largest of the fairs that run concurrently with the Armory Show, is one of the country’s top draws for art buyers. March 2-6.

6. Up From 7: Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Downtown Dinner relocated to Pier 60 for its sixth avant-garde outing and raised $720,000 for the council’s art programs. April 27.

7. Dia Art Foundation Gala still draws a bevy of celebrated artists, even though the museum no longer has a permanent space in the city. It raised $700,000 in 2010. November.

One to Watch: Dumbo Arts Festival expanded significantly in 2010, bringing out 150,000 people for three days of eclectic Brooklyn events. September.

Beauty Industry Events
1. FiFi Awards, the highest honors for those working in the fragrance industry, drew 1,000 guests to a lavish gala ceremony. May 25.

2. International Beauty Show welcomes more than 53,000 licensed beauty professionals to the Javits Center to check out the latest products and industry trends. March 6-8.

3. Breast Cancer Research Foundation Benefit, known as the “Hot Pink Party,” always includes a set from Elton John and raised more than $4 million from an industry-heavy crowd in 2010. April 14.

4. American Cancer Society Dream Ball celebrates the “Look Good … Feel Better” program with a beauty-industry-focused gala that has raised $2 million last year. September.

1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Benefit is the undisputed “party of the year,” where models, fashion designers, and socialites hobnob with the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Lady Gaga, under the watchful eye of Vogue’s Anna Wintour. May 2.

2. Robin Hood Foundation Benefit rakes in an even more eye-popping number each spring, raising a record $87.8 million from finance, media, and entertainment types in 2010. May 9.

3. Whitney Museum of American Art Fall Gala always attracts art-world A-listers like Jeff Koons and Chuck Close, raising $2.65 million in 2010. October.

4. Up From 5: The Museum of Modern Art’s Party in the Garden is a hot ticket for both uptown society types (Mayor Bloomberg attended in 2010) and downtown hipsters (Yeah Yeah Yeahs performed). May.

5. American Ballet Theatre’s Spring Gala, co-chaired by Michelle Obama, Caroline Kennedy, and Blaine Trump, celebrated the ballet’s 70th year in 2010 and is still one of the social season’s biggest nights. May 16.

6. Up From 7: The Metropolitan Opera’s Opening Night Gala has stars walking the red carpet at Lincoln Center and thousands watching the opera simulcast on giant screens in the adjacent plaza and Times Square. September.

7. Up From 8: New York Public Library Lions Benefit attracts media, society, and literary types with a bash honoring prominent writers, including Malcolm Gladwell and Zadie Smith in 2010. November 7.

8. Up From 9: Central Park Conservancy’s Frederick Law Olmsted Award Luncheon, known for its ladies in elaborate hats, raised nearly $2.5 million for park preservation last year. May 4.

9. Frick Collection’s Young Fellows Ball doesn’t match others in the celebrity or money departments, but is still a must-attend evening for the young socialite set. Winter.

10. Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Spring Gala moved to the Pierre in 2010 and raised $1.4 million with a performance from Mary J. Blige. May 4.

11. Friends of the High Line Benefit, a cause célèbre and donor magnet years before the elevated park became a reality, celebrates the opening of its second section this year. Last year’s event raised $2.2 million from 650 guests. May 16.

12. The New York Botanical Garden’s Conservatory Ball ends the spring gala season with the only black-tie ball that has socialites driving to the Bronx. In 2010, $1.7 million was raised from 500 guests. June 2.

13. New to the List: Keep a Child Alive’s Black Ball, now in its eighth year, raised $2.3 million from 750 guests, thanks in part to performances from Jay-Z and co-founder Alicia Keys. Fall.

14. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s Kids for Kids Family Carnival moved to Skylight Soho for this 17th annual benefit in 2010 and raised $1.2 million. Fall.

15. New to the List: Collaborating for a Cure Gala has grown consistently throughout its 13 years, luring 1,400 guests and more than $3 million for the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation in 2010. November.

16. Winter Antiques Show Opening Night Gala kicks off the country’s most prestigious antiques fair with this benefit for the East Side House Settlement. January 20.

17. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Opening Gala will celebrate the company’s 53rd year with a performance at City Center followed by a black-tie party. Fall.

18. New to the List: New Yorkers for Children Fall Gala raised $1.6 million at this 11th annual party in 2010, bringing out legions of fashion types, along with celebrities like Kanye West. Fall.

19. New York City Ballet Fall Gala celebrated the company’s first-ever fall season with a stylish 550-person ball co-chaired by Sarah Jessica Parker, raising $1.2 million. Fall.

20. New York City Opera’s Spring Gala added a dance floor in 2010, inviting guests to waltz along to music performed by the company, and raised $1 million. April 21.

One to Watch: Amfar New York Gala drew on Fashion Week crowds in 2010 and put on a memorable evening with songs from Lady Gaga, Rufus Wainwright, and even Meryl Streep, helping the group take in $1.2 million. February 9.

Entertainment Industry Events
1. Upfront Week grows bigger every year, with cable channels like TNT, Syfy, and Cartoon Network joining the broadcast TV nets for advertiser-wooing presentations in 2010. May.

2. Tribeca Film Festival lured 410,000 filmgoers in 2010. Expect an even bigger bash for the fest’s 10th anniversary this spring. April 20-May 1.

3. New York Film Festival, known for cerebral fare, drew Hollywood-style attention in 2010 with big-name movies like The Social Network. Fall.

4. Up From 5: CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival is an indie upstart no more. The 30-year-old festival, long a draw for industry insiders, expanded exponentially as the independent music it celebrates mushroomed in popularity over the last decade. While it once took place in just a few downtown clubs, the fest has steadily grown to the point where the 2010 show brought 120,000 fans to venues ranging from Brooklyn dives to Madison Square Garden. In recent years, CMJ added a concurrent film festival, too. Adding further proof that the five-day affair has become the East Coast’s preeminent showcase of new music, Chicago-based Pitchfork Media added its own mini festival to compete during the same time frame in 2010. October 18-22.

5. Tony Awards will go for a new look this year as Broadway’s biggest night heads uptown from Radio City to the newly renovated Beacon Theatre. June 12.

6. New York Television Festival is the city’s first fest dedicated to the small screen, with six days of red carpet premieres, pilot screenings, and development deals handed out to award winners. September.

7. Film Society of Lincoln Center Tribute is always filled with Hollywood A-listers, like recent honorees Michael Douglas and Tom Hanks. Spring.

8. Museum of the Moving Image Salute honored Alec Baldwin in a ceremony pushed back two months this year to coincide with the museum’s reopening. February 28.

9. Gotham Awards are the un-official kickoff to the ever-expanding movie award season, honoring the best independent films in a gala at Cipriani Wall Street. Fall.

One to Watch: Electric Zoo: New York’s first Euro-style outdoor music festival debuted on Randall’s Island in 2009 and grew to 50,000 people in 2010. September.

Fashion Industry Events
1. Fashion Week picked up its tents and moved to Lincoln Center in 2010, ushering more models, designers, and onlookers than ever into the new 100,000-square-foot site. February 10-17, September 9-16.

2. Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Awards may not draw the same celebrity crowds as Fashion Week, but are a can’t-miss for industry insiders. June 6.

3. New to the List: Fashion’s Night Out, a consumer confidence-boosting event launched here in 2009, expanded last year to 20 states, 16 countries, and a TV special. It included events at more than 1,000 stores across the five boroughs. September 8.

4. Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars Benefit, now in year 28, consistently draws a mix of A-list designers (Calvin Klein, Michael Kors) and actors (Richard Gere, Jennifer Connelly). October 27.

5. Accessories Council ACE Awards honor a diverse list of designers and celebrities who help raise the industry’s profile, from Rachel Roy to tennis star Maria Sharapova in 2010. November 7.

6. New to the List: Whitney Art Party has grown into one of the year’s hottest tickets for artists, young Hollywood types, and especially fashion writers, drawing 1,000 guests to a Bronson van Wyck-designed party at new venue 82 Mercer in 2010. June.

One to Watch: The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show brought 30 scantily clad models, along with performers Akon and Katy Perry, to the 69th Regiment Armory for this televised special. At press time, it had not been announced if the show would return to New York in 2011. Fall.

One to Watch: CFDA/Vogue Fund Awards, now in their eighth year, recognize emerging designers at a gala packed with the likes of Anna Wintour, Carolina Herrera, and Jason Wu. November.

Food & Restaurant Industry Events
1. James Beard Awards, the country’s most prestigious prize for chefs, celebrate with a 2,000-person ceremony, hosted last year by Alton Brown, Lidia Bastianich, and Wolfgang Puck. May 9.

2. New York City Wine & Food Festival, in just its third year, is already one of the city’s most anticipated consumer events, expanding to 130 mouthwatering segments last fall. September 29-October 2.

3. International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York, with 16,000 attendees, is the industry’s largest New York gathering, now that the Fancy Food Show has decamped for Washington. February 27-March 1.

4. Chefs’ Tribute to Citymeals-on-Wheels served fare from big-name chefs like Todd English and Wolfgang Puck for this 25th anniversary fund-raiser in 2010. June 6.

5. Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs Event fetes the industry’s up-and-comers with this recognition. 2010 honorees included Missy Robbins of Manhattan’s A Voce and Mike Sheerin of Chicago’s Blackbird. April.

One to Watch: Manhattan Cocktail Classic attracted 4,000 drinkers to 70-plus events during its inaugural run last year. May 13-17.

Hospitality Industry Events
1. Up from 2: N.Y.U.’s Hospitality Industry Investment Conference is a must-attend meeting for 1,800 high-end hotel industry executives. June 5-7.

2. International Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Show brings 30,000 hospitality industry players to the Javits Center each fall. November 12-15.

3. Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International Adrian Awards are the biggest evening of the year for the travel and tourism marketing industry. January 31.

Media Events
1. Time 100 Gala honors a diverse list of the world’s most influential people, from Bill Clinton to Sarah Palin to Taylor Swift in 2010—and gets them to show up, too. Spring.

2. National Magazine Awards are set for a revamp this year, switching from a theater-style show at Lincoln Center to a dinner at 583 Park Avenue. May 9.

3. National Book Foundation’s National Book Awards celebrate the year’s best tomes with a gala dinner, and expanded in recent years with several nights of author readings beforehand. November.

4. The New Yorker Festival is the city’s brainiest long weekend, offering three days of discussions with well-known writers, actors, politicians, and intellectuals. Fall.

5. Up From 6: The Webby Awards, already 15 years old, honor the best in online media and are the marquee draw of Internet Week, now encompassing 200 events entertaining 20,000 people. June 6-13.

6. Peabody Awards, television’s longest-standing prize, honored just a few shows that stood out from the rest in a Waldorf-Astoria ceremony hosted by Diane Sawyer in 2010. May 23.

7. Glamour Women of the Year Awards turned 20 in 2010 with a bash that saw everyone from Julia Roberts to Chelsea Clinton walking Carnegie Hall’s red carpet. November 7.

8. Matrix Awards, New York Women in Communications’ 40-year-old luncheon, welcomed Tina Fey and Sheryl Crow among the honorees in 2010. April 11.

9. New to the List: Bloomberg BusinessWeek Media Summit drew an executive-heavy crowd of 1,000 in its seventh year, for sessions featuring industry big shots like New York Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger and CNN’s then-president, Jonathan Klein. March 9-10.

10. PEN Literary Gala has big-name publishing figures rubbing shoulders with society types at the American Museum of Natural History. April 26.

One to Watch: The Moth Ball—the storytelling group’s downtown answer to the PEN gala—has become the hippest literary gala going in just four years. November.

One to Watch: Social Media Week, an interactive conference focused on emerging industry trends, hosted 2,500 people for its inaugural outing in 2009 and expanded last year to 200 events in seven global cities. February 7-11.

Parades, Festival & Holiday Events
1. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the single largest event on the city’s calendar attendance-wise, with 3.5 million spectators lining Sixth and Seventh avenues. November 24.

2. New Year’s Eve in Times Square doesn’t best the Thanksgiving parade in on-the-ground numbers, but more than a billion watch on TV sets worldwide. December 31.

3. West Indian-American Day Carnival is Brooklyn’s biggest party, capping a five-day, three-million-person festival with the city’s most colorful procession. September 5.

4. National Puerto Rican Day Parade brought out more than two million proud boricuas in 2010—including “King of the Parade” Marc Anthony and wife Jennifer Lopez—despite a shortened parade route. June 12.

5. St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the longest-standing event on our list by a long shot, celebrates its 250th anniversary this year. March 17.

6. Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting marks the start of the holiday season with a live NBC special that featured performances by Mariah Carey and Kylie Minogue in 2010. Fall.

7. Up From 8: NYC PrideFest and Parade is a weeklong celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender pride including more than one million participants. June 18-26.

8. Village Halloween Parade, despite weathering budget shortfalls several years in a row, consistently pulls together a party for two million costumed revelers. October 31.

9. New to the List: World Science Festival, in just its third year, has grown into one of the city’s most successful examples of an event with both insider cred and significant mass appeal. The festival grew from an already impressive 120,000 attendees in its inaugural 2008 outing to more than 184,000 visitors in 2010—a feat achieved by mixing small events intended for an industry and donor crowd with newsworthy happenings designed to attract thousands of New Yorkers and tourists. More than 40 mini events held over the five-day run included the installation of a full-scale model of N.A.S.A.’s James Webb Space Telescope in Battery Park, a live satellite feed from Norway announcing winners of the $1 million Kavli Prizes to scientists and journalists gathered at N.Y.U.’s Kimmel Center, and an opening-night gala that honored physicist Stephen Hawking. June 1-5.

Political & Diplomatic Events
1. Clinton Global Initiative is a who’s who of political and business leaders, with President Obama, Bill Gates, and Laura Bush among those announcing $6 billion in commitments to world relief last year. Fall.

2. Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner is a media frenzy during presidential election years, but still brings in well-known politicos like James Carville and Mary Matalin in off years. October 20.

3. U.N. Foundation/U.N.A.-U.S.A Global Leadership Awards Dinner celebrated a new alliance between these two nonprofits with an inaugural joint event honoring Senator John Kerry in 2010. November.

4. Hospitality Committee for the U.N. Delegations Ambassador’s Ball traditionally hosts the U.N. secretary-general, along with a slew of diplomats. Fall.

5. The Inner Circle Show, the local take on the White House Association Correspondents’ dinner, had Mayor Bloomberg performing with the cast of Hair and chitchatting with Jersey Shore’s Snooki in 2010. March 26.

One to Watch: Women: Inspiration and Enterprise Symposium brought out heavy hitters from an array of industries for this inaugural U.N. Week conference organized by Sarah Brown, Donna Karan, and Arianna Huffington. September 19.

PR Industry Events
1. P.R.S.A.’s Silver Anvil Awards recognize successful PR campaigns in 59 different categories at this 65-year-old red carpet event. June 9.

2. PR Week Awards, now in their 11th year, hand out 33 trophies at a gala attended by 800. March 10.

3. New to the List: Sabre Awards recognize Superior Achievement in Branding and Reputation in a ceremony hosted by industry newsletter The Holmes Report. May.

Sports Events
1. U.S. Open attracted more than 700,000 tennis fans to Queens during each of the past four years. August 29-September 11.

2. ING New York City Marathon lures 2.5 million spectators to cheer on 45,000 runners from Staten Island to Central Park. November 6.

3. N.F.L. Draft, held at Radio City Music Hall, is an increasingly popular draw for football fans, with the first round of the two-day event moving to primetime for a live broadcast last year. April.

4. Belmont Stakes is the third and final leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown series and often brings more than 100,000 spectators to its Long Island site. June 6.

5. Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show turned 135 this year. The two-day competition is broadcast on ESPN. February 14-15.

One to Watch: Veuve Cliquot Polo Classic introduced “the sport of kings” to Governors Island in 2008 and received an outpouring of media attention when Britain’s Prince Harry showed up to play last year. June.

Trade Shows & Conventions
1. New York International Auto Show continues to expand even after 110 years, with the one-million-person-plus event spilling into the new Javits Center North this spring. April 22-May 1.

2. Up From 3: New York Comic Con & Anime Festival joined forces in 2010 for a super-nerd gathering that topped 95,000 attendees. October 14-16.

3. New York National Boat Show saw attendance grow to 50,000 in its 105th outing last year. January 19-23.

4. New York International Gift Fair, a biannual gathering of niche retailers, increased attendance to 35,000 in 2010. January 29-February 3 and August 13-18.

5. The Greater New York Dental Meeting is one of the city’s largest industry gatherings, bringing together nearly 60,000 health-care professionals. November 25-30.

6. American International Toy Fair brings some 25,000 buyers to check out 100,000 products at the Javits Center. February 13-16.

7. National Retail Federation Annual Convention and Expo, which turns 100 this year, consistently gathers representatives from nearly all of the country’s biggest retailers. January 9-12.

8. PDN PhotoPlus International Conference and Expo is a draw for professional and amateur photographers, with attendance at 27,000 last year. October 27-29.

9. New to the List: New York Times Travel Show has grown exponentially since its 2004 debut and drew 24,000 attendees this winter. February 25-27.

Correction: The original version of this story listed the inaccurate date for the Matrix Awards. The awards will be held on April 11.

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