Hey romantics! Recently Jane and I were lucky enough to be part of a brand new event in Eau Claire. The Gatsby's Gala, presented by Eau Claire Jazz, Inc. and the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, was such a fun time, allowing us to dress up in period clothing and enjoy an evening of wild jazz performed by some of the finest musicians around. More on that in a moment.
Our evening started off with a wonderful meal at Stella Blues in downtown Eau Claire. Stella Blues is nestled on the edge of the newly redesigned Phoenix Park area, making it easy to find and convenient to all the action.
Jane tried the Bourbon Street Scallops, adorned with jalapeno bacon, steamed veggies and dirty rice. I opted for the Cajun Char-Rubbed Tenderloin Medallions. Both had a hint of the Cajun influence that has been Stella Blues' trademark...subtle but not overwhelming. My steaks were served with smashed potatoes and a Creole brown sauce that was oh so delicious with the right amount of spice. If I could, I'd get a bottle and serve it with every steak I eat, but alas, the secret stays at Stella's.
The atmosphere is funky and cool in the dining room and the plentiful wait staff were always on hand to cater to any need. Jane looked the part in her 1920's style dress and hair piece and my simple tux is perfect for any formal affair. We weren't alone as we saw several other groups in everything from colorful lame' to flapper dresses. LOTS of feather boas, too. It threw us all back in time and was the perfect kick off to a great evening ahead.
The Gatsby's Gala itself was held in the new Davies Center on the UW-Eau Claire campus, but it felt nothing like a college. The entrance was through an unmarked service-type door behind the building that gave the impression of entering an illegal 1920s-era Long Island speak-easy. Everyone was dressed to the hilt as bootleggers, gangsters, flappers, society ladies, politicians, and more, and in addition to the attendees, the staff dressed the part too. Whiskey barrels, old hats, posters, photos and more finished off the look and we hadn't even made it in yet. Once upstairs, the room had been transformed into a ballroom with twin bandstands on one end. Chandeliers draped from the ceiling and the centerpiece was a green blinking light that reminded of the DeCaprio movie and was the focal point of his obsession with Daisy. Themed drinks and food rounded out the mood and the Gala officially kicked off with character actors reminding us of the Great Gatsby story line and the reason we all found ourselves transported back in time. Then Jazz I kicked in and we were treated amazing familiar and new Jazz music. It turned into dueling bands (Jazz II provided the second part of the battle) and the music was non-stop from 8 - 11 pm. Wonderful solo singers and a roving brass brand rounded out the music and even if you weren't a dancer, just listening and taking in the visual treat was enough. A local jazz dance team closed out the evening with flappers dancing to the signature theme: A Little Party Never Hurt Nobody. All too soon it was over and the crowd wandered out through piles of feathers and sparkles that had shed during the raucous evening.
The event will be back this year and you really need to be there. The inaugural year sold out about a week before the event so there's no reason to think it won't be closed out even earlier this year. Plan now, gather up that period-piece clothing, and learn those jazz dances. We'll see you at the 2nd Annual Gatsby's Gala, November 13, 2015. And don't forget about the annual Viennese Ball in the coming months. There is simply no shortage of romantic outlets if you're into music, dancing and being in the 'in' crowd.
'til next time, Tim and Jane.