James F. Mills
For some old-fashioned, Western fun, the place to be on Saturday, Nov. 12 is the Smoke Tree Ranch. That’s when the Desert Hoedown gets off to a smoke-stomping good time with a BBQ dinner, line dancing, horseshoe tossing and celebrity guests. The Desert Hoedown is the latest fundraiser by the AIDS Assistance Program, a resurrection of the long-running event last held in 2001.
“Reviving this traditional event is something I’ve been looking forward to since so many friends of AAP enjoyed it so much in the past,” says Mark Anton, Executive Director of the AIDS Assistance Program.
“People love themed parties,” adds Tim O’Bayley, AAP publicist. “Give them a reason to dress up. Tell them to put on boots and a cowboy hat, they’ll come.”
Invitations were sent out on a bandana, just like the 2001 invitations, “in case anyone remembers,” says O’Bayley. As part of the hoedown festivities, the CV Repertory Company will perform vignettes from, appropriately enough, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
The Desert Hoedown is just one of the monthly fundraising events the AAP puts on. In October, they hosted The Chocolate Affair, a tasting event for all things chocolate that still has people talking. In December, they’ll host a wreath auction with one-of-a-kind holiday wreaths designed by local residents. In January, they’ll host a special “Dance for Life” event featuring performances by national dance companies.
Come February, both a special Valentine’s dinner party and an Oscar night party are on the AAP calendar. And May sees their annual “Evening Under the Stars” party with a menu created by celebrity chef Susan Feniger and entertainment by The Go-Go’s.
Founded in 1991 by three women concerned about friends with AIDS getting properly fed, AAP’s sole mission is to provide food to people with HIV/AIDS who are living at the poverty level. Unlike food pantries which provide groceries to clients, AAP provides $50 gift cards to Stater Brothers grocery stores twice a month.
“[Clients] know best what they need. Our experience is that if someone is having certain food cravings, that must be their body telling them they need something, so we provide the vouchers and let them get the groceries they want,” says O’Bayley, who adds that alcohol and tobacco can’t be purchased with the gift cards.
With 500 clients on their rolls getting $100 a month in vouchers, AAP has a monthly bill of $50,000, before they pay any of their operating expenses. “We don’t get any government assistance,” says O’Bayley. “It all comes from the community and Wells Fargo.”
AAP has 100 more clients on their waiting list, so they’re hoping they can expand their ranks soon.
“We need our events to be successful so we can help more people,” says O’Bayley. “I can’t stand the idea of people not being able to get our services."