The word "gala" can conjure up images of stuffed shirts making awkward conversation, overcooked steaks and lukewarm green beans served next to standard-issue slices of cheesecake, and ill-fated attempts at keeping up with the beat while trying not to step on other people's feet on the dance floor.
But the Fourth Annual LGBT Winter Gala and Fundraiser, hosted by the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center, is none of those things. Actually, program director Jay Maddock says this year will be quite fun, and includes music from DJ Disobedience and local band Hannanniah and the Boys.
"A lot of communities have these sit-down dinners and those are great, but Winter Gala is really a chance to have fun and dress up and just have a great time," he says.
"Even for the first time last year, we had a ton of dancing happening. So we're hoping that it's a really fun event, but it's a way to fundraise for the more serious things that we do do."
Held at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, all proceeds from the event go to maintain the Center's outreach programs, including their Triangle Mentorship Program, where LGBT youth are paired with adults who provide attention and guidance.
Maddock says it's good to be able to relax and have fun.
"The reason we're able to continue to do what we do in the community is because we have the community's support," he says. "We have amazing volunteers but we also have their financial support because it costs money to make an impact. We want to kind of give back and make it a party."
The Gala is also the occasion where the Center hands out their Reach Awards, which recognize businesses and individuals for being allies in the community.
"The really important thing for the city of Kalamazoo is that this gives the city an opportunity to really celebrate how inclusive it is, and also celebrate the diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity in our community," he says.
And, Maddock adds, the more comfortable you feel, the more you can enjoy yourself.
"It's really important for our community to have a safe space to be who they are, love who they are, dress up, and have a great time in a space where they know they're going to be supported and around people who are going to provide a safe environment to have fun."
The LGBT Winter Gala will be held Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50 and $25 for students.