Mayor sparkles at her diversity gala

Thousands crowd Convention Center to share warmth, food, good times

Dixon Inauguration

December 05, 2007|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN REPORTER

Outside the Baltimore Convention Center last night, winds whipped and temperatures plunged. But on the inside, it was a different story.

From the colorful lighting in warm jewel tones to the savory steam emanating from carving stations to the rhythmic beats of the Baltimore band Fertile Ground, nearly every aspect of Mayor Sheila Dixon's inaugural gala pulsed with warmth.

"You can feel it; there's something palpable," said actress Maria Broom, best known for her role as Marla Daniels on HBO's The Wire, as she sashayed through the room. "You can really feel this new sense, with the women coming in. It's like, `We're finally here!'"

Dixon herself arrived fashionably late, after the event had nearly filled with people, dressed in a range of styles, from black-tie to cowboy.

Just as she'd promised, the mayor did not wear her signature color - red - but strode into her party wearing the colors of sunshine and pearls. Her floor-length, one-shoulder gown, created just for last night's ball by Baltimore fashion/costume designer Dona Adrian, was accentuated with jewels - representing the inaugural theme: The Jewels of Baltimore.

"As you can see, everybody's all jeweled up tonight," said Deputy Mayor Salima S. Marriott, wearing sparkly earrings that were 25 years old. "It's a beautiful night. It's been a beautiful day, and it's going to be a great week as we celebrate all of the jewels of Baltimore."

Many of the city's landmarks were highlighted in colorful portraits along the walls of the Convention Center. The Senator Theatre, Washington Monument and Hippodrome were among those shown. There was even a picture of a city police precinct house.

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said he was impressed by the packed house Dixon commanded.

"I think it's a testament to the mayor and her class and dignity and how she conducts herself," said Bealefeld, who was wearing a classic black tuxedo.

Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said she was moved by the diversity of the party's attendees.

"We are, in fact, a very diverse city. We may forget that sometimes," said Jessamy, who was wearing a pantsuit in a garnet hue.

Undoubtedly, she meant diversity of culture, class and conviction. But there was a kaleidoscope of styles strolling about as well.

There were top hats, glittery berets and at least one baseball cap; long gowns, miniskirts, pashminas and fur coats. Kweisi Mfume wore a straight tie and tails. Andrey Bundley, who ran against Dixon for mayor, donned a black-on-black business suit and a bow tie.

That rumbling coming from his abdomen wasn't sour grapes, though. Bundley - stuck at the end of the gala farthest from the Caribbean grilled chicken tenders, cider-glazed roast pork loin and shrimp and asparagus risotto - was just plain hungry.

"I'm not going to dance much," said Bundley, after expressing his respect and support for the mayor. "But I am going to eat."

Dixon arrived in time to shake hands and smile and hear Frankie Beverly and Maze, one of her favorite groups.

But Comptroller Joan M. Pratt wasn't sure she could stay up that late.

"I'd like to," said Pratt, dressed in a red gown with spaghetti straps. "But probably not."

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