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Big Parties Are Back, Big Time

Mon, 05/22/2023 - 16:31
At the 2019 Watermill Center summer party, Dom Frost, Johanna Keimeyer, and Eddie Cancer made the scene and helped create it.
Doug Kuntz

It's time to get the dancing shoes out of the closet (wedges only, please, those stilettos just sink and make divots in the grass), because the summer of 2023 marks the all-out unapologetic return of Hamptons summer benefit parties. No more dialing back, limiting occupancy, and the like. This year promises more and/or larger events and could even surpass 2019, which seemed like the all-time peak of summer parties.

The save-the-date notices have been coming in fast and furious since January. What constitutes the "event of the season" varies depending on individual preferences, but historically the biggest parties have been thrown by (in chronological order) Bay Street Theater (July 8), the Parrish Art Museum (July 14 and 15), LongHouse Reserve (July 22), the Watermill Center (July 29), Guild Hall (Aug. 4), and Stony Brook Southampton Hospital (Aug. 5). This year, individual tickets are starting at the $1,250 to $1,750 level, with lower fees for younger patrons or cocktails only.

Bay Street's gala will take over its Sag Harbor theater for "an intimate and behind the scenes setting" with cocktails, dinner, and dancing. Truly star-studded, the party will honor Julie Andrews, Matthew Broderick, and Sarah Jessica Parker, with performances by Derrick Davis and Isaac Mizrahi, and an auction overseen by Richard Kind. 

The Watermill Center's theme for its cocktail party and dinner, driven by its artist residents, is "the body." LongHouse's party, also traditionally known for its themes (once the brainchild of its founder, Jack Lenor Larsen, who died in 2020), will have a Midsummer Dream party this year ("dress dreamily," the save-the-date notice suggests). Perhaps guests can save money for their LongHouse attire by attending the Watermill Center party au naturel.

Nearby at the Parrish, which used to host an After 10 party for the young'uns, the gala has become a two-night affair, with the dance party held from 8 to 11 p.m. on Friday, July 14, which costs a mere $150 (before July 7), and there is an added zero to the bill for the dinner party the next night.

This year Guild Hall returns to East Hampton's Mulford Farm, where it will pitch a tent, celebrate its new galleries next door, honor its trustee Ken Wyse, and offer a visit to its summer show "Renee Cox: A Proof of Being" before cocktails, dinner, and dancing at the farm. An immersive installation by Leo Villareal, "Celestial Garden," will also be unveiled that evening.

The hospital will return to its nearby field on Old Town Road, and why not, when its wealthy neighbors can just stroll across the street to the tents.

A number of recent arrivals to the South Fork arts scene are swelling summer schedules with their parties and galas. The Church in Sag Harbor will have a splashy dinner theater gathering with Candace Bushnell on June 10, which has already sold out. The Southampton Arts Center has three benefits this season, including an architecture tour and talk, with a brunch to boot, on June 16, a garden party on June 24, and a full-on gala on Aug. 19. 

Even the low-key Arts Center at Duck Creek will host its first benefit this summer on site in Springs. Not surprisingly, it will be understated, and focused on themes that are essential to its mission. Its first DRAWaTHON will take place over three days, from July 13 to July 15. The first two days will consist of free two-hour life-drawing sessions in the barn in exchange for the donation of one figure drawing done on site. On the third day, a sale of those completed works and a reception will be held in the barn. Music and light fare along with a silent auction of other framed drawings will provide further diversion. Tickets range from $150 to $500 for the reception.

Coming up soon is the Retreat's All Against Abuse Gala happening at The Church on June 3. A classic Hamptons cocktail party from 6 to 8 p.m., it will feature catering from Art of Eating, an auction, a speaker (Tijuana Fulford of the Butterfly Effect Project), and a star-studded host committee. On the same night, Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic will hold its Making Waves benefit at the Clubhouse in East Hampton from 5 to 7 p.m., honoring the late women's rights activist Robin Chandler Duke. (You could try to attend both benefits, depending on traffic.)  

On Sunday, a Rose Soiree sponsored by Dan's Papers, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Ellen Hermanson Foundation and an autism advocacy group, will take place at the Southampton Arts Center. On June 10, the Neo-Political Cowgirls will host the Andromeda's Sisters Arts and Advocacy Gala at the Leiber Collection in Springs.

Other organizations gearing up for their annual summer parties are the Hetrick-Martin Institute and its School's Out benefit on July 15 to support L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ youth, the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center, with its Jazz and Soul Celebration on July 29 under a tent in Bridgehampton, the Hamptons Artists for Haiti cocktail party on July 29 at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton, the East Hampton Library's Authors Night on Aug. 12 in Herrick Park, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons and its Bow Wow Meow Ball on Aug. 19, and East End Hospice's annual Box Art Auction on Aug. 26 at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in East Hampton.

Stay tuned for more details and more parties, and check out The Star's online benefit calendar for the latest updates.

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