Epilepsy Foundation's Mardi Gras royalty makes arrival as Egyptian queen
By Kate Benz
Published: Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
“I like to have fun, but usually it's not with 850 people around,” confessed soon-to-be crowned King of the Mardi Gras Kim Tillotson Fleming.
The Epilepsy Foundation Western/Central Pennsylvania did little in the way of arm-twisting to uncork its annual Mardi Gras gala, seeing to it that the ballroom of the Westin was filled to capacity on the rowdiest of weekdays: Fat Tuesday.
But before the aforementioned royal began her reign, word on the street was that her official entrance would be nothing short of “spectacular,” as teasers left everyone guessing during cocktail hour.
Leading up to the main event was much ado about the Bourbon Street transformation materializing before everyone's eyes. Green, purple and gold helium balloons — 7,000 to be exact — floated just below the ceiling of the lobby, which quickly became elbow-room-only as the revelry kicked into high gear. Also hyping the evening was the closed-off ballroom, the doors to which opened only after the Ray Ryan New Orleans Riverside Band led the parade of dinner co-chairs Dennis Unkovic, Laura Ellsworth, Scott Lammie, Michael Herald, Christy Uffelman and Craig Tillotson, who came bearing baskets filled with beads. Behind those closed doors, 200 vintage umbrellas in every color of the rainbow hung whimsically from the ceiling, a vision that came to fruition through the dogged determination of Kevin Wilson with an assist from Seattle-based Bella Umbrella.
“I literally started at 9 a.m. on Sunday and didn't finish until 3:30 (the next) morning,” he said.
On each table, a choose-your-own-adventure in wardrobe accessorizing that included layers of feathered masks and beads was immediately put to good use as master of ceremonies Jim Roddey finally convinced the crowd to be seated. By then, it was time for the king to officially make her entrance. As palms were waved, in she came — seated on a gold throne carried by a royal Egyptian court behind a troupe of young Cleopatras dropping rose petals.
“I've seen just about every one of these, and this one is the best yet,” Roddey said.
From there, the John Parker Band kept the party going for the likes of executive director Judith Painter, Bruce Teitelbaum, Helen Hanna Casey and Stephen Casey, Charlie and Tasha Batch, Diane Holder, Morgan and Kathy O'Brien, Drs. Loren and Ellen Roth, Phil and Jill Gattone, Dr. Miya Asato and George Childs, Mark and Diane Minnaugh, Frank and Gerri Poerio, and Doris Carson Williams and James Williams.
The gala raised $350K for the foundation.
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