Nashville CARES held its fourth annual Avant Garde event, the Mad Hatters Ball, on Saturday, February 21, at the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. Presenting sponsor NPS Pharmacy and Event Chairs Wes Davis, Connie Ford, Bradley Pinson and Abby White hosted an evening of curious and magical entertainment. While full costumes were optional, but hats were required!

“Last year was Masquerade, and it was all about the mask,” Pinson, who is also a CARES board member, said. “When we were brainstorming for this year, we had the idea of hats. The Mad Hatter definitely fits this series, which began with Avant Gard, then proceeded to Under the Big Top and Masquerade. We have a very creative team behind these events.”

“Avant Garde is one of the best parties in Nashville, and this year it is going to be bigger and better than ever,” promised Ford leading up the event, and as you can see it lived up to the hype! “Mad Hatters Ball is a fun way to raise the much needed funds to fight HIV/AIDS in Middle Tennessee.”

The Avant Garde have engaged LGBTQ and ally party-goers alike. “That’s been the idea all along,” said Pinson. “We want to engage all of Nashville: HIV isn’t just a ‘gay disease,’ it touches everyone and this party is a great opportunity for people to come out and start to learn about CARES, but in a feel good, dress up, and network sort of environment.”

This year’s event featured impressive visuals, from Wonderland-themed, body painted characters to special guest Mad Hatter, Dee Ranged, and a wandering magician. Music was provided by DJ Ron, along with live performances by country artist and Broadway performer Rachel Potter and British musician, Katy Tiz, perhaps best known for her song, “The Bing Bang.”

The evening was emceed by Amanda Valentine, who competed on the eleventh season of Lifetime’s hit series Project Runway. She is also the founder of VALENTINE VALENTINE, a Nashville-based clothing and accessory collection, and a celebrity stylist. “I’ve wanted to find a way to work more with the LGBT community in Nashville,” Valentine said, “and I have a relative living with HIV, so when I was asked to participate it was a no-brainer. It’s nice to be able to use what little bit of notoriety I have to help shine a light on this issue and this organization.”

CARES Chief Development Officer Patrick Hamilton reports that last year’s event raised over $70,000, though he did not have exact figures on Masquerade on hand at the Mad Hatter’s Ball.



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PHOTOS from Avant Garde 2015




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