Live from the Sneaker Gala, with Ed Markey and a Human Disco Ball

Our intrepid society columnist reports from Boston's swankiest affairs including Big Night at MGM Music Hall and the Boston Wine & Food Festival's opening night.

Power quintet Oren Sherman, Colette Phillips, Theo Tyson, Priscilla Douglas, and Rick Miller. / Photo by Malakhai Pearson

Boston’s heavy hitters were all at Big Night Live for what’s become affectionately known as “The Sneaker Gala,” despite the official (and somewhat unwieldy) name of the MLK Embrace Honors: Friends & Family Sneaker Affair.

See all »

Guests in their freshest kicks and formalwear raised some admiring eyebrows as they arrived for the party, where heavy apps were passed, the bartenders worked like whirling dervishes, and, in between air-kissing, guests played space-age arcade games (at least one featured an epilepsy warning). It was all for a good cause, of course: raising money for the Embrace Boston organization.

Among the head-turning crowd: Embrace president and CEO Imari Paris Jeffries; founder Paul English and his partner, Rachel Cohen; dashing do-gooders Derrick Young Jr. and Jonathan Allen; Boston Ballet star Daniel Randall Durrett; MFA fashion curator Theo Tyson; branding wizard Daren Bascome; style avatar Patrick Petty and his daughter, Zoë; cannabis entrepreneur Tito Jackson; Boston Children’s Chorus maestro Andrés Holder and “Director of Good Trouble” Akiba Abaka; and some guy from DC named Ed Markey.

Senator Ed Markey and former first couple of Massachusetts Diane and Deval Patrick. / Photo by Malakhai Pearson

The sneaker directive excused everyone from wearing high heels but posed the unexpected problem of making the cocktail party sound like a basketball practice, with rubber squeaking on gleaming wood floors. It was quickly drowned out by the sound of a good time, though, as NBC10 anchor Latoyia Edwards and Celtics arena host Melisa Valdez recognized honorees Demond and Kia Martin; Paul and Sandy Edgerley; and Damian Wilmot and Yndia Lorick-Wilmot. Needless to say, there was also amazing music by the likes of such local talent as DJ Chubby Chub, Real P, SuperSmashBroz, Amandi Music, DJ Slick Vick, DJ Stix, and Soca Cowboyz.

Overheard by the bar: “Your husband’s in the design world, too, right?”

“No. He’s a psychiatrist. The kind that doesn’t take insurance.”

Comparing kicks. / Photo by Malakhai Pearson

The stylish Jean Dolin and Fabiola Dolin. / Photo by Malakhai Pearson

The Human Disco Ball. / Photo by Malakhai Pearson

The Embrace Boston team. / Photo by Malakhai Pearson

Melisa Valdez in what she’d normally wear to a Celtics game. / Photo by Malakhai Pearson

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts CEO Mark O’Donnell, legal eagle Regina McGregor, and State Street exec Julia McCarthy. / Photo by Jeff Pinette and Shore Shotz Photography

Dancing with Myself

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts took over the MGM Music Hall at Fenway for its 25th annual Big Night celebration. The evening’s theme was Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and the headliner was none other than snarly ’80s bad boy Billy Idol, with special guests Flo Rida and Boston’s own French Lick (featuring Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck). “Guardian Extraordinaire” Sheila White received the James J. Pallotta Award (named for the party’s founder and mega-donor), and the evening raised a whopping $2.3 million.

Social Venture Partners Connecticut COO Wendy Foster. / Photo by Jeff Pinette and Shore Shotz Photography

Billy Idol bringing the house down. / Photo by Jeff Pinette and Shore Shotz Photography

Kimberly and Michael Lombard bringing the ’80s. / Photo by Jeff Pinette and Shore Shotz Photography

A living garden of earthly delights. / Photo by Shem Hooda

In Vino Veritas

Bacchus himself would have been proud of the Opening Night Reception for the Boston Wine & Food Festival, held at the Boston Harbor Hotel. The evening’s main event took place in the Wharf Room, with wine tastings, delicious food, and a band that knew how to get the party started.

Forbes Travel guru Jennifer Kane McGee and Kraft Group’s Audrey Johnston. / Photo by Shem Hooda

Horizon Beverage wine director Brittany Safy. / Photo by Shem Hooda

Wine whizzes Molly Kornfeind and Dom Giammarco. / Photo by Shem Hooda

First published in the print edition of the April 2024 issue with the headline, “Sole Mates.”