2012 Lake Erie Gala Recap

by Melanie Shubitowski

The 2012 Lake Erie Gala was held at the Avalon Hotel November 14th through November 18th. The Gala kicked off Wednesday with the opening of registration, dinner at the BrewErie and a private shopping experience at the Sassy Peacock. The annual event this year included tours of the Dunkirk lighthouse and the Erie Brewing Company with lunch at the Kelley Hotel on Thursday. The lighthouse and Kelley Hotel are both reported to be haunted, and the hotel has been a frequent stop for ghost hunters, as well as a paranormal studies class from the University of Buffalo. Friday's tours included the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, Arrowhead Winery and lunch at the Colony Pub and Grill. Themed dinners were also held with prizes for best themed dress. The event is organized by the Erie Sisters Transgender Support Group.

Thursday's dinner was an Indian theme, and the Avalon Hotel owner personally prepared the meal for us, with entertainment by Lisa Naples who performed an impressive impersonation act. Friday was retro night, with the girls dressing as flappers and hippies to compete for top prize. Entertainment Friday saw Hoops by Dennehy, a very impressive group of talented local hoop dancers, and included interactive hooping instruction.

A trivia contest was held following lunch on Saturday with prizes for that also. After lunch, a film screening entitled Gender Redesigner was given on the second floor of the Avalon. The film screening was a documentary given by the Greater Erie Alliance for Equality and Persad Center in partnership with the Erie Sisters, and featured fAe Gibson, (yes, that's how he spells his name), a female to male transsexual, who was in attendance for the showing, as well as a panel of experts assembled to answer questions following the movie.

Saturday was also free time for attendees for local shopping and vendors in attendance, as well as a swap and trade set up for attendees to leave things they no longer wanted and take anything that appealed to them, Saturday evening saw a meal blessing by Rev Steve Auschmann of the local UU church and a Transgender Day of Remembrance candle lighting ceremony by Caitlyn Strohmeyer and Erie Sisters president, Melanie Shubitowski to remember transgenders who have died due to violence and discrimination, with Caitlyn delivering a touching speech prior to dinner. Her speech can be found on the Erie Sisters website at http://eriesisters.ning.com. Our annual Glitter Ball followed dinner, and the event concluded Sunday morning with a farewell brunch, and sales of picture CD's compiled by Gala photographer Glenda Berkshire of photos taken throughout the event.

While the Lake Erie Gala is not as big as most transgender conferences held throughout the country, it's interesting that our attendance remains at least consistent, while every other conference held has shown a marked decline with a struggling economy. The Lake Erie Gala brings over $30,000 to the local economy each year, and draws transgenders from all over North America. The Lake Erie Gala remains a unique and fun experience for all.


Also view photos here.

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