Valentine's events vie for your affection

As holidays go, Valentine's Day is certainly no Christmas in terms of the sheer volume of themed entertainment.

No "Nutcracker."

No 24-hour TV marathons of "A Christmas Story."

But there are a handful of Lawrence nonprofit organizations competing for your affection this time of year with offerings of music, art and romantic ambiance.

The youth artists at Van Go are hoping you'll do your Valentine's Day shopping at their East Lawrence studio, where they've spent the winter making holiday-themed creations. (Olive Gallery and Art Supply is also showing love-centric artwork through the month of February.)

The Lawrence Community Theatre and the Lawrence Rotary Club would like nothing better than to have you as a guest at their Sweetheart Soiree, an evening of fine dining and entertainment by a cast of talent led by internationally acclaimed soprano Joyce Castle.

And the Douglas County AIDS Project, which for years played host to a Valentine's dance and recently switched formats to tap into the Mardi Gras theme, is planning yet another evening of Big Easy fun.

Following are all the details you'll need to help you decide where your heart is this year.

'Have a Heart'

Now in its third year, Van Go's Valentine show offers artful alternatives to gift-givers looking for something unique and handmade for their sweethearts.

Lawrence artist Cathy Ledeker supervised youth artists employed in the SuperJAMS program as they created decorated boxes, picture frames, glass bowls and magnets, hand-painted ceramic tiles and greeting cards.

"This session has been really fun," Ledeker says. "The kids are great, which makes my job easier. Along with our usual Valentine's-themed stuff, this show will introduce a fun new collection of unique free-lace art, including belts, bracelets and scarves."

Van Go provides arts-based social services and job skills to at-risk youth. The show remains on display from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday at the Van Go gallery, 715 N.J.

'Sweetheart Soiree '05'

Internationally acclaimed soprano Joyce Castle will headline a group of Lawrence musicians as entertainment at the second annual "Sweetheart Soiree," a fund-raiser for the Lawrence Community Theatre and the Lawrence Rotary Club.

For $75, patrons will be treated to music at the Lied Center and a post-show dinner at Maceli's, 1031 N.H. The menu will feature roast pork tenderloin, salmon with tropical salsa, Rocky Mountain salad, crusty dinner rolls, seasonal grilled mixed vegetables, roasted new potatoes and a dessert buffet. A cash bar will be available.

The event begins at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20. Show-only tickets are $35.

Jack Wright, Kansas University professor of theater, will direct the performers. In addition to Castle, they are tenor Genaro Mendez, pianists Carole Ross and Richard Angelletti, vocalists Barbara Ballard and Sarah Young and the tappers from the theater's recent production of "Anything Goes."

Proceeds will help Rotary raise money for the eradication of polio and the theater enhance its programming for children and seniors.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 864-2787.

DCAP Mardi Gras Party

Talk about devotion. Blues recording artist Kelley Hunt has been donating her sultry sets to Douglas County AIDS Project for 14 years as the headlining act at its February fund-raiser.

Saturday marks the 15th year, and the organization plans to honor Hunt and her manager/husband/bass player Al Berman with its Friend of DCAP Award. Thanks to their support, says Geri Summers, executive director of the agency, the event raises an average of $15,000 that is used to support case management for people infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, education and outreach programs for those at risk, and free HIV counseling and testing.

"Not only is it an incredible outpouring of friendship from them to DCAP and our consumers, but it really helps us generate a whole lot more dollars that we can give directly to the clients," Summers says. "It's huge for us. We greatly appreciate their services."

The DCAP fund-raiser first took to the Liberty Hall stage in February 1990 and soon became Lawrence's favorite Valentine's Day dance. A few years ago, DCAP switched gears and has since built the party around Mardi Gras.

Festivities include a competition for Mardi Gras king and queen, games and prizes, and a silent auction.

This year's benefit gets under way at 6 p.m. Saturday at Abe & Jake's Landing, 8 E. Sixth St. Hunt will play from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and a DJ dance party will run until 2 a.m. Admission is $20 for the entire evening or $10 after 10 p.m. Call DCAP at 843-0040 for more information.


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