Last week we led you on a virtual tour of the Vola Lawson animal shelter in Alexandria and told you about a wonderful event we planned on attending supporting the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, and Friday evening we had the pleasure of enjoying the event, all in the name of supporting a wonderful cause.
The event, the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria's third annual Mardi Growl gala, is a New Orleans inspired extravaganza with music, dancing, festive food and drink, a great silent auction, and Mardi Gras themed performers. Mardi Growl is the League's largest fundraising event of the year and brings animal lovers together in a night that makes you think the Beltway has been replaced with Bourbon street.
The best part is the fact it's all done to give needy animals better care, a better future, and a better life.
Since this was our first time attending Mardi Growl, we weren't entirely sure what to expect. We knew it was a themed event but that was about the extent of our knowledge. The whole shindig was being held in the recently built United States Patent and Trademark Office's grand glass atrium near the west end of Old Town (nearby the King Street Metro station), so we were just excited to see a part of Alexandria we've not yet ventured into. Immediately upon our arrival and entrance into the expansive space we could hear the party was in full swing with live music and revelers, in spite of the fact it was on a different floor entirely.
When we made it down to the event's location, we were welcomed by the friendly AWLA staff, a nicely stocked bar, and the great sounds of a live band. Throughout the evening guests were entertained by the live N'awlins-style jazz music from Blu Neffu. Not only were they a great group, their energy was apparent and they kept the whole crowd involved and the dance floor moving all evening.
Roaming the floor of the event were two very entertaining stilt walkers, constantly engaging the crowd with various antics. These guys were hamming it up. They worked the crowd by laughing, joking, and handing out beads to ensure there were no slow moments in the event and kept everyone laughing and energized.
In addition to the various performers and the live band, there were two caricature artists doing their best to create entertaining sketches of guests looking to have their most pronounced features made larger than life. We watched over their shoulder for a little while and I must say, they are surely talented.
With all of the event's thumping sounds, one of the main events of the night actually offered a significant departure from the typical noisy theme of Mardi Gras. In the center of the room and around the perimeter, a silent auction with a significant amount of competition was taking place.
Each auction item contained a themed gift basket with a few items related to the main auction items, and the additional items for each basket were outlined on a printout next to the basket. From spa days to weekend getaways, each auction package contained a collection of experiences and gifts associated with local small businesses, establishments, or personalities. There was easily something some everyone, if not many somethings for everyone. And the best part? All of the proceeds go to support the Animal Welfare League, so there's really no reason not to participate.
We had a great time perusing the items up for silent auction. In particular, I was really taken with the artwork in the center of the photo below. That grumpy dog really reminded me of Oliver. All he needed was a snaggle tooth, and it could have been a spitting image of him.
We bid on two different items and stalked them the rest of the night to see if we would be the lucky ones to take them home. One was a group experience at National Harbor, and the other a getaway to a quaint bed and breakfast. Though we were quickly outbid on one, I think we lost out on the second with only a few minutes left in the auction. Drats!
In addition to the auction, there was also a raffle going on throughout the evening. Much like the auction, there were absolutely something that would pique anyone's interest. We bought several raffle tickets and I really hoped I'd be able to win this Tiffany & Co. necklace. We each had a number on our badge that we bid and entered the raffle with. So I wrote my number on my ticket, #373, and hoped for the best.
While enjoying the music and the thoughts of wining a raffle or silent auction item we also partook in the food stations and open bar set up for the event. What stood out about the bar you ask? Well, it was a New Orleans style event, so that would have to be the Mardi Growl's twist on the Big Easy Hurricane, but in this case, a "Howlicane." Clever, huh? You know how I know they're good? Perhaps it's because I had...more than one.
Not only were the planned events and entertainment fun to watch, but other guests really got into the spirit of the night. Many wore wigs and masks, like this pink hair and boa clad attendee...
...or this guest's feather mask adorned with sequins.
It seemed that almost anywhere you turned you could see someone enjoying the night and having a great time.
Much of this event, the facility, and what the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria has become over the years is due in no small part to the tireless work, generosity, and of Vola Lawson. At the conclusion of the evening we saw her enjoying the event and sharing her stories and passion for animal welfare with some of the attendees.
One of the video screens near the bar was running a slideshow of the various adoptable animals currently at the shelter. We saw several familiar faces from our visit last week, but also noticed the various animals who weren't there, having been adopted in the previous week! We briefly spoke with Patrick, who we had met when we toured the Vola Lawson facility, and he was so pleased to share who had been adopted in the last several days. I can only imagine how hard the whole staff works to give all of these needy animals a better life, and it must be a wonderful thrill for them when they get to see their animals go to their forever homes.
Oh, and the raffle that I was so hoping to win, when they chose the winning ticket at the conclusion of the evening I was listening for my numbers, 3 - 7 - 3. As the Official Old Town Crier (Benjamin Fiore-Walker) and the evening's hosts, including Megan Webb, the newly announced CEO of the League, drew the winning ticket my pulse quickened.
They began to read the numbers, 3... YES! 5... darn...! 3... wait... I missed it by just one number, only two places off from the "right" one. Oh well, maybe next time. I still know that my raffle ticket purchases went to a great cause, and that's what truly matters.
All in all it was a wonderful and enjoyable event that we hope goes a very long way to support the needy animals of Alexandria and nearby areas. As we said, the dedication and care the staff provides is evident in their actions at the shelter and at this event, and we're sure they'll put all of the money and goodwill raised during the 3rd annual Mardi Growl to great use in improving the lives of needy animals.
If you're a local and are interested in attending the 4th annual Mardi Growl next year, be sure to watch the AWLA website for information. It may still be another 51ish weeks away, but there's no reason you can't start getting ready for the event now.
We hope you've enjoyed our recap of the 3rd annual Mardi Growl event. And we also hope we've raised a little awareness for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria and what a truly great cause it supports.