Two-hundred Bradenton area community leaders, arts supporters and people just who love an elegant party donned formal wear and masks Saturday for an evening of food, entertainment and dancing at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
The event was the third annual Crystal Gala. Manatee Players has been hosting the event every year since the company moved into its lavish new home in 2014.
This year's party was the biggest ever.
"The turnout's great," said Rick Kerby, Manatee Players producing artistic director. "It's great to see everybody dressed up and having a good time."
The event is always black tie, and guests were encouraged to wear masks this year. A few dozen did.
After a reception in the lobby of the performing arts center, guests moved into Stone Hall for a short entertainment program.
When the curtain opened, Savannah Sinclair, who plays Ariel in the upcoming Manatee Players production of "The Little Mermaid," was lounging on a rock at center stage. She sang one of the one of the best-known songs from the hit show, "Part of Your World."
She was followed by Carl Bowman and Andrea Keddell, respectively as each sang a number from "Bark: The Musical," in which all the characters are dogs in a doggie day care.
The Manatee Players production of "Bark" opens Oct. 22 in the Bradenton Kiwanis Theater. "The Little Mermaid" opens in December in Stone Hall.
The party moved upstairs for a surf-turf dinner from Pier 22, followed by a live auction conducted by John Vita.
The auction raised about $10,000 for Manatee Players. The items auctioned included a game jersey signed by Pittsburgh Pirates star Andrew McCutchen (it sold, along with four seats in Mayor Wayne Poston's box at a Marauders game, for $700), a four-night stay at an Orlando-area resort ($1,100) and two packages that included private evening in the Manatee Performing Arts Center's new skybox during a Stone Hall production ($1,500 each).
More than a dozen items were sold through silent auction, and an opal necklace was raffled off. Company official didn't have tallies on how much those sales raised.
Tickets for the gala sold for $175, so just through ticket sales Manatee Players raised $35,000.
Gala co-Chairwoman Pat Picklelsimer said she was thrilled the event raised so much money.
"We need a lot of money," she said. "We're still a growing company."
Money was secondary Saturday night to people who attended the gala, which ended with dessert and dancing to music by SoulRCoaster.
"It's such an elegant evening," said Dr. Teresa Rawe, the other co-chairwoman. "The way the community has come together for this company is amazing."
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.