The Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce kicked off the holiday season, as they always do, with Deck the Halls, an auction event that brings community leaders, business owners and residents together for a night of dining, drinking, networking and shopping.
Eastpointe Manor was packed to near capacity Nov. 7 for the annual fundraiser, with more than 250 tickets sold in the weeks leading up to the event.
“We are at about 250-300,” said Sidney Smith, a local business owner who helps at the chamber office. “We sold so many extra tickets just to cram people in. We almost had to turn a couple people away because we didn’t think we could get them in. We got everyone in so far but there is absolutely nothing at the door.”
With advanced tickets selling for $20 and including dinner and an open bar, tickets can be hard to get. Tickets sold out so fast last year that Eastpointe Councilman Phil Gaustella bought early this year.
“We couldn’t get a ticket last year; that’s why I bought a table early this year so we could all get in,” Gaustella said. “It’s a good time — the silent auction, the live auction, good food — you can’t beat it. This is one of those great community events that we are always trying to stress in our city.”
And it was a great community event for Eastpointe — with the entire council and many current and retired city employees and other elected officials in attendance. Long-time residents Linda and Kevin Weishaupt, both also retired from the city, sat with Assistant City Manager Randy Altimus and much of the Clerk’s Department. Sen. Steve Bieda strolled the room meeting constituents, newly elected County Commissioner Veronica Klinefelt spent the first night after the election catching up with friends, supporters and community members, and past Mayor Harvey Curly walked the crowd selling raffle tickets.
“Everybody who is anybody is here,” said Deena Trocino, a member of the East Detroit School Board and co-director of Eastside Teen Outreach. “I think this is amazing. What better thing can you do than a fundraiser where you sell out the tickets? It’s great. This is an event that everyone looks forward to every year. It not only benefits a great cause, but it’s also a great community event and networking event.”
The event did offer great networking opportunities, but the feeling of the start of the holiday season and the excitement of so many familiar faces in one place had business talk at a minimum for many.
“It’s awesome. I have seen over 50 people just right off the top of my head — hey this person is here, that person is here,” said Christina Lazzana-Webster, owner of Big Top Popcorn in Eastpointe. “This community is just so tight-knit. Every time I go to a local event, I see so many familiar faces. It’s a great time.”
Trocino and Lazzana-Webster joined fellow chamber members and worked the event handing out the auction catalogue at the door, selling raffle tickets, walking the room with live auction items and keeping guests happy and entertained.
Michelle Liss, owner of J Cola Salon in Roseville, was helping out during the event but put the majority of her time in before the event — spending eight days shopping for and putting together more than 60 baskets for the silent auction.
“It was so enjoyable,” Liss said of the experience. “I love Christmas and this event is the start of the season. We just had a blast doing it.”
Liss said about half the items in the silent auction were donated and half purchased by the chamber. She pointed out some of her favorites along the auction table, which ran along the entire back wall of the banquet hall and overflowed along the sidewall at each end, but the best stuff, she said, was in the live auction at the front of room.
The auction featured 32 lots, such as a year’s worth of pizza and antipasto at Cloverleaf, four tickets to Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, four tickets to Broadway Onstage, a University of Michigan lot that included four game tickets and a two-night stay at an Ann Arbor hotel, fire truck rides and high-end accessories.
Chamber officials weren’t able to put a total on proceeds earned at the event at press time, but they expressed happiness that it was such a success in its first year without the former director.
“I’m very, very proud of the work that the chamber did without Mrs. Catherine Green — she is missed — but a lot of hard work was put in and we did it,” Smith said.