When Steve Elkins suggested turning an anniversary party that was being planned for him and his partner, Murray Archibald, into an end of summer fundraiser in 1988, he could not have predicted that it would become an annual event that over the last two decades has raised millions of dollars for important LGBT services.
"So many people in our community now think of Sundance as the best way to end the summer season, and it has become a tradition for multiple generations," said Elkins, who now serves as the executive director of the CAMP Rehoboth gay and lesbian community center, which he co-founded with Archibald in 1991.
Held every Labor Day Weekend in the resort town of Rehoboth Beach, Del., Sundance was originally planned as a pool party but a rainstorm forced the event to premiere as an indoor dance party at The Strand nightclub. The one-night affair netted $6,400 that was used to HIV/AIDS programs in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
After the first Sundance, Elkins immediately knew he had created something special. For the second year, he added an auction element to the dance. When the money that was raised jumped to $11,800, he expanded the event to two nights, with the auction on the first night and the dance on the second. That changed resulted in proceeds doubling to $24,000.
The next big change for Sundance came in 1994. Following the closure of The Strand, Sundance was permanently relocated to the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. It was the first time that a gay event was held at the center, and was a significant step in building the city of Rehoboth Beach’s reputation as a gay-friendly destination.
Daniel Truitt attended his first Sundance in 1999 and makes a point of returning each year, when his schedule allows.
"I think I have only missed twice since my first time," said Truitt. "As someone that previously vacationed in Rehoboth and now lives here, Sundance is a fun, last hurrah to the summer season, as well as the beginning of the less busy, but no less enjoyable, post-summer beach life."
Auction Features Celebrity Cruise for Two
This Labor Day weekend, Sundance will again be marking a milestone as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. The event kicks off Saturday, September 1, with the auction and concludes the following night with the dance party.
Approximately 500 items will be offered during the silent and live portions of the auction, which includes an open bar and lavish hors d’oeuvres. The highlight of the live auction will be a Celebrity Cruises Solstice Class cruise for two, with the winning bidder getting to choose from among 30 10-14 day Mediterranean itineraries.
The cruise package includes a stateroom for two with private veranda, port charges, and taxes, along with a $1,000 credit towards air flights, transfers to and from ship, shore excursions or shipboard credit, with all reservations arranged through Accent On Travel. The winning bidder will have a choice of dates in 2013 between April and September.
The dance party will feature DJ Mark Thomas and lighting by Paul Turner. Approximately 500 participants are expected to attend the dance that will also include an open bar as well as a VIP lounge.
"I start out slow early in the evening and then build the energy in the room up later on," said Thomas, who has performed at past CAMP Rehoboth events.
"Sundance is always our largest and most popular event of the year," said CAMP Rehoboth Board President Archibald. "But this being our 25th anniversary year, we plan to pull out all the stops. We are inviting anyone who has ever been to any previous Sundance events and those who have never attended a single one to all come help us celebrate, have a great time and support a good cause."
Funds from Sundance are now used to support the men’s and women’s health programs and general operating expenses for CAMP Rehoboth. It is the organization’s largest single fundraising event and is expected to raise more than $100,000 this year.
Sundance 2012: Legend of the Silver Rainbow tickets start at $80 for both events or $45 for the dinner or auction. There are also sponsor, supporter and host ticket packages offered. For info or tickets, call 302-227-5620, or visit www.camprehoboth.com.
[This article was first published on EdgeWashington.com, Metro Weekly's media partner]