The holidays are a wrap, but for philanthropic Chicagoans, the celebrations are just beginning. The new year is chock full of galas and parties that blend style with substance — all while raking in funds for area charities. In fact, there’s not a weekend in the next six months that isn’t ripe with opportunities to enjoy and support our city. As we kick off 2013, here’s a look at the glitzy events taking place through the spring (look for our fall guide on Sept. 1). Save these dates, Chicago — it’s going to be a very festive year.
Feb. 8: Philanthropy tastes great at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Grand Chefs Gala. During cocktail hour, dozens of the city’s top chefs dish out imaginative hors d’oeuvres, and after the “La Dolce Vita”-themed dinner-dance, mixologists serve decadent drinks and desserts at a hoppin’ after-party. Tickets: $400 for the gala; $100 for just the Nightcap after-party. The Fairmont Chicago, 200 N. Columbus. For more information, call (312) 236-4491 or visit Grandchefsgala.com.
Feb. 8: The Chicago Auto Show’s First Look for Charity Gala offers a sneak peek at fresh-from-the-factory vehicles. Spread out over a whopping 1.3 million square feet of space (with slippers available for stiletto-weary guests), the event features Champagne, lavish buffet stations and a strict black-tie dress code that keeps guests looking glamorous as they test out some torque. The event benefits a number of local causes. Tickets: $250. McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore. For more information, call (630) 495-2282 or visit Chicagoautoshow.com/Firstlook.
Feb. 14: The Joffrey Ballet’s What Is This Thing Called Love? features a benefit performance by local chanteuse Shelley MacArthur Farley, who will belt out love-themed numbers with featured guests Rodrick Dixon and Alfreda Burke; the City Lights Ochestra, conducted by Rich Daniels, will also play. Upholding another Valentine’s Day tradition, the elegant evening includes plenty of Champagne. Tickets: $350. The Murphy, 50 E. Erie. For more information, call (312) 368-8921 or visit Joffrey.org/love.
Feb. 15: It will be a picturesque evening as the Art Institute of Chicago hosts its “Picasso and Chicago” opening night gala. The event, which includes a preview of 250 works by the renowned artist, will kick off with remarks from Picasso’s granddaughter Diana Widmaier Picasso. Dinner and drinks will follow in Griffin Court. Tickets: $500. Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan. For more information, call (312) 443-3615.
Feb. 24: The Gene Siskel Film Center’s Oscar Experience is Chicago’s only Academy-sanctioned Oscar Party. As such, guests get copies of the official program to follow along with as the ceremony plays out on the big screen. Other Hollywood-style perks include swag bags, red-carpet arrivals, faux paparazzi and giant searchlights stationed outside. Tickets: $100-$200. Gene Siskel Fim Center, 164 N. State. For more information, call (312) 846-2072 or visit Siskelfilmcenter.org.
March 2: The Lookingglass Theatre Company’s gglassquerade gala is going to be big this year, nation! Stephen Colbert hosts the glitzy affair, which traditionally lures the top brass of Chicago’s theater community. The night includes dinner, dancing and a speaking program known to bust guts. With Colbert ruling the roost, we expect to be doubled over all night. Tables: $10,000 to $50,000. The Four Seasons, 120 E. Delaware. For more information, call (773) 477-9257, ext. 116, or visit Lookingglasstheatre.org.
March 9: Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s Bear Tie Ball turns 20 this year, and guests are invited to don their finest purple duds and help celebrate. With dinner, dancing and auctions, the violet-hued event employs plenty of pizzazz to tackle a serious cause. Tickets: $325. UIC Forum, 1200 W. Harrison. For more information, call (312) 214-1200, ext. 29, or visit Bearnecessities.org.
March 15: The Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum’s Costume Ball showcases sartorial treasures against a swank backdrop. This year’s event celebrates the exhibit “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair.” The cocktail reception takes place in the museum’s storied Chicago room, and guests dine in a lavishly appointed tent. Tickets: $1,000. Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark. For more information, call (312) 799-2113 or visit Chicagohistory.org.
April 11: The Chicago Cubs Charities’ Bricks & Ivy Ball brings Wrigley Field star power to Navy Pier. With appearances from Chicago Cubs players, coaching staff and owners, the ball also offers a decadent dinner, music and auctions — but sadly, no chance of catching a fly ball. Tickets: $500. Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand. For more information, call (773) 404-2827 or visit Chicago.cubs.mlb.com.
April 13: The American Heart Association’s Heart Ball really takes its cause to, er, heart. The menu is lavish but low-sodium, and past guests have included fitness guru Denise Austin. The upbeat affair also includes dancing, live music and auctions. Tickets: $1,000. Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand. For more information, call (312) 476-6623 or visit Heart.org.
April 18: The AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s Spring Dinner calls on the cream of the intellectual crop to address the crowd; this year’s guest is the indomitable Paula Poundstone. Held in the chandelier-decked Hilton Chicago, the night includes cocktails, a gourmet dinner and networking opportunities galore. Tickets: $250 to $500. The Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan. For more information, call (312) 334-0935 or visit Aidschicago.org.
April 19: The Joffrey Ballet’s Spring Gala kicks off with a performance at the Auditorium Theatre. Guests then hop aboard trolleys and head to the Hilton Chicago for a dinner that’s perfectly en pointe. For many, the highlight of the evening is hitting the dance floor with the company’s renowned dancers, who bust out some classically tinged moves. Tickets: $750. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress; the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan. For more information, call (312) 396-8921 or visit Joffrey.org.
April 20: The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana’s Big Mac Under Glass gala is a buoyant affair made brighter by a special host: Every year, Ronald McDonald himself greets guests. With a Masquerade Ball theme and décor that channels 1920s Venice, this year’s event offers an especially elegant setting for clowning around. Tickets: $395. The Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 301 E. North Water. For more information, call (630) 623-5300 or visit Ronaldhousechicago.org.
April 26: The Driehaus Design Initiative presents the Driehaus Awards for Fashion Excellence, which celebrates Chicago’s finest young designers in a unique setting: a garage. (But rest assured — this garage is heated, bar-equipped and home to a fascinating collection of vintage cars.) The evening includes a fully produced fashion show of student looks judged by a panel of local experts. Ticket prices to be announced. 700 S. Des Plaines. For more information, visit Driehausdesign.org.
April 27: The American Cancer Society’s Discovery Ball is a study in successful fundraising. The juggernauts of Chicago’s corporate community — including C-level executives from Boeing and Motorola — occupy tables and participate in a thrilling live auction. Last year, one single package raked in $218,000; the entire event netted close to $3 million. This year’s celebrity headliner has yet to be announced. Event sponsorship begins at $25,000. Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, 221 N. Columbus. For more information, call (312) 279-7213 or visit Discoveryball.org.
May 3: The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s beloved Butterfly Ball sees the city’s social butterflies decked in springy gowns and dapper tuxes. With an eco-friendly focus, the gala has lush centerpieces that get replanted into the city’s gardens, while the upscale dinner showcases local fare. Tickets: $600. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Canon. For more information, call (312) 553-2000 or visit Pjhchicago.com/butterflyball.
May 11: The Alzheimer’s Association’s Rita Hayworth Gala is a Mother’s Day weekend tradition, and rightfully so: The event is helmed by Hayworth’s daughter Princess Yasmin Aga Khan. Always inspired by a Rita Hayworth film, the evening transports guests to a glamorous, retro-style setting. Tickets: $500-$2,500. The Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan. For more information, call (312) 335-5216 or visit Alz.org.
Here are a few more galas that we’re looking forward to in 2013:
The Museum of Contemporary Art’s ArtEdge Gala. Feb. 2. Tickets: $1,000 for the gala, $150 for concert and after-party. Call (312) 397-3868 or email Hhanas@mcachicago.org.
“They Seek a City: Chicago and the Art of Migration, 1910-1950” opening event at the Art Institute. March 2. Tickets: $350-$1,000. Visit Artic.edu.
PAWS Chicago’s Animal Magnetism. Feb. 22. Tickets: $125 per person, $25 per pooch. Call (773) 843-4887 or visit Pawschicago.org/animalmagnetism.
Redmoon Theater’s Spectacle Lunatique. March 9. Call (312) 850-8440 or visit Redmoon.org.
The Women’s Board and the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Zoological Society’s The Whirl. April 20. Tickets: $600. Call (312) 553-2000 or visit Czs.org.
The Steppenwolf Theatre Gala. May 4. Tickets: $1,000. Call (312) 654-5632 or visit Steppenwolf.org.
The Woman’s Board of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s 64th Annual Summer Ball. May 31. Tickets: $600. Visit Bgcc.org.
— Story by Jenny Berg