Attendees of this year’s Carnaval will be transported to an earlier age when the spirited sounds of jazz music filled the streets, speakeasies peddled illegal beverages and flappers were the latest fashion icons.
The collaborative annual affair of the Clay Center and the Charleston Ballet is celebrating its fifth year on Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Clay Center for Arts & Sciences of West Virginia.
This year’s theme is the “Roaring ’20s.”
“We decided to focus on the decade and instead create the spirit of a Carnaval celebration,” said Kristin Anderson, Carnaval’s co-chairwoman.
“The ’20s were a time of innovation,” said Vice Chairwoman Claire Barth. “Art deco was popular, Jello molds were all the rage.
“A lot of stuff came out during that decade that people might not have thought about, and we’ll be bringing a lot of that to life the night of Carnaval.”
The change in direction was evident in last year’s Studio 54 theme.
“There has been a sort of evolution over the years,” Anderson said.
The first two Carnaval events centered on specific places that had close connections to the celebration.
“When we started, we took the theme very literally, and asked ourselves, ‘Which places around the world have a big Carnaval celebration?’ Venice is where it originated, and Rio is huge. So, that’s where we drew from the first two years,” said LeAnn Cain, the public relations specialist for the Clay Center.
“But then, we started thinking about how we could make the event more fun and allow people to be more creative. We wanted to recreate the spirit of Carnaval with themes that really resonated with people and not limit ourselves to specific locations.”
Another obvious change has been with the attendees’ attire and attitudes.
“The first couple of years were very masquerade-like. There were a lot of masks, but it was more formal,” Cain said. “The past couple of years, we’ve tried to choose themes that lend themselves well to creative costumes.
“People really got into Studio 54 and had fun with what they wore. People dressed up like celebrities, vintage ’70s clothing. I think it’ll be the same thing this year. It’s attractive to people because it’s not a sit-down, formal black-tie gala. It’s a party where you can really dress up and play a part.”
Celebrity AllStars, Qiet, DJ Nick Scott, the Charleston Ballet and The Great American Songbook, featuring Mark Parsons-Justice and Shayla Leftridge, will provide the evening entertainment.
“We have so much music, and they’ll be in different areas with their own distinct vibe,” Barth said.
The festivities will again span between the Grand Lobby, the stage and the Walker Theater.
“We’ve always used the Grand Lobby and stage but hadn’t used Walker until last year,” Cain said.
“You’ll get to experience an entire decade of social events,” Barth said. “It’s like having three parties in one.”
Tickets to Carnaval are $150 each and can be purchased online at www.theclaycenter.org/carnaval or by calling the Clay Center, at 304-561-3500.
Proceeds benefit the Clay Center and Charleston Ballet’s educational programs.
“One way to look at it is that you’re supporting two organizations through one event and impacting double the amount of people,” Cain said.
“I think back to when I was a little girl and got to go to Sunrise [Museum] and have all of these hands-on experiences, like making my own volcano. That really stuck with me and sparked my curiosity about the sciences,” Barth said.
“Events like Carnaval helps give kids in our state the opportunity to have those same type of experiences and expose them to elements of a STEAM education.”
Those who cannot attend the event can still show their support by participating in the online auction, which runs through 9:30 p.m. on January 31.
“Having it that way helps create a better party atmosphere,” Cain said, “because there isn’t an extended period of time when things stop.”
Bidding is open at www.biddingforgood.com/ClayCenterCarnaval.
Reach Dawn Nolan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1230.