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Ottawa swirls and twirls for a good cause

Chair Glenn Crawford says a venue change will be huge improvement

Glenn Crawford, chair of Swirl and Twirl, says the volunteer-run event is a lot of work and a lot of fun. Credit: Adrienne Ascah

Ottawa’s long winter is finally over, and its inhabitants are ready to end the hibernation with a party.

Swirl and Twirl is back this year at a new venue, taking place on May 28 at the newly refurbished horticulture building in Lansdowne Park. According to its website, the food, wine and beer tasting party has raised more than $60,000 since 2003 for local queer and queer-friendly organizations.

Moving to new digs is a way to give new life to Swirl and Twirl without substantively changing the event people have grown to love, says Glenn Crawford, Swirl and Twirl’s chair. “I think it’s important to keep an event fresh,” he says. “City hall is great because it’s central, but at the same time, logistically, it’s somewhat challenging. It’s quite long and thin, so traffic flow is a bit tricky at times and the acoustics are dreadful.”

As an added boost, snagging the horticulture building was less expensive — and keeping costs low means more money for the charities, Crawford says. This year, the event’s funds will go to Bruce House, PTS and the Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus. Since Crawford is a singer in the Gay Men’s Chorus he abstained from voting on that charity, but says he can speak more generally about how the organizing committee selected the three charities from the seven applications.

“Typically, when we pick charities, we often tend to pick one that benefits the HIV/AIDS community, one that has social services aspects and one other that might support the arts, like last year we had the Inside Out film festival,” Crawford says.

As always, Swirl and Twirl will be a night of eating, drinking and being merry, and Crawford says that vendors are offering a fantastic array of wine, beer and food.

“I feel very happy that we have so many different wine and beer vendors, food vendors, sponsors who, year after year, continue to participate,” he says. “The response that we’ve had this year has been really wonderful and above what I expected.”

From Beau’s Beer to Three Dog Winery, The Unrefined Olive and Sarah J’s Cupcakes, partygoers will have plenty of delicious choices to sip and nibble on. There’s a new tasting feature this year for guests who pay an extra $20 if they want to try five to six sparkling wines, including champagne, while they’re guided by a sommelier, he adds.

Entertainment will include live jazz from Nick Gummeson and theatre performances by Toto Too Theatre. Actors from Toto Too, with puppets in tow, will perform songs from Avenue Q.

From local artwork to travel and accommodation packages, the silent auction brings in a lot of money for charities while helping partygoers snag great deals, Crawford says.

And while you’re working the room, you can stop and talk to representatives from Capital Pride. The new Pride organization is a community sponsor for Swirl and Twirl, and committee members will be on hand to answer questions.

“This current committee is facing I guess you could say controversy and there’s perhaps some misconceptions that are sort of going around, so this is an opportunity to … answer questions and see if people are interested in getting involved in various ways,” he says.

All in all, Swirl and Twirl is about supporting local LGBT organizations while having fun, he says.

“It’s a chance to dress up a little bit if you want to, although there’s no dress code,” Crawford says. “People are more than welcome to come in whatever they’re comfortable in. I personally like to step it up a bit, style a little bit, but that’s just me.”