Nite Lites 2009

Saturday evening was the 14th annual Nite Lites Gala at Lehigh Valley Hospital Muhlenberg. The event is held as a fundraiser every year for the non-profit hospital network to raise money in order to benefit the community through their organization. Luckily enough I was able to attend the event free of charge through my employer. Donations to the event ranged from $1500 per couple up to $50,000+ for groups and organizations. The extravagent gala is held under giant tents set up in the parking lot of Muhlenberg Hospital and features fine drinks, food, dancing, and theming for some of the valley’s elite.

Every year the event has a theme, last year’s being “Some Like It Hot” with theming of New Orleans’ French Quarter. This year’s theme was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, obviously taking a Wizard of Oz theme. Upon arriving you were greeted by Professor Marvel, the roadside gypsy Dorothy encounters after running away from home. Professor Marvel and a companion were singing Wizard of Oz-related music as you queued up to enter the tents and recieve your seating assignment. As you entered the tent to receive your seating assignment a girl dressed up as Dorothy welcomed you to Nite Lites.

Inside the first tent they had “herders” directing people towards where their seating assignment could be found as they were broken up by last name. Once in your line you received a lollipop covered in sparkles with your name and table number on it. Entering into yet another line you passed by a very funny setup of a house with the ruby slippers sticking out, and finally into the main tent where you were greeted by Dr. Elliot Sussman, President and CEO of Lehigh Valley Health Network.

Inside the tent the theming was awesome. Kids from the Pennsylvania Playhouse were romaing around dressed as Munchkins, a huge setup of the Emerald City preceeded by a yellow brick road, kids dressed up as crows, trees, and flying monkies among other things really set the atmosphere for cocktail hour. Hors d’oeuvres were being served by roaming wait staff in the form of rainbow cheese tortes, stuffed apples with smoke turkey and gruyere cheese, beef brisket with mango BBQ sauce, saffron herbed risotto topped with creamy grilled duck raclette, and a pasty stuffed with crab, bell pepper, onion, and old bay. Shrimp was set up inside the main dance tent inside of baskets and buckets made of ice, surrounded by theme-specific ice carvings of flying monkeys and the like. Outside the good witch and the bad witch were walking around charming the crowds, as were the kids dressed up as munchkins. There were fairly long lines for one of the main attraction during cocktail hour, the tethered hot air balloon ride.

Inside the tent the bars were flowing smoothly from all the way through the night. Surprisingly they were serving quality liquor, from Pennsylvania’s own Bluecoat gin to Woodford Reserve bourbon, no expense was spared at making this a fantastic night. As 7pm neared many decided to take their seats. Around the same time the four projection screens in the main tent started displaying giant fireballs as sounds of lightning and flashes flickered through the tent to signal that dinnertime was imminent. Minutes later Dr. Sussman appeared on the screens clad in green hue portraying the Wizard of Oz, delcaring the virtues of healthcare and Lehigh Valley Hospital. He then made an appearance, confronting the Tin Man, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Lion with a humorously scripted act discussing healthcare and the hospital system.

After all was said and done with the charades, the national anthem was performed by Lauren Hart, followed by a benediction and Somewhere Over the Rainbow being performed by the young lady dressed up as Dorothy that was greeting guests on their way in. Afterwards donators were announced, including Arlen Spector, Charlie Dent, John Callahan, Ed Pawlowski, and other local politicians that made an appearance or donation. As everyone sat down salad was already served with bread and butter following right after. Salmon and filet of beef tenderloin were served for dinner with Fetzer Valley Oaks merlot or chardonnay. The filets were medium-well and well done, which was fine. Sodexho catered the event and while the food wasn’t out of this world, it was certainly very edible. The hors dourves and the dessert were much better than the entrees were.

After dinner many people began to mingle and shortly afterwards the warning shots for the fireworks were set off. As everyone went outside a fantastic fireworks spectacle wowed the ~1400 Nite Lites attendees with a decadent ground demonstration that lasted quite a while. As the fireworks ceased the L.A. Starz band began playing in the dance tent and the Ruby Slipper Lounge became a psuedo relaxation and dessert tent for the remainder of the evening as the main tent emptied and the dance floor crowded. The band, with more members than I cared to count, played upbeat swing renditions of newer pop songs like “Sexyback” and older classics for the crowd to dance to. As the evening closed to an end they mixed in some slow songs for good measure.

From what I heard via attendees from other years, this year topped the last few in terms of theming, food, and decor. It was a fantastic evening with lavish food, drinks, fireworks, and dancing that couldn’t have been held on a more beautiful evening. If you ever have enough cash to pony up or can score a complimentary ticket from someone generous enough, I would highly suggest attending in the future.













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