LEWISTON – True to its billing, it was not your normal formal.
Princess Leia and Julius Caesar shared a joke, as Raggedy Ann and the Mad Hatter consorted. Cleopatra and Cruella DeVil compared diva notes while Santa Claus worked the crowd. And just for good measure, Capt. Hook greeted everyone with a twinkle in his eye and a warning that his hook was out for donations.
Hook, better known as Chip Morrison, president of the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce, was in fine form at the chamber’s annual gala, the Not Your Normal Formal. Nearly 400 people turned out for the fundraiser, many of them heeding the call to come dressed as a favorite Hollywood star or cartoon character. Part costume party, part auction, the formal raises money for the chamber’s operating budget.
“It’s not just our biggest fundraiser, it’s our only fundraiser,” said Morrison, as he adjusted his hook.
Organizers have planned the event since November, drumming up more than $34,000 in donations for the auction and door prizes. Items ranged from gift baskets to ski passes, furniture and personal trainers, dinners and jewelry, and even a six-day photo safari to South Africa ($2,200 was the winning bid).
“We used to have two or three fundraisers a year,” said Dick Gleason, past chamber chairman, who attended the festivities as a dapper broadcast journalist. “Then we decided to raise dues slightly, cut down the fundraisers and have a party.”
Organizers hope the formal raises $30,000. Party-goers were encouraged to bid often and high as they paraded into the Ramada Inn, stopping first for photos, then red-carpet interviews.
The mood was jovial inside the ballroom as bank presidents and CEOs pumped their fists into the air to celebrate surviving several rounds of Heads and Tails. (Everyone stands and places their hands on their heads or their, umm, tails. Capt. Hook flips a coin and the people with their hands on the body part that matches the coin continue to stand while the losers take their, umm, seats.)
The contest for best costume was too tough to call. Thirteen semi-finalists took the stage as Capt. Hook held his hand over each contestant to start the applause meter. Unable to distinguish the winner, he then resorted to pulling names out of a hat.
Crestfallen, the Three Musketeers returned to their table empty handed. Zar’tagnan (Zark Van Zandt), Ann’tagnan (Anne Craigs) and Den’tagnan (Dennis Lee) rebounded quickly though, pledging to continue their fight against injustice. But for another time, another place.
“Tonight is just for fun,” said Ann’tagnan.