Man of the Hour: Part Two

Tue. September 16, 2008 12:00 AM
by Feature Column

The second of September's sensational socials is Chicago House's annual World Tour, coordinated by Special Events Manager Jeremy Hilborn.
By Jason P Freeman

If facilitating Chicago House's largest annual gala wasn't hard enough, try doing it out of an overcrowded work space. When August storms tore the roof off of Chicago House's top-floor office on Clybourn Street, staff was relocated to a cramped temporary space on the second floor with stacked boxes cluttering the aisles. Special Events Manager Jeremy Hilborn calls the interim accommodations a "refugee camp." Repairs to the roof are underway, and Chicago House anticipates returning to their renovated offices by the first week of October. Yet until then, the show, or in this case, the HIV/AIDS "housing and hope" organization's yearly chic, creative black tie fundraiser, The World Tour, must go on.

The responsibility of making that show go on falls on Hilborn, who's been managing Chicago House's special events for the past six years, raising millions of dollars for the organization under his tenure. Finalizing the particulars for the World Tour has left him fatigued; "I haven't slept in six months," Hilborn jokes. However, executing a ball that expects to raise over $200,000 in needed funds, sleep is a luxury that Hilborn can't afford.

Preliminary planning for the World Tour starts a year in advance, a task made more difficult since Hilborn never holds the Tour at the same venue for more than two years in a row ("We like to change things up," he explains). In addition, after years of sponsoring the globally themed event—-figuratively journeying to a different global destination each year along with corresponding global-themed catering, atmosphere and décor—-Hilborn says that he and his consultants have gotten "Attention Deficit Disorder."

"We've done the global thing a gazillion and one times," Hilborn says. "So this year I've decided to go over the rainbow and take the World Tour to OZ."

The OZ-inspiration was partly motivated by the musical "Wicked." Since opening in Chicago, the production has raised over $200,000 for Chicago House through the play's Broadway Cares initiative. With "Wicked" closing its Chicago run in January, Chicago House's World Tour of OZ hopes to honor the show for its continued support of the Chicago House mission.

Being held at Macy's on State Street, this year's World Tour takes guests on a three-dimensional, multi-roomed recreation of The Wizard of OZ. The VIP reception starts in black and white at Dorothy's Kansas farm and features black and white cocktails. A tornado follows, flinging attendants to Munchkin Land, a creative, bright Technicolor silent auction room complete with Glinda the Good Witch and the Lollipop Guild. Following the yellow-brick road will lead into the Historic Walnut Room, transformed into the Emerald City with seating for 600. After a "very green, very emerald and very elegant" dinner catered by Macy's, guests will be directed to the Narcissus Room, where the wizard will be holding a disco dance party with DJ Plez on the turntables. The Sara Lee Foundation is providing dessert.

"The message in The Wizard of Oz is memorable," Hilborn states. "There's no place like home, and through the event, we hope guests will understand that on another level: There is truly no place like Chicago House."

Chicago House's World Tour: Gala Oz '08 takes place Saturday, September 27, 2008, at Macy's on State. Tickets and other information are available at ChicagoHouse.org.