‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through Chez Zee, AGLCC members gathered for their holiday party. Lit garland was strung along the walls – and rafters – with care…
The Austin Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (AGLCC) held its annual holiday party and awards ceremony Wednesday night – a fancy, unpretentious affair, held at gourmand favorite Chez Zee. The walls were adorned with festive wreaths, gold-stars spangled, and orbs that resembled oversized Ferrero Roche candy. Jazzy Christmas music and a generous spirits menu made the yuletide ambiance glow. And while there was no red carpet, there certainly was lots of star power – by way of the members, whose record attendance made the event the largest in the organization’s 17-year history.
The evening kicked off with cocktails and networking, during which the guests enjoyed bourbon beef kabobs, candied nuts, assorted cheeses tray, and of course, spirits a-flowing. Conversations ranged from business-speak (the most efficient way to achieve nonprofit status) to personal holiday plans. Devaki Knowles hosted a photo booth at the back of the room and stocked it with holiday hats, reindeer antlers, ugly sweaters, and Christmas bling in the form of a faux-gold “Ho-Ho-Ho” chain.
The festivities then rolled into dinner as the entree was served. My meal, a shallot pan-seared trout topped with a lemon compound butter, was so delectable, I nearly missed out on mingling with my table mates. Mike, a teacher, is a new member who joined as a way to meet people. Shannon Mantrom, a self professed “straight ally,” said she joined, because “I just feel very comfortable with the gay community and wanted to help [the AGLCC] make a difference in Austin.”
AGLCC President Jimmy Flannagan, took the stage to greet the crowd and offer thank-yous to the organizations and companies that made the evening possible. He turned the mic over to newly minted program chair Anna Powell, who continued to thank the event’s supporters – with special thanks to Chez Zee’s Chad Andrus.
Powell turned the mic and MC duties to Lindsay Leaverton, whose freestyle birthday rap for fellow member Richard Kline and goat-cheese-ball jokes killed. She also ushered in the changing of the board from old to new before Flannigan returned to the stage.
“The awards were created,” he said, “to reward the hard work members do to represent the AGLCC… It’s about who was nominated, not who wins.” To reinforce this, each nominee was given a framed nomination certificate to buffer the sting of defeat.
The winners, announced live and via tweet (#biggayholiday), were:
Current Vice President Amy Cook, Vice President Elect Edgar Gierbolini, and Membership Coordinator Ceci Gratias came together on stage to present a special award to Flannigan for his “outstanding, fabulous achievement and devotion to AGLCC and service to the community." Next year, it will be called the Jimmy Flannigan.
He was handed the award – a crystal gavel and block set – and the microphone, during which, he spoke affectionately of the work his fellow volunteers have done to help turn the board around.
And they have: Membership is expected to reach 300 by year’s end – a feat not achieved since 2007, when membership was at 325, and after a significant drop to the low double digits in 2011. This year’s events have had record attendance. The Facebook page has grown to nearly 8,000 fans, as has the support of the AGLCC’s sponsors.
When asked, post-speech, what the AGLCC wanted for Christmas, Flannigan said, “Employment nondiscrimination.” Indeed.
Happy LGBTQ economic equality to all, and to all a good night.
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