Cool breezes on a warm summer night, fireflies accenting the darkness, music wafting from an acoustic guitar. The buzz of quiet conversations and the intermittent explosion of raucous laughter. Island attire, punctuated with flip-flops and fedoras adorn the park as locals fill the amphitheater to enjoy one of the River Valley’s favorite annual fundraisers.
Havana Nights is an annual fundraiser for the Children’s Emergency Shelter, a local non-profit whose mission is “to provide shelter and care, in a safe and structured home-like environment for abused and neglected children and to allow kids the opportunity to just be kids.” This year’s event takes place May 31st at the Riverfront Park Amphitheater, downtown Fort Smith. This event raises about a third of the organization’s annual budget.
“The event offers something fun for everybody,” says Ashley Fitzhugh, Director of Development. “Event tickets are $125 each, but, if you want to support the Shelter and cannot attend the event, you can participate in our auction from the comfort of home, the lake house, or wherever you may be spending the weekend by using our mobile bidding app. The whole event is created to raise money for our children in crisis. We want participants at every level to have the opportunity to contribute to our mission and feel like they have walked away a winner. ”
Fitzhugh gets really excited when she talks about the event’s “Best of Live” raffle. “The Best of Live raffle is, maybe, one of the best parts of the event,” she explains. We sell 250 tickets at $100 each for a chance to choose the live auction item of choice before the live bidding begins. And, the best part is, you don’t have to be present to win ‘Best of Live’! In the past, winners have chosen a trip to the Dominican Republic and a trip on a 100ft yacht private sailboat trip through the Bahamas…and all these winners did was buy a $100 raffle ticket! It’s pretty exciting!”
Fitzhugh continues, “Another favorite at Havana Nights is a game called “heads or tails.” Guests have the opportunity to purchase strands of beads, and prior to the live auction, the auctioneer flips a coin for the games to begin. Guests put their hands on their head or their tail, and the last one standing with beads around their neck wins! Last year the winner won a trip to Colorado and the year before we had a stocked Yeti cooler. Heads or tails is an interactive way to get guests gathered and ready for the live auction. It also gives our guests the opportunity to win something exclusive for a very minimal price.”
Havana Nights is a truly festive event. Floral attire, flip flops, and fedoras add to the Cuban party theme. Your tastebuds will delight in Cuban cuisine catered by Golden Catering, including Cuban sandwiches and flaming bananas foster; you can relax with a cigar in the Winston’s Cigar Lounge while bourbon tasting and watching cigars being hand-rolled; enjoy music by Gary Hutchinson; bid on your favorite silent auction items at the convenience of your mobile phone. And then, after the live and silent auctions, Havana Nights stays ‘open late’ for the “Coco Cabana after party” where the fun is turned up a notch or two (or three)!
“The After Party is an opportunity to kick your shoes off and let loose,” states Fitzhugh. “This year, we will party down with the high-energy, pop-rock band Boom Kinetic. And, who does ‘eat great, even late’ better than Taco Bell? Well…nobody! That’s why they will once again be catering the After Party. ” Always, a guest favorite!
Havana Nights, May 31st at the Fort Smith Riverfront Park Amphitheater. It’s an event you’ll not want to miss!
Purchase tickets @ childrensemergencyshelter.org/havana-nights-form/