There will be a Montgomery County executive’s ball this summer, but it is being rebranded as a “celebration of the arts and humanities” and it won’t have a sit-down dinner.
The annual social gathering is a fundraiser for arts and humanities organizations throughout Montgomery County. It typically includes elected officials, members of the philanthropic and business communities, those in the arts and members of the public.
The event has traditionally been held in December at the Bethesda North Marriott, but this year it will be on June 1 at the Silver Spring Civic Center.
The most recent ball was in December 2018, following the inauguration of County Executive Marc Elrich and four new County Council members.
Elrich and his administration started making changes to the event last year by scrapping the December date, and first settling on March 15. The administration has now decided on June 1, Elrich’s special assistant Debbie Spielberg told Bethesda Beat Thursday night.
“There was some subset of folks that thought that December was a hard time to do these things because of holiday celebrations and that maybe we should try a different time of year,” she said.
Spielberg said Elrich and members of the administration decided a few weeks ago that they wanted to hold it in June, because it would be before kids were out of school and families were away on vacation. Additionally, Spielberg said they wanted to avoid conflicting with other events nonprofits hold during the spring.
“I think it’s just been kind of a conversation around a number of people, and he’s [Elrich] certainly been a part of it. He’s a huge supporter of the arts and humanities and is happy to find a way for them to have more money. It was just kind of a series of evolving conversations,” Spielberg said.
Spielberg said the county has budgeted up to $200,000 in arts and humanities funding to provide in matching grants, depending on how much money the event raises from tickets. The 2017 ball raised almost $175,000 according to the event’s website. The county matched the funds dollar-for-dollar, and arts organizations received nearly $350,000, the website stated.
Spielberg said a planning committee hasn’t been formed yet, and many details have yet to be worked out, but it will be “a very fun event.”
“There will mostly likely be a VIP reception at the beginning in one part of the building,” she said.
Past county executive balls have charged guests $150 each. Susie Leong, the coordinator of the 2018 ball, said Thursday afternoon that for every ticket sold, about $50 went toward the arts while the rest covered the cost of the event.
One challenge of hosting the ball, Leong said, is to find a space that can accommodate 800 people, which is what often made the Marriott desirable. She said the committee considered other formats.
“We wanted to keep the costs down, but it was hard because they wanted a sit-down dinner,” she said.
Spielberg said tickets might be cheaper for this year’s event due to the lack of a sit-down dinner and the change of venue.
“Given that we’re doing it differently this year, the hope is that the event won’t cost as much,” she said.
Elrich first proposed reducing the cost of the event in the fall when he wrote to Council Member Craig Rice, who chairs the Education and Culture Committee. In that letter, Elrich wrote that he would consider keeping the event in December for election years when the ball coincided with the county executive’s inauguration.
Rice could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Past balls have invited businesses, organizations and individuals to become sponsors if they donate between $500 and $10,000. Spielberg said there will likely still be sponsorship opportunities.
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