Jack Breckheimer & Chandler Wheeler
Odyssey's Masquerade: Costumes With A Cause
Much like the heroes and villains featured in this year's Odyssey Masquerade theme, everyone has their origin story-and Odyssey's annual Masquerade fundraiser is no exception. In 2006, on a cool late spring day in April, Odyssey opened the doors of the South Perry drop-in center. Attendance numbers were booming; in a Summer 2006 newsletter, then-Executive Director Ramon Alvarez remarked that, due to the board's decision just a few months prior to become an "out" organization and publish Odyssey's address and services publicly, "the number of youth who access our center continues to grow...this has influenced how we are concentrating our efforts."
As more and more youth became aware of Odyssey's programs and resources, the need for funding grew, as well. October 2006 would see the emergence of Odyssey's newest fundraiser; the Odyssey Masquerade, "an elegant get-dressed-up-and-have-some-fun fundraiser" (OYM Newsletter, Fall 2006). The first Masquerade took place downtown in the entertainment district at the CenterStage theatre and featured a costume contest and silent auction (two activities that would continue to be an essential part of Masquerade for years to come). Masquerade 2006 was sponsored by organizations such as Avista, Spokane's Stonewall News, and many more. Tickets were $75 and only 200 tickets were available on a first-come, first-serve basis for guests over the age of 21.
All in all, the first Odyssey Masquerade was a resounding success. Over $9,000 was raised to support Odyssey's programming for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults. In the Winter 2006 newsletter, Odyssey staff and organizers of the event were said to be "so pleased with the results [of Masquerade 2006) that they have begun to plan next year's 'signature event'".
And indeed, enthusiasm for the future of Masquerade did not die down. As early as the following spring, Odyssey was advertising Masquerade 2007. A section in the Spring 2007 newsletter encouraged supporters to "start planning for the Odyssey Masquerade: The event is Oct. 27, just before Halloween. Fabulous costumes go first."
Over the next several years, Masquerade continued to be one of the highlights of Odyssey's many annual events. Masquerade allowed Odyssey supporters to help raise funds for an organization that provided much-needed services, all while dressing up in their best themed costumes and connecting with other LGBTQ+ and
allied folks in the Spokane community. Themes chosen ranged from Broadway hits such as Phantom Of The Opera ("Phantom Nights", 2012, left) to historical themes with focuses on stylish time periods ("Empire Nights", 2014, left). Attendees could interpret themes as broadly as they chose; any and all costumes were welcome at Masquerade, including plain clothes.
With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Odyssey closed the in-person doors of the drop-in center and shifted to a virtual drop-in model to encourage folks to stay safe during the pandemic and to help protect immunocompromised youth and young adults. The 2020 Masquerade was entirely virtual, featuring take-home mask kits and virtual activities for attendees, as well as special snacks from local businesses such as The Shop and Hallett's Chocolates.
In 2021, Odyssey's Masquerade was able to return to an in-person format while still encouraging attendees to wear masks and get vaccinated against COVID before attending; and this year, Masquerade returns again on Saturday, October 22nd, featuring both silent and live auction items, entertainment from local drag performers and the cast of The Rocky Horror Show at Stage Left Theater, and a costume contest for folks who've dressed to the theme of Heroes & Villains. Will we see you there? Even if you didn't grab tickets before they sold out, you can still support Odyssey's programs and resources. Visit our website at odysseyyouth.org to learn how you can get involved and support LGBTQ+ youth and young adults in the Inland Northwest.
Interested in Odyssey's programs? Check out our Programs page to view the Odyssey drop-in schedule and see what we're all about!