Ultimate Entertaining Guide 2017-2018

We asked five local experts—from a music industry veteran to a celebrated actress to a hospitality expert—to name their top five must-attend events this year. Here’s what they came up with… You can also see RM’s picks for some of our favorite events! 

See: Lauren Kennedy Artistic Director of Theatre Raleigh

The talented actress who starred on Broadway in “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” “Les Miserables” and alongside Glenn Close in “Sunset Blvd” returned home to Raleigh to present professional theater in a more intimate setting. Though she’s often busy with her own productions—this summer Theatre Raleigh debuts “Rock of Ages”— she also enjoys seeing cultural performances across the city. Here are a few of her favorites, including films, plays and dance performances.

Summer Films at NCMA

Summer | ncartmuseum.org 

Big-screen movie magic under the stars has been a Triangle staple for over 20 years. Originally created with a projector in the back of a truck and a fabric screen over the side of the building, it has grown to its permanent home in  the Joseph M. Bryan Jr Theatre in the Museum Park.  Showing everything from family-friendly to Oscar® winning movies, it’s the perfect way to spend a night out with family or friends.  Spread out a blanket or a low lawn chair and enjoy a picnic and excellent view while under the stars.  I love to make a night of it and go early to grab a glass of wine, see some of the museum’s permanent collection, or walk the museum park trail before the movie. 

Downrange:  Voices from the Homefront by Raleigh Little Theatre

May 26 & 27 | raleighlittletheatre.org

It’s a new play that captures how military spouses in the post 9/11 era face and overcome the challenges of repeated deployments. It is an honest, raw, funny and inspiring look at the profound strength and resilience of our nation’s military families. Written by Chapel Hill playwright Mike Wiley, the story is topical and close to my heart as a native North Carolinian. Mike is such an amazing playwright who writes with such raw emotion and passion while shedding light on difficult

Photograph by 20/20photo-video.com

issues. We had the opportunity to work with him on “Blood Done Sign My Name” and know the depth and breadth that this show will include.

Rhapsody in Blue by the Carolina Ballet

April 20-23 | carolinaballet.com

I am looking forward to seeing George Gershwin’s epic American masterpiece “Rhapsody in Blue” re-imagined by Carolina Ballet’s Choreographer in Residence, Zalman Raffael.  It is such a wonderful piece that will transport you to a world that only the Carolina Ballet can imagine.  Anytime I have worked with them I can’t help but be in awe of the beauty and strength of their performances.  I plan to take my daughter, Riley, and have a girl’s day at the ballet.

Rock of  Ages produced by Theatre Raleigh

Sept 7-10 | theatreraleigh.com

I am particularly excited to be working with my childhood friend, Liz McDonald, who is the GM of Koka Booth.  This is going to be a hilarious no-holds-barred rollicking good time! “Rock of Ages” takes you back to the late ‘80s, the time of big guitar solos, spandex, headbands and big hair.  I can’t wait to relive my high school days with this Broadway musical that features arena-rock songs from Styx, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister and more.  My theatre company is joining forces with Koka Booth Amphitheatre to bring this absurdly funny show to life in a perfect venue for this performance.  Live theater outdoors is like no other—it’s relaxed, casual and communal in a way that indoor shows can’t duplicate. Don’t stop believin’—we are ready for the final countdown!

GYPSY at NC Theatre

Nov. 14-19 | nctheatre.com

Directed by one of my favorite directors as well as favorite people, NC native Eric Woodall.  Eric’s talent transcends genres, and he brings a special energy to everything that he touches.  He directed our critically acclaimed show “The Light in the Piazza” at the NCMA last year, and I look forward to seeing the magic he will undoubtedly create with “Gypsy.”  The musical is loosely based on the memoir of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist, and focuses on her overbearing stage-mother, Rose.   It follows the dreams and efforts of Rose to raise two daughters to perform onstage and casts an affectionate eye on the hardships of show business life.  Since I began my acting career at NCT, I enjoy returning to see my friends and to support the arts based in our community.  The arts are so important for us to preserve—all the actors, musicians and techs learn discipline and teamwork, and the audience responds in an emotional way to live action that’s fundamentally different from digital entertainment.

Hear: Dave Rose President of Deep South Entertainment

You might know Rose, a music industry veteran, from his popular Oak City 7 or as the owner of Deep South The Bar. This summer, he is launching a new summer music series at Dorthea Dix Park. Stay tuned and, in the meantime, find out which events the music insider considers noteworthy.

Out! Raleigh

May 6 | outraleigh.org

The elements of Out! Raleigh are far more reaching than that of just music. It’s a very community driven event, but it also has very diverse music, ranging from local indie rock bands to solo performers. They put the stage up in the middle of Fayetteville, and the entire block from the Capitol to Memorial is closed off. It’s a fairly new event to Raleigh and for me, during a time when the  LGBT community is having its share of challenges, I love that we as a city have such an enormous festival that surrounds the community. Music can bring us all together.

Artsplosure

May 19-21 | artsplosure.org

Artsplosure is Raleigh’s perfect mix of visual and performance art.  It brings the community together, all with the purpose of celebrating art. It does a great job at introducing the community to new music as well—acclaimed national artists alongside some of North Carolina’s best talent.  It’s a combination of stage performances as well as some street performances.  It’s unquestionably a festival where there’s something for everyone.

Hopscotch

Sept. 7-10 | hopscotchmusicfest.com

Hopscotch attracts national and international attention. It does a good job of showcasing all the music venues in Raleigh. We have 85 live music venues in and around Raleigh. For the size of this city, we have more music venues than most. Hopscotch utilizes those downtown venues. You buy a wristband and that’s the premise behind the name, you hop from venue to venue and experience new music. It’s a good chance for the community to experience everything from Red Hat Amphitheatre to small 100-person venues.

PNC Wide Open Bluegrass Festival

Sept. 29-30 | wideopenblugrass.com

It’s the biggest mostly free event in Raleigh. There are some ticketed elements to it but it’s a massive festival and brings over 100,000 people downtown. It is the International Bluegrass Music Association conference, and people come from all over the world. This event was in Nashville prior to coming to Raleigh, so it’s a testament to our city that we can play in the same sandbox with what is considered one of the biggest music cities in the world.

NC State Fair

Oct. 12-21 | ncstatefair.org

We’re the only state in the country that features all and only music from their home state at the fair. That’s national news right there. We support our musicians and the arts. It always made sense to me that you could learn everything you need to know about North Carolina there and music should be one of those things. This music festival is designed to showcase existing talent but also discover new talent. There are over 100 concerts.

Do: Jennifer Martin Executive Director of Shop Local Raleigh

Martin’s job is to promote everything local—local food, local products, local events—so she knows a thing or two about citywide events worth attending. She’s also the founder of Brewgaloo, one of the organization’s most popular yearly events, featuring more than 90 food trucks, local breweries and live bands. She couldn’t help but include it on her list of some of the best city events.

Midtown Events

Various dates | visitnorthhills.com

I love everything happening at Midtown from Beach Music, Wellness Wednesdays, Friday Night tribute and the farmer’s market. The farmer’s market is more than just your typical market.  There’s live music, they have food trucks, there’s cooking competitions. They have food sampling, local vendors and a sense of community.  While it isn’t just a one-day or weekend event, but multiple events, I love that it’s another family-friendly, outdoor event that’s focused around supporting local—it’s free and well organized.

Brewgaloo!

Apr. 21-22 | shoplocalraleigh.org/brewgaloo

I may be biased, but not only is it North Carolina’s largest craft beer festival, it’s also the largest festival celebrating [everything] local—local beer, local food trucks, local vendors. It’s 100 percent local! And it’s all in downtown Raleigh.  Eight hours to enjoy, and it can’t get any better. This is a must-attend event for any local-vore.

Unleashed’s Annual K9 Spring Fling Dog and Cat Fundraiser

Apr. 23 | unleashedmutt.com

The event, held annually at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, is a family-friendly celebration focused on helping local area animal rescue groups. There will be tons of rescue groups along with lots of local vendors! They also have the biggest doggie Easter egg hunt around! There’s no admission cost which makes it fit into everyone’s budget. You can bring the whole family, including your dog and cat, the kids, stuff to donate to local animal shelters and enjoy a great day of fun in the sun.

Capital City Bikefest

Sept. 23-24 | capitalcitybikefest.com

You don’t have to be a biker to attend bikefest! What I like about it is it’s a free, open event and family-friendly. They have a simulator where you can feel what it’s like riding a bike. I enjoy the atmosphere and learning about bikes. I also like that it was the first event to exist when they first opened Fayetteville, so it set the tone for other festivals today.  It’s recognized through most of the South—a great accolade to have. They also have the night parade—as soon as it gets dark, all the bikers have decorated their bikes with lights and you can see them riding through the city.

New Year’s Eve Gala at the Nature Research Center

Dec. 31 | rockytophospitality.com

Ticket are $99 per person and include everything; food and drinks are provided on every level of the museum.  There is a taco bar, a charcuterie station, chips and queso, dessert buffets, girls walking around with dessert on their table dresses, girls walking around with champagne as their dress, champagne toast at midnight, unlimited cocktails, live bands, dancing… did I mention the red carpet and food?! An incredible price for one of the best events all year. Tickets sell out fast, but it’s an absolute must-attend and, go ahead, call Safe Ride Home. You will thank me later.

Give: Tula Summerford Owner of Design By Tula

Summerford feels very fortunate for the success she’s had in her career and personal life, so part of her mission is to support local charities and foundations. The interior designer attends numerous fundraisers a year, and here she reveals a few of her favorites.

Boys & Girls Club of Wake County Designer Showhouse

Through Apr. 9 | djfbuildsgreatfutures.com

For the first time, DJF Builders is sponsoring a designer showhouse highlighting 18 of N.C.’s top designers. The public can purchase tickets to visit the house and see all the different designs. They will see things they’ve never seen before, very over-the-top, avant garde and eclectic. Each designer chose a room that represents his or her style, and all the items in the showhouse are for sale to the public with 10 percent of the sales proceeds and all the proceeds from tickets going to The Wake County Boys & Girls Clubs. This organization has given young people an opportunity to achieve great futures as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Today, the organization serves over 4,500 children and teens through seven club locations in Wake County.

23rd Annual Red Cross Ball

Apr. 5 | redcross.org

The American Red Cross is gearing up for its annual ball to “Party for a Purpose” and dance the night away, plus there’s always fabulous food. It’s the organization’s biggest and most successful fundraiser, and this year it’s being held at the North Ridge Country Club. It’s such a worthy cause to support and so many people in our state depend on disaster relief funds from this organization.

The Green Chair Project Chair-i-ty Auction

Apr. 20 | thegreenchair.org

This benefit helps furnish lives with dignity, and it’s hosted in our showroom. The night is filled with delicious food and drinks, tours of the facility, and a silent and live Chair-i-ty auction. It gives guests a behind-the-scenes look at the organization, and you hear heartwarming stories about the families that have shopped at The Green Chair Project. It also gives guests a chance to help future families in need. The proceeds will provide furniture assistance benefiting 548 households by the end of 2017.

Evening of Hope
Sept. 13 | walkforhope.com 

My husband and I look forward to this gala every year as so many in the community come together to support mental health research and treatment. Every year, the foundation selects a speaker who has been affected by mental health issues. Past speakers have included Robin Williams’ son Zak, Ashley Judd, and this year Jane Pauley will attend. Held at the Angus Barn, the evening includes a gourmet meal, fabulous wine pairings and live and silent auctions. There is no better venue to host this extraordinary fundraiser than the Pavilion at the Angus Barn, under the leadership and passion of Van and Steve Eure, it’s both a memorable and charitable evening.

Exposure Time at CAM

Nov. 2017 | camraleigh.org

It’s a four-day event, but I won’t miss the BYOC (Bring Your Own Camera) Party for anything! I always go with my girlfriends. Raleigh’s up-and-coming photographers create a space or photo booth. They dress up as characters or create themes—one year one was all white, one was bubbles—and you take pictures. You can capture it with your own camera or theirs. There is music and DJs. Essentially it’s a dance party while supporting the arts. The following day you can get your holiday portraits done professionally. CAM is known for introducing its members and visitors to an endless array of art and the artists who create them.

Eat: Jennifer Noble Kelly Owner of JNK Public Relations

Kelly knows food: she’s a hospitality publicist and a charter member of the NC chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an organization of female culinary leaders. Here, she recommends five of her favorite delicious events.

CAM’s ArtHouse

May 5, 2017 | camraleigh.org

CAM’s annual fundraiser is one of my favorite events of the year, when art and food intersect. At this fundraiser, the food is never an after-thought. The chefs’ contribution to the evening often reflects art on display and is in and of itself, a work of art. I’ll never forget Scott Crawford’s elaborate hors d’oeuvres several years ago, where you’d pluck foie-stuffed morels from “dirt” made of fine, roughly diced mushrooms, or Posh Nosh’s Coleen Speaks’ late night poutine with rich mushroom gravy. CAM is one of those game- changers for Raleigh, and the food they serve always follows suit.

Stir the Pot

Apr. 23 | southernfoodways.org/sfa-events

Ashley Christensen brought the Southern Foodways Alliance to Raleigh over a decade ago through her “Stir the Pot” dinners. Anyone interested in “preserving and celebrating Southern food culture” will want to grab a seat at the table for these two-part dinners. Christensen offers dinner one evening with some of the most celebrated chefs in America, and a potluck for the community the next. Some of my favorite meals were with Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen; Hog & Hominy in Memphis; and Chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly in Houston. But I’ve also never forgotten that zabaglione with raspberries that Crooks Corners’ Bill Smith brought to a potluck. Trust me, if you aren’t already an SFA member, these dinners will convert you.

Photograph by Rachel McClain Photography

Farm to Fork

Jun. 2-4, 2017 | farmtoforknc.com

For its 10th anniversary, Farm to Fork is coming to Raleigh for the first time. This is an incredible fundraiser for CEFS (Center for Environmental Farming Systems) for all those interested in supporting our local, sustainable food system. On June 2nd, culinary historian Michael Twitty will speak at an event at City Market, surrounded by outstanding farm-focused Triangle area chefs, including John May of Piedmont and Jeff Seizer of Royale. Farm to Fork is most well-known for its Sunday picnic, now held at the picturesque Fearrington Inn. Chefs partner with artisans and farmers to show how delicious genuine culinary collaboration can be.

Blind Pig Supper Club

Various Dates | theblindpigsupperclub.com/blind-pig-raleigh

Blind Pig dinners are among the most adventurous in Raleigh. Chef Mike Moore from Asheville began it years ago, and now hosts the Raleigh series with Chef Steve Goff of Brine Haus. They tap into their wide regional network of supremely talented chefs who visit for pop-up dinners in surprise locations throughout the city—from farms to warehouses and side streets. Giving back is just as central to these dinners as creative food, so expect each dinner to benefit a community-oriented program.  Be sure to snag your tickets upon announcement as they go fast, and BYOB to share with new friends at your communal table.

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Master Chefs

Feb. 2018 | cff.org/Raleigh

Near and dear to my heart, this is the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s annual gala, which takes place in February in different locations throughout the Triangle, and this year raised over $250,000 for research to a cure for CF. Our 10-year-old son Worth has Cystic Fibrosis, and each year we’re overwhelmed by the support from the culinary, pharmaceutical and medical communities. Many chefs, like Ian Sullivan of Vidrio, are personally committed to curing CF, and have been participating for over a decade. This evening is as delicious as it is moving, and these chefs are all masters in my book for their ongoing commitment to turning CF into “Cure Found.”

Alexandra Drosu
Alexandra Drosu

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