Southern California's Top 100 Events 2011

By Alice Dubin September 15, 2011, 7:49 AM EDT

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

While Los Angeles is known for the Oscars, Grammys, Globes, and Emmys, those glittering events are only the highest-profile (and most widely televised) of a packed annual calendar of events in the Southern California region. The area plays host to an array of major events across all industries, from the dramatic Tournament of Roses parade to the creative installations at the art institutions’ galas. Here are our picks for the region’s top events, which bring the biggest buzz, crowds, press, donors, and players in their respective fields.

Art & Design Events
1. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles’s benefit always draws attention for its buzzy, experiential events tied to exhibits and artists. November 12.

2. Hammer Museum’s Gala in the Garden seems to grow in importance each time around—it raised $1.3 million in 2010—and moves up from its typical October date next year. September 24.

3. The Los Angeles Art Show, presented by the Fine Art Dealers Association and KR Martindale Show Management, offers discussions, screenings, tours, curated exhibitions, and signings. January

4. Orange County Art of Dining Benefit, one of the county’s most prominent social events, will celebrate its 25th year and the museum’s 50th anniversary in 2012. June 2.

5. New to the List: Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collectors Committee is a weekend-long program that ends with a gala dinner at the museum each spring. April.

6. Westweek at the Pacific Design Center, now an institution after more than 25 years, is the center’s largest annual design industry event. March 21-22.

7. San Diego Museum of Art’s Art Alive, celebrating its 30th year, is one of the longest-running and most widely attended events of its kind in the U.S., with more than 100 floral designers creating the exhibition of arrangements. April .

8. Photo L.A. celebrated its 20th anniversary as the longest-running art fair west of New York and the largest photo-based art fair in the country, drawing more than 10,000 attendees. January 12-16.

9. New to The List: Art L.A will take to the Marriott Ritz-Carlton, offering exhibitors and visitors a lively art fair experience including lectures, screenings, seminars, discussions, and a café and lounge from Wolfgang Puck. September 30-October 2.

10. Los Angeles Antiques Show brings more than 60 dealers from the U.S. and Europe, and kicks off with an opening-night preview party benefiting P.S. Arts. April.

11. Laguna Beach Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters faithfully re-creates classical and contemporary works with real people posing to look like the subjects in the original pieces. July and August.

12. Venice Art Walk & Auctions benefits Venice Family Clinic, with Warner Brothers Entertainment, Sony Pictures, and Classic Party Rentals among past sponsors and more than 3,000 participants. May 20.

13. Art Los Angeles Contemporary presents 70 top galleries from around the world in 40,000 square feet of exhibition space, and hosts programming like artist talks, curator discussions, film screenings, and performances. January 19-22.

One to Watch: The Mission Federal ArtWalk San Diego filled Little Italy with more than 120,000 attendees this year. April 28-29.

1. Carousel of Hope Ball, founded by Barbara and the late Marvin Davis in 1977, every other year raises more than $2 million for the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes. Fall.

2. Race to Erase MS, co-chaired by Nancy Davis and Tommy Hilfiger, raises big money for the Nancy Davis Foundation for Multiple Sclerosis and its Center without Walls program. May 18.

3. Up From 4: California Science Center’s Discovery Ball is a detail-minded event headed by Christina Sion, who selected a California theme for the last installment, and will plan the next ball to coincide with a Cleopatra exhibit opening. May 19.

4. Los Angeles Philharmonic Gala welcomed music director Gustavo Dudamel back for his second season, with a Latin-inspired program including the orchestra and guest artist, tenor Juan Diego Floréz, at Disney Hall. Fall .

5. Entertainment Industry Foundation’s “An Unforgettable Evening” benefits the Women’s Cancer Research Fund, with Rihanna performing at the last installment. The event may move to an every-other-year format, but is typically the week before the Oscars. Not yet scheduled .

6. Chrysalis Butterfly Ball is a celebrity-studded, decade-old benefit for the homelessness support organization, and takes place at a luxe private estate. June.

7. Women in Film’s Crystal & Lucy Awards acknowledge women in a male-dominated environment at a celebrity-heavy annual award show and fund-raiser at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel. June .

8. HollyRod Foundation’s DesignCare Benefit started as a mixer for 50 people at Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete’s home, and has grown to draw more than 500 guests with a reception, fashion show, entertainment, and silent and live auctions. July.

9. Concern Foundation’s Block Party took to the New York back lot of the Studios at Paramount, hosting a sell-out crowd of close to 4,000 guests and raising more than $1.5 million. July 14.

10. Los Angeles Opera season opening celebration will take to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for its 25th season, with a champagne and caviar reception followed by a buffet dinner and performance of Eugene Onegin. September 17.

11. Up From 17:  Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County’s Dinosaur Ball is the museum’s black-tie biannual fund-raiser. In 2011, it was tied to the opening of the new, permanent Dinosaur Hall, which has the most species of dinosaurs on display anywhere in the country. Following the gala was a week’s worth of member previews and events. The 2013 ball will mark the centennial of the museum. Late spring.

12. Elizabeth Glaser’s Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s “A Time for Heroes” celebrity picnic event has raised more than $32 million since it began in 1990. June.

13. U.S.C. Libraries Scripter Award gala, a black-tie gala that honors writers for adapting books into film, doled out awards to author Ben Mezrich and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin for their works related to Facebook’s founding. February.

14. Fulfillment Fund’s Stars Benefit at the Beverly Hilton will honor Walt Disney Studios chairman Richard Ross, with a Founders’ Humanitarian award presentation to longtime board members Madeleine and Tom Sherak. November 1.

15. Backstage at the Geffen recognizes leadership in the theater community while raising awareness of the Geffen Playhouse’s education and outreach programs—to the tune of $850,000 in 2011. May.

16. Art of Elysium’s Heaven gala, produced by Best Events at the California Science Center, raised about $2 million through sponsorship and ticket sales. January.

17. The Los Angeles Urban League Whitney M. Young. Jr. awards dinner, which in 2011 marked the organization’s 90th anniversary, is the group’s signature event, attracting more than 1,400 attendees. April.

18. Children Affected by AIDS Foundation’s Dream Halloween is a family-friendly fund-raiser with treats for kids, arts and crafts activities, face painting, a sponsor reception, food from L.A. eateries, stage shows, and live and silent auctions. October 29.

One to Watch: L.A.’s Promise will honor Ryan Seacrest at its 2011 gala at the Kodak Theatre, and will also include a private screening of that theater’s new Cirque du Soleil show, Iris. September 27. 

Entertainment & Media Events 
1. The Academy Awards are unlikely to ever be bounced from their top spot, with the ceremony’s own splashy production values at the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center, and the army of related events it spawns. February 26.

2. Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s opulent dinner ceremony, stays at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, but will controversial host Ricky Gervais return? January 15.

3. The Recording Academy of Arts & Sciences’ Grammy Awards, dubbed “Music’s Biggest Night,” takes to the Staples Center with Branden Chapman overseeing a huge after-party. February 12.

4. Up from 5: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Primetime Emmy Awards precedes the splashy annual Governors Ball for about 3,600 guests. The ball is billed as the largest formal dinner in the U.S. September 18.

5. Screen Actors Guild Awards reinvented itself with some new touches this year. The awards’ luxe backstage greenroom was backed by sponsors for the first time, including Fendi Casa and the House of Graff. January 29.

6. Film Independent’s Spirit Awards moved back to Santa Monica this year after a controversial move to L.A. Live. February.

7. Environmental Media Awards, which acknowledge depictions of environmental issues in the media, celebrated their 20th year with an event at Warner Brothers. October 15.

8. Up from 11: The A.F.I. Life Achievement Award went to Morgan Freeman at a star-mobbed gala, and an after-party that nodded to his Southern roots. June.

9. BET Awards celebrate African-Americans in music, sports, and other entertainment realms, with the last installment broadcast live from the Shrine Auditorium with host Kevin Hart. June 26.

10. American Music Awards’ last go had some new tricks, including the debut of an arrivals setup meant to give fans the biggest possible thrill, though ABC’s telecast from the Nokia Theatre was the lowest-rated yet. November 20.

11. A.F.I. Fest kicks off award season each year, offering exposure to the entertainment community and providing audiences a lively atmosphere. November 3-10.

12. New to the List: Elle Women in Hollywood Awards at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills derives its sense of exclusivity from the high ratio of celebrities to civilians at the intimate ballroom dinner show. After taking over hosting duties in 2007 when Premiere magazine folded, the fashion magazine’s glittering award bash has grown to a don’t-miss event on the Hollywood A-list calendar. October 17.

13. People’s Choice Awards winners, selected by a record-breaking 175 million votes online in 2011, were announced during a live broadcast at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on CBS. January.

14. Bafta/L.A. Britannia Awards draw big stars as presenters and honorees. November 30.

15. American Cinematheque Gala Tribute honors what the group calls “an artist currently making a significant contribution” to movies. It will go to Robert Downey Jr. in 2011 at the Beverly Hilton. October 14.

16. Film Independents Los Angeles Film Festival, presented by The Los Angeles Times, moved the program from Westwood to its new downtown headquarters. June.

17. Glaad Media Awards at the Westin Bonaventure honored Kristin Chenoweth with the Vanguard Award, and included a sit-down dinner, awards, and V.I.P. after-party. April 21.

18. N.A.A.C.P. Image Awards took to the Shrine Auditorium, and aired live on Fox with Holly Robinson Peete and Wayne Brady as hosts, and Vicangelo Bulluck as executive producer. Spring.

19. Outfest: The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival has presented more than 4,500 films and videos for audiences of more than half a million people since its founding in 1982. July 12-22.

Fashion & Retail Events
1. Divine Design, Project Angel Food’s holiday shopping benefit, tweaked its format in 2010 to accommodate a crush of eager spenders, hosting its annual gala and V.I.P. party on separate nights to better manage the throng. December.

2. Rodeo Drive Walk of Style awards, co-sponsored by the City of Beverly Hills and the Rodeo Drive Committee, honors big fashion names on the shopping street. October 23.

3. Class is a fashion and lifestyle trade show for men and women, with more than 200 exhibitors from around the world participating and more than 700 professional attendees. Fall.

4. Macy’s Glamorama includes live music, celebrity appearances, fashion designers, and an after-party. The 2011 event will have performances by Cee Lo Green and Far East Movement. September 23.

5. F.I.D.M.’s L.A. Fashion Gala Debut Show, a scholarship fund-raising event attended by industry folks, alumni, and fashion celebrities, included a guest appearance by F.I.D.M. grad Nick Verreos. March.

6. Colleagues charity luncheon, sponsored by Oscar de la Renta and underwritten by Italian jeweler Vhernier, showed the designer’s fall 2011 collection at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, and Nancy Reagan picked up the Champion of Children award. April.

7. Los Angeles Fashion Week’s lack of cohesion has been widely publicized—particularly after the partnership between Smashbox and IMG dissolved in 2008—but a wide variety of events nevertheless try to rally around the title. March and October.

8. Country Friends' 56th annual Art of Fashion runway show and luncheon in partnership with South Coast Plaza at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe also includes wine tasting and boutique shopping. September 22.

Festivals & Fairs
1.L.A. County Fair typically draws more than 1.3 million visitors to the Pomona Fairplex, and offers live entertainment, rides, games, and vendors selling food and crafts. September 3-October 2.

2. Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival sold out three-day passes again in 2011, and producer Goldenvoice has announced the program will expand to two weekends in 2012 to meet the massive demand. April 13-15, 20-22.

3. Up From 4: Orange County Super Fair set an attendance record last year, drawing 1,154,969 to what has become one of North America’s largest fairs. Summer.

4. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books’ latest installment took over a new home: The 16th annual event moved from U.C.L.A. to its crosstown rival, the University of Southern California. April.

5. Abbot Kinney Festival, which has been running since 1984, draws an easygoing crowd of close to 150,000 for this free, volunteer-produced community festival of live music, arts and crafts booths, and food offerings. September 25.

6. Sunset Strip Music Festival last year attracted a crowd of 13,000 attendees for performances on outdoor stages and inside venues in West Hollywood. August.

One to Watch: Sunset Junction Street Festival includes performances and carnival rides for 60,000. It was cancelled this August when unpaid city fees led to denied permits, leaving the 31-year-old festival’s future unclear. TBD.

Food, Wine & Hospitality Events
1. New to the List: The Taste is a four-day program that combines last year’s inaugural Taste of Beverly Hills presented by Food & Wine magazine and The Los Angeles Times’ Celebration of Food & Wine into one mega-event taking over Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and downtown L.A. over Labor Day weekend. September 2-5.

2. Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation benefit in Culver City to end childhood hunger included samples from 40 of L.A.’s top chefs and restaurants, who donated their time and resources. June.

3. San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival’s last incarnation attracted 9,500 people over the weeklong series of events. A large audience of out-of-market attendees brought room nights up by 1,000 from the previous year, and sponsorship growth increased by 75 percent in revenue. November 16-20.

4. U.C.L.A. Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Taste for a Cure, which has raised $7.3 million in its 15-year history, took to the Beverly Wilshire, offering food and wines from the Oregon wine region Willamette Valley. Spring.

5. Extravaganza for the Senses, a benefit for the Saban Free Clinic, took to Sunset Gower Studios and offered samples from 40 of L.A.’s top restaurants, plus wine tastings from 80-plus wineries. July.

6. Great Chefs of Los Angeles is moving from its traditional fall date to a spring event in 2012 (there was no event in 2011), and the National Kidney Foundation said the organization hoped to grow the event in size in the new format. Spring.

7. Cooking for Love, Savor the Season, Break the Cycle’s tasting gala held at Global Cuisine by Gary Arabia at the Lot Studios in West Hollywood, serves wine and drinks paired with food from top chefs, and raises funds to end teen dating violence. October 9

8. Western Food Service and Hospitality Expo bills itself as the only comprehensive industry event devoted to the Western U.S. restaurant, food service, and hospitality market, and includes a broad slate of education and related events. August 28-30.

9. Culinary Evening With the California Winemasters benefit for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is a far cry from the event’s humble beginnings 22 years ago as a gathering of 125 guests. This year it sold out its 1,400 tickets and raised close to $1.7 million. May 19.

10. Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival is a new event that will take place at L.A. Live. After resigning from the Puck-Lazaroff Charitable Foundation earlier this year (and splitting with the foundation’s American Wine & Food Festival), Wolfgang Puck will be a part of the new partnership, which is sure to draw major attention. October 13-16.

11. New to the List: Gold Standard, L.A. Weekly’s tasting event with eateries selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Jonathan Gold, sells out at the Petersen Automotive Museum. March 4.

One to Watch: City of Angels Wine Festival, put on by the Rotary Club, L.A. Foundation, helps programs of Volunteers of America on and around Skid Row. May 28.

Parades, Walks & Holiday Events
1. Tournament of Roses is a 122-year-old New Year’s Day tradition, including the parade with its spectacular floral floats, and the 97th Rose Bowl game. January 1.

2. Fiesta Broadway draws more than 500,000 people for what is billed as the nation’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebration. May.

3. West Hollywood Halloween Costume Carnaval began in 1987 and celebrated its 23nd anniversary in 2010 with a crowd estimated around half a million people. October 31.

4. L.A. Pride, a 41-year-old event produced by Christopher Street West, included the inaugural proclamation of LGBT Heritage Month by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the three-day festival, and one of the largest gay pride parades in the world. June 8-10.

5. Golden Dragon Parade, presented by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, drew more than 110,000 people for the 112th annual event. January 28.

6. New to the List: Huntington Beach Fourth of July Parade and Festival is a tradition that began in 1904, drawing 50,000 people. By 2011, the fireworks—a 23-minute event with a total of 1,300 rounds—were expected to attract 300,000. July 4.

7. Entertainment Industry Foundation Revlon Run/Walk for Women draws tens of thousands of runners and walkers to raise money for the fight against women’s cancers. May 12.

8. AIDS Walk Los Angeles has drawn 500,000 participants since 1985 and raised more than $66 million. October 16.

Sporting Events
1. City of Los Angeles Marathon, after a significant retooling (and a rainy 2011 race) now takes a new, attractive course that begins at Dodger Stadium and continues west through the city to Santa Monica and Ocean Boulevard. March 18.

2. The BNP Paribas Open, formerly known as the Pacific Life Open, attracted more than 339,000 fans in recent years, making it the fifth most-attended tennis tournament outside the Grand Slams. March 5-18.

3. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach draws about 170,000 spectators, making it one of the largest paid spectator events in Southern California. April 13-15.

4. The Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl last year saw the Washington Huskies upset the heavily favored 18th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers 19 to 7 on an evening where the 57,921 fans experienced the coldest weather in the San Diego bowl game’s 33-year history. December 28.

5. Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular brings out big names in sports and entertainment to benefit the Medical Genetics Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. May 20.

6. Humana Challenge is a new name for the PGA Tour tournament in La Quinta formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic, and will include several changes to the format beginning in 2012. January 16-22.

One to Watch: ESPN’s Espy Awards will celebrate a milestone 20th anniversary in 2012, so look for an even larger program. July 11.

Trade Shows & Conventions
1. Up From 5: TED Conference, which draws some of the biggest names and thinkers in its namesake categories—technology, entertainment, and design—and realms well beyond, this year responded to community feedback and moved the conference one day earlier in the week, allowing greater travel flexibility. Annually, tickets (available with $7,500 membership) sell out a year in advance, but the innovators behind the tremendously successful conference have created an identity for the TED brand well outside the lines of its home at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center and added new ways for non-attendees to experience the conference’s trademark 18-minute presentations. February 27-March 2.

2. Los Angeles Auto Show has been on the scene for more than a century at the Los Angeles Convention Center. November 18-27.

3. Comic-Con International, which has a rabid fan following, came back to the San Diego Convention Center; at the 2010 show, four-day badges with preview passes for 2011’s show sold out. July 12-15.

4. Up From 9: Electronic Entertainment Expo takes over downtown with models, costumed characters, and jumbo props mingling among tens of thousands of high-energy attendees at the massive, buzzy trade show for the computer entertainment industry. June 5-7.

5. Up From 6: All Things Digital Conference, from The Wall Street Journal, has featured high-level discussions with boldfaced names in media and technology since its debut in 2003. May 29-31.

6. The NAMM Show, more than a century old, is considered the largest, most important music products show in the world, drawing people from more than 100 countries. January 19-22.

7. American Film Market draws industry leaders from more than 70 countries for eight days of deal-making, screenings, seminars, networking, and parties in Santa Monica. November 2-9.

8. Los Angeles Boat Show, produced by the Southern California Marine Association, is in its 55th consecutive year, making it one of the longest-running boat shows in the country. February 8-12

9. California Gift Show is the biggest of its kind on the West Coast, with more than 200,000 square feet, 10,000 product lines, and 1,200 temporary exhibitors and permanent showrooms showing products from the California region and beyond. January 17-23.

10. The Los Angeles Times Travel & Adventure Show is billed as the largest travel show in the United States, attracting about 20,000 attendees for panels and talks, and hundreds of destination exhibitors. January 27-29.

11. The Milken Global Conference brings together the likes of entrepreneurs, executives, philanthropists, and scientists to explore solutions to social, political, and economic challenges. April 29-May 2.

One to Watch: Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show draws about 20,000 to the Long Beach Convention Center; previously, show producer Unicomm co-produced The Los Angeles.

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