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Shine your dancin’ shoes: here’s your guide to the fall’s hottest shindigs

By Emily Haws      

On this fall's to-attend list: the Political Party, the NAC Gala, Canada's Great Kitchen Party, and the return of Harvest Noir.

Liberal MP Marco Mendicino, pictured at the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, Que., in 2016, will be back singing at this year's party, now called the Political Party, on Sept. 21, along with Kelly Prescott, John Ivison, Rodger Cuzner, Randy Boissonault, Cynthia Dale, and Andrew Cash. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
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“I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties, there isn’t any privacy,” said outspoken Jordan Baker in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and whether or not you prefer your parties crowded or intimate, filled with food or with a rockin’ dance floor, Hillites can agree all around that there are plenty in Ottawa to go around. 

One of the popular party spots is the reception hall in the Sir John A. Macdonald Building, which, admittedly, does have a bit of a Gatsby-like feel to it. As the new Party Central columnist, feel free to drop me a line if you have a party I should attend, or just introduce yourself in person. Dance floors are my favourite party feature, and so I’m always interested in learning new dance moves.

Beer Canada’s annual October celebration, which was one of their signature events, will be missed this year. Instead, the group is holding a beverage and food pairing on Oct. 2 for MPs and Senators only. It goes from 6-8 p.m. in the Wellington Building, and space is limited.

Nature Canada’s ball also isn’t making a reappearance, which perhaps isn’t surprising since it wasn’t held last year. The event, which raised money for the organization’s work protecting wildlife, was known for its glitzy atmosphere.

Though those two parties won’t be on the social calendar this year, there are still so many to choose from. Here’s a few parties on my radar:

Sept. 21: The Political Party

With the Jamie Anderson Parliamentary Internship program raising enough money to be self-sustaining, it was time for the organizers to move onto a new project: a summer parliamentary journalism internship. The night is once again hosted at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Que., with a bus running to and from Parliament Hill. Tickets are $150.

Peter Mansbridge, Jennifer Ditchburn, Bill Fox, Susan Harada, Susan Delacourt, Bruce Anderson, and Nancy Jamieson are organizing the internship. Jane Kennedy, of Jane & Co., has organized this year’s shindig. There will be country music, a barbecue, and guest performances by Kelly Prescott and the Prescott Brown Band headlining the country-music event. A number of Hillites, such as Conservative MP Erin O’Toole, and Liberal MPs Rodger Cuzner, Marco Mendecino, and Randy Boissonault are expected to perform, along with National Post columnist John Ivison, singer Cynthia Dale, and former NDP MP Andrew Cash. Ms. Dale is best known for playing lawyer Olivia Novak in the popular 1980s TV series Street Legal, which was just rebooted for the 2018-19 television season.

The bash runs from 6:30 p.m. until last call, and judging from the buzz around the party, it’s probably safe to say it’ll rock from start to finish.

Sept. 22: Harvest Noir

After a two-year hiatus, Harvest Noir is back for a bash in the style of a renegade picnic under the Harvest Moon. The event takes place from 4 p.m. until 1 a.m., and a ticket gives one admission to the picnic, the Celebration of Light, and a dance after-party.

The monochrome costumes are a well-known part of the event, with people going all out on masks, fascinators, and makeup. Organizers are asking everyone to show up in black, which will probably look eerie but chic under the moonlight.

This year, all proceeds go to Wheels4Refugees, a local initiative that refurbishes used bikes for families who have fled the Syrian conflict. The location is to be announced, as ticket-holders find out by email the day of where to meet up. But the website did note it’ll be somewhere downtown. Partygoers are encouraged to bring their own local food to celebrate the autumn harvest, and entertainment will be provided by the Stan Clark Orchestra, CelloJoe, and two DJs on the dance floor. Tickets are $89, and limited.

Sept. 25: CMF Showcase 2018

Want to meet some of Canada’s film and TV elite? This event is for you. Last year, Kim’s Convenience star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, CBC’s Rick Mercer, and The Handmaid’s Tale’s cast and crew made appearances. It’s hosted by the Canada Media Fund, a public-private partnership that promotes, develops, and finances Canadian content.

Parliamentarians spotted there last year included: Liberal MP Sean Casey (Charlottetown, P.E.I), who was the parliamentary secretary to Mélanie Joly (Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Que.), the heritage minister at the time. We’ll see if new Heritage Minister Pablo Rodríguez (Honoré-Mercier, Que.) and his parliamentary secretary Gary Anandasangaree (Scarborough — Rouge Park, Ont.) will make an appearance. Also spotted last year: Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette (Winnipeg Centre, Man.), NDP MP Pierre Nantel (Longueuil-Saint-Hubert, Que.), Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett (Toronto-St. Paul’s, Ont.), Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould (Burlington, Ont.), and Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu (Sarnia-Lambton, Ont.).

Held this year in the Sir John A. Macdonald Building, it starts at 5 p.m. and promotes the best of Canadian television and digital productions. It was reported last year that guests could experience virtual-reality technology and play video games, and that feature is expected to be back again this year.

Sept. 26: The House Warming

Filled with bubbly, great food, and a family-reunion-like feel, iPolitics, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and Earnscliffe are holding their annual “back to Parliament” party—this year dubbed, the House Warming. Being one of my first parties as a Hillite, it holds a special place in my heart.

It’s once again taking place at the Metropolitain Brasserie on Sussex Drive, so guests can sit out on the expansive patio and take in the fall colours of the trees in the area. The bash begins at  5 p.m.

Here’s hoping it comes with comfort food and all things autumn, although it would also be great if they brought back the popcorn stand and photo booth from last year.

Oct. 3: The NAC Gala

Complete with a red carpet, this glamorous soirée is headlined by Diana Ross, who is performing with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. It’s a place you’re sure to spot many Parliamentarians, particularly those who are patrons of the arts.

The night kicks off at 6 p.m. with live music, followed by a pre-concert reception with beverages and hors-d’oeuvres prepared by NAC executive chief Kenton Leier.

The show begins at 7 p.m., and the night benefits NAC’s arts education programs across the country. It takes place at the NAC at 1 Elgin St., and tickets start at $229.

Oct. 11: Canada’s Great Kitchen Party

While Golden Plates was a staple of the Ottawa party circuit, it is no more. The event didn’t run last year, but this year, organizers are coming back with a new event and beneficiaries. Canada’s Great Kitchen Party is run throughout Canada, and will be held on Oct. 11, with the bash starting at 6 p.m. at the Shaw Centre. Tickets are $350, or $3,500 for a table to 10.

The night will be similar to Golden Plates, with chefs competing at this regional qualifier for the Canadian Culinary Championships, which will be held in Kelowna, B.C., in February 2019. It will be emceed by CBC’s Road to the Olympics’ Scott Russell, and the musical part of the event is headlined by Tom Cochrane and Barney Bentall.

The fundraiser supports three organizations this year: B2ten, an organization known for funding specialized training for elite amateur athletes, including Olympic figure skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir; MusiCounts, which will buy musical instruments for schools; and Community Food Centres Canada, which will bring together chefs and children through mentorship sessions.


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