Have a ball

Robert Washburn

Photo By Gabriel Doss

For three of the past four years—he took a year off for the millennium—Robert Washburn has worked to gather alternative sources of funding for northern Nevada social organizations through a masquerade ball at the Holiday Inn. This year’s event, the 2002 Black & White Masquerade Ball, will be downtown at 10 N. Virginia St. (formerly the Mapes lot) and in Cal-Neva’s Nevadan Tower from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. on May 18. One event highlight is a $1,000 Masquerade Costume Contest. Washburn anticipates raising at least $150,000 for nine organizations, including Nevada Hispanic Services, Nevada Diabetes Association, Nevada AIDS Foundation and the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. Tickets are $55. Visit www.Reno2002Ball.com or call the Cal-Neva at 323-1046 or (887) 777-7307.

How does the money raised at the ball help the nine organizations?

Most of these agencies are funded just through grants, and they don’t have any flexibility as far as adapting to Nevada’s specific needs.

Why is it important for you to help the community?

The reason I’ve become involved in this is because it’s my family and community. People who I know are needing and utilizing these resources, so I found a way that I can contribute to these agencies that assist people in our community.

What inspired you to make the event such a large occasion?

This year’s event is being modeled after the Black & White party that they had in Las Vegas this last September. They had Martha Wash at the Hard Rock Hotel. It was one of the largest events they have had. After I watched that event, I decided that I wanted to expand the Black & White ball to include a concert.

What has the community’s response been?

This year’s event has grown and had such a drive from the community with sponsorships. I have more than 40 sponsors. Just some phenomenal people have stepped up to bring this event together.

What do you have lined up for the ball?

The event opens at 6 o’clock with festivities and our reception. At 8 o’clock we start our entertainment with the Metropolitan Community Choir. And then we have the Silver Lining Band with our special guest, Martha Wash ("It’s Raining Men"). At 10 p.m., the dance gala opens in the Admiral’s Ballroom in the Club Cal-Neva Nevadan Tower, and that will go until about 4 a.m. and is DJ’d by Gerard G. At midnight, the finals for the costume contest will be held in the Riverfront Theatre (inside the Cal-Neva). Registration for the costume contest is from 6 to 8 p.m. and the main stage judging is at 8:30 p.m. People need to come early to register for the contest.

Are you going to dress up?

I will be wearing a tuxedo with a mask only, because I will be doing many other things. But I’ve seen some of the costumes and they are outrageous. Traditionally, it’s an event that you can come dressed in black and white, masquerade [attire] or Mardi Gras [attire] to help theme the event. It’s not required, but it is encouraged.

What’s up for next year’s ball?

Next year, we hope to do a Reno Rio weekend, a three-day event with a carnival parade. I want it to be like Hot August Nights. I would like to build this as a tourism event that provides Nevada with growth in tourism that also is a mechanism to raise money for our community service agencies and is a win-win for everyone.