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You know it’s bound to be a good party when attendees begin planning their outfits a month in advance. Since September, people have been overheard asking each other, “Are you going to the Red Party?”

As the vintage circus-themed fete drew closer, socialites could be overheard discussing in detail who was wearing what, who was going with whom, and who had VIP tickets. The day of, one couldn’t help wondering if this year’s Red Party could live up to the hype.

Guests arrived to find the Old Jail swathed in red lights and white stars, and circus performers and colorful freaks aplenty leered and beckoned from the entrance. Ringmasters, scarlet-clad flappers, and sequin encrusted lion tamers lined up around the block, sizing up this year’s array of costumes.

Everyone passed through the eerie corridor, decked with purple and red lights, and emerged to find the expansive courtyard transformed into a crimson carnival. Three red and white striped tents marked the VIP area, dance floor, and silent auction, and each section was packed with partygoers in outrageous costumes of every kind. Masqueraders and flappers jostled in line for one of Jack’s Cosmic Dogs or fries from Patat Spot, while a strong man chatted up a carny by the couches and several magician’s assistants and a mime took their places at the bar.

Nearly everyone had dressed to impress, and it was a lively crowd of artists, fashionistas, local designers, media mavens, and revelers of all ages. The attire was varied and lively, with more partygoers subscribing to the theme than the year previous. In true Charleston fashion, however, there were several puzzling costumes in the crowd. At one point in the night, I turned to find myself confronted with a six-foot-tall large-eared furry purple creature of sorts. “I’m a pussy-bunny!” the masquerader explained flippantly.

The night was a whirlwind of colors, costumes, and revelry, and partygoers found themselves dazzled by several entertainers and a burlesque peep show. Nearly everyone staked out a spot on the dance floor, and after what seemed like all too short a time, another fantastic Red Party was drawing to a close.

The Red Party is an annual fundraiser for the American College of the Building Arts. The American College of the Building Arts was founded in 2004 in response to the national lack of master craftsmen. The ACBA is devoted to educating and training artisans in the building arts, and it encourages and fosters the preservation and enrichment of the world’s architectural heritage.

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