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CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains enters its 14th year

This evening, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research will celebrate the 14th annual CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains gala fundraiser for Canadian HIV/AIDS research with an array of glamourous festivities at 18 different venues in the Bloor/Yorkville area.

As one of Toronto’s most visible and prolific fundraising events, CANFAR has been planning tonight’s celebrations all year round. In the next few hours, high-end retail and fashion flagships – Harry Rosen, Swarovski, Diesel, Roots, and Hugo – galleries such as Liss, and museums like the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, will transform into exquisite dining rooms.

At 6:30 p.m., cocktails will be served to 700 guests scattered among such select locales, in small groups ranging from about 30 to 40 each.

An hour later, there will be an intimate dinner prepared by 17 of the city’s most acclaimed executive chefs. Afterwards, this crowd will shuttle to The Party at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Held at 9 p.m., with an exclusive guest list of 1700 –  a diverse mix of celebrities, dignitaries, urban professionals, and socialites – it is the culmination of CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains.

Photo by Gary Beechey for BizBash

With TD Securities honcho Patrick B. Meneley and his wife, Michelle Meneley, as the Co-Chairs this year, the guest list includes Glen Baxter and Jeanne Beker from Fashion Television; award-winning television broadcaster Valerie Pringle, who is now the spokesperson for CANFAR; Maclean’s national editor Andrew Coyne; George Stroumboulopoulos, host of The Hour on CBC; real estate developer and co-owner of the Toronto Argonauts, Howard Sokolowski; Canadian broadcasters Mad Dog and Billie; celebrated journalist Linda Frum, and many more.

Dinner tickets are $600 per seat or $6,000 for a table of 10, both of which include admission and transportation to the ROM’s extravaganza. The Party itself costs $100 per person.

With such steep prices, CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains has raised $4 million for investigatory HIV/AIDS research grants awarded by CANFAR since 1996.

“We put up facts and stats, so people are aware that this is still for a cause,” says Holly Bacchus, communications and marketing manager of CANFAR, who is in her second year of hosting CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains.

“It’s a little bit about both the cause and party,” Bacchus says. “Instead of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it’s dinner. It’s also cool that people can eat fantastic food near dinosaurs in the ROM – an atmosphere that you would never get to experience otherwise.”

Nestled at the top of the ROM is a restaurant lounge in its third year as a sponsor of CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains.  At 10 a.m. this morning, C5′s rising star Ted Corrado began preparing a sumptuous three-course meal for 30 VIP guests. It’s a $68 dinner from his menu – cured wild salmon salad, Ontario lamb loin paired with seasonal vegetables, and sticky toffee.

Meanwhile, a visual team of 20 to 30 staff at the flagship Roots store on Bloor Street West is donating their time to set up a cornered-off space for a catered dinner from Trevor Kitchen and Bar. For the past month, Roots has been working on this event, which they will be supplying with Wayne Gretzky wines, along with Fiori Floral’s in-house architect, Diane Bald, who came up with the table display. In attendance at this party of 30 guests will be prominent personalities from Toronto Life and RBC. There will also be a special live performance by soulful singer/songwriter Aion Clarke.

With “sophisticated homespun dishes” from executive chef and owner Trevor Wilkinson, the first course will consist of roasted beef with clothbound cheddar, cashew butter and crispy shallots. For the entrée, guests may help themselves to a family style platter of roasted chicken, braised wagyu brisket, mashed potatoes, glazed root vegetables, and garlic braised kale. This meal will conclude with a passion fruit meringue pie with coconut anglaise for dessert.

As Roots values being an integral part of the community, the company has supported CANFAR’s work annually – with well-received dinners (on one occasion, the company had an AIDS researcher give a lecture to guests) – since its inception 14 years ago. This year’s theme is the Roots General Store.

Roots hosts 200 events per year, sometimes with live entertainment and the odd celebrity or two, but CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains is the highlight.

“We come up with a concept, which we change every year,” said Raymond Perkins, director of culture and PR, at Roots Canada Ltd. “We love to share what we have with the community at large. It’s a great collaboration with like-minded people.”

A similar individual,  Ryan Kenny, assistant store manager of Swarovski at Yonge and Bloor and the main host of tonight’s event, will be presenting a speech on this cause that he holds closest to his heart.

Swarovski, now involved with this event for eight years, will also be giving the store’s space to host a catered dinner from à la Carte Kitchen for 42 guests, who will each receive a butterfly figurine as a donation.

“Even if someone is dropping $600 on a dinner to have a good time, it goes towards a good cause in the end.  The cause still takes precedence over the glamour,” said Kenny.

In further support of fundraising activities, party-goers will be treated to sophisticated entertainment, vignettes, and a silent auction featuring a $500 Swarovski necklace and other rare and exotic luxury items.

“It’s not a sales event for us,” said Kenny. “We don’t open the cash register.”