The Centurions are Throwing a Masquerade Escapade Party

April 23, 2012

Find a great mask to fit in at the Centurions' Masquerade Escapade.

By Teya Vitu

The Centurions will once again fill the entire east end of Downtown with their trademark annual party to end all parties in the name of charity.

In fact, the “end all” wording is even in the event’s title: “The Great Masquerade Escapade, the Ball to End All.” Indeed, it’s a play on some interpretations of the Mayan Calendar indicating December 21, 2012 will be the end of the world.

Before then, however, some 6,000 people are expected for The Great Masquerade Escapade on May 19 from 6 p.m. to midnight.

This is the Centurions’ second year in a row to stage their big fundraiser Downtown.

“The renaissance is on Downtown. It really is growing up. That’s what drew us down there,” said Bill Hussey, event chairman for the Centurions.

Many of last year’s concepts are back (yes, the casino; yes, the band The Trip; yes, the VIP area), but don’t expect the same setup as last year.

The big new addition for 2012 is the Rialto Theatre.

The Rialto will stage three burlesque shows at 7:30, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., and whenever the burlesque acts leave the stage, The Trip concert outside will we projected on the Rialto screen. The Rialto will also have (temporary) tattoo booths and tarot card readers.

Since Mars and Beyond is filling the Rialto Exhibition Center, the casino this year moves outdoors to a large tent in the empty lot next to the Rialto Theatre (former Greyhound lot). Sixty dealers will be stationed at blackjack, craps and roulette tables. Winnings will be raffle tickets and t-shirts.

Raffle prizes include one-week stays at condos in San Carlos and Lake Tahoe, a 52-inch television, a six-ton air conditioning system (someone’s gonna have a cool summer), and loads of other stuff worth a total of $60,000.

The courtyard behind the Rialto Exhibition Center will have bars around the edges and seating in the middle. Tables and chairs will also be set up on Congress Street in front of Hotel Congress and in the parking lot behind HUB and Playground.

Tickets are $85 per person or $135 for a VIP ticket. Participants must be 21 or older. Tickets are available from a Centurion member or here.

The VIP area has been upgraded quite a bit since last year, when it was simply a rooftop venue. Since then, Playground Lounge has opened beneath the roof. This time, the VIP area includes Playground, the roof once again, and the Cinema Bar out back.

“The VIP area will have a higher level of wine, beer and liquor,” Hussey said. “We sold out the VIP area last year. We needed more space.”

Food will be by El Charro, served in the alley known as Arizona Avenue.

Fifth Avenue will be closed to traffic between Congress and Broadway, and the stage for The Trip concert will be at Fifth and Broadway.

The Centurions rented out the entire Hotel Congress for staging purposes and for Centurions to stay for the four-day span it will take to set up and take down the event.

“I’ll be there Thursday already,” Hussey said.

The Centurions were founded in 1969 and have an active membership of 100 prominent business and civic leaders. The group’s name honors the 100 years of service given Southern Arizona by Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital and refers to the Roman Centurion (a leader of 100 soldiers). Since its formation, The Centurions have raised close to $4 million dollars for St. Mary’s Hospital.

“This is a party people look forward to every year,” Hussey said. “People like the fact they are supporting a local organization, yet they let their hair down.”

The Centurions are the male auxiliary for St. Mary’s Hospital. The goal with “The Burlesque Escapade” is to raise $400,000 for extensive façade renovation at St. Mary’s.

This is the final year of a five-year, $2 million pledge the Centurions made for the St. Mary’s façade.