.North Bay Fashion Ball

]A one-night utopia and the next wave of fashion culture in Sonoma County

The North Bay Fashion Ball is back. Brainchild of artist, writer and all-around significant human being Cincinnatus Hibbard, along with a group of fellow artists and creatives, The North Bay Fashion Ball, coming May 28 to Petaluma’s Phoenix Theater, is a significant event for Sonoma County’s arts and fashion scene, and the Sonoma County LGBTQ community. It’s an event the likes of which Sonoma County hasn’t seen before. 

It all started in fall of 2021, when Hibbard found himself looking around at his group of friends, admiring their myriad skill sets and wanting some way to showcase and promote the creative energy in which he found himself immersed.

“I was sitting between Alejandro Salazar and Ammon Sigur,” Hibbard said. “Two artists who represent different schools of fashion and sensibility—Alejandro is a Gen Xer coming from museum and gallery world who has started to paint clothing, and Ammon is a Gen Z artist who’s been wanting to put together a fashion house—House of Ammon—for quite a while. Fusing these two creatives and their styles together in my mind, an idea began to percolate.”

Fast forward, and that initial impulse has resulted in a kind of a three ring circus, as Hibbard refers to it.  A fashion show, ball-type event filled with vibrancy, color, joy and love: The North Bay Fashion Ball. The night is a hybrid runway show and queer ball or pagent, with elements of performance throughout which promise to create a lot of spontaneous, unexpected moments. Think German dinner theater meets RuPaul’s Drag Race meets Project Runway, with the inimitable flair of Sonoma County and a whole lot of loving intention. Hibbard and co have centered The North Bay Fashion Ball around movement, vitality and a sense of inclusion for those participating in any capacity.

“Ammon really brought the spontaneity of the open ball form. Alejandro brought the runway sensibility.” said Hibbard. “And this desire to showcase the talent of my social circle has turned into a chance to magnetize Sonoma County fashion talent.”

Hibbard, who specializes in the what he calls the Broader Human Potential Movement—a self-identified term for utopian writing, or writing for the purpose of broadening human potential—got into event and party planning because, as he puts it, events are “one-night utopias.”

“Events are miraculous; they’re one-night utopias, one-night communities. They’re ephemeral, and they bring people together under a new form of organization, a new set of rules. I’ve found and selected people from disparate scenes in Sonoma County, and I’m bringing them all together to create this singular, unifying event. From there, my more esoteric or energetic role sets in, as a behind-the-scenes facilitator of an unfolding potential utopia. Everyone I’ve found is very charismatic and vibrant—and they all relate deeply to healing, non-toxicity and kindness. These are fully therapised, loving people, brimming with compassion and brightness.”

The event is structured in four parts, like a ziggurat or a wedding cake. In the zero hour or arrival hour, which Hibbard refers to as Presidential Level, attendees will be met at the door by two drag queens, La Brea Tarpit and Courtney Amore, welcoming them into a high fashion dance party with music by DJ St. Rose Disco (@saintrosedisco), dancing led by dance master April “Space” Walker (@spacewalker92) and drummer Phil Cole (@clown999), live spray painting by artist Malcolm Stuart (@malcolmstuart)—who was featured recently in North Bay Bohemian’s “Look” column—and baked goods provided by the Neighborhood Garden Initiative, a nonprofit providing food-based community gardens to under-served communities.

Hour one, which Hibbard calls Princess Level, has an open runway and seven categories of competition: Tarot Card, Pop/Rock Star, Gender Queer, Met Gala, Recycled/Upcycled, Y2K and Festival Ware. Attendees can sign up to walk the runway during the Princess Level hour, and Princess Boutique from Santa Rosa will be there with tiaras, distributed to the winners of each category. Ticket prices are reduced to $7.50 for those daring enough to walk.

“The MC for the runway competition is Justin Howard, who started his career writing for Joan Rivers’ Fashion Police. He’ll lovingly and compassionately be MCing and rating the looks,”  said Hibbard. “Think of who-wore-it better type vibe, but in a radically inclusive way. This is the democratization of the runway, loving all ages and body types.”

“And note, with this portion of the event,” said Hibbard, “that it’s really about being adored. There will be winners for each category, yes, but everyone will be loved and appreciated. The competition will be judged by noise, and the loudest applause received will result in a tiara, but everyone is a supermodel. This part of the night is all about opening up the runway, giving everyone a turn and a great photograph. It’s also an opportunity for younger stylists to debut, or to take a small chance. The overall winner will be invited to be a designer next year, which is also great incentive.”

The third hour, Queen Level, will honor the featured local fashion professionals and showcase their collections, as well as giving a shoutout to local designers and organizations like Trashion Fashion from the Sonoma Community Center and Disguise the Limit in Santa Rosa. Designers featured will include fashion designer Janet (@7anet7ackson), artist and clothing painter Alejandro Salazar (@alejandro_salizar_g), upcycled fashion makers Joshua + Mathilde from BigMouthUnique (@bigmouthunique)—who also recently featured in a North Bay Bohemian “Look” column—and Buck Lucky Collective founder and director Lena Claypool (@bucklucky), daughter of musician Les Claypool. It’s a star-studded lineup.

The fourth and final hour, which Hibbard didn’t name but I’m calling the Goddess Level, will feature music from headliner Korean popstar Yozmit, who will start the set with dance pop and close with celestial ambient music to send the night off on a sparkling, stylish cloud. The entire event is going to be a sparkling, stylish cloud, built on creativity, inclusivity and the power of fashion.

“We’ll have two local photographers, Carlos Chavez and Eric Molyneaux, roving around and turning the place into a sort of open photoshoot throughout the night. We want people to come dressed as their fantasy, and be ready to be photographed.” said Hibbard.

For North Bay Fashion Ball, this is just the beginning. The event is meant to draw out creatives, encourage people to take a step towards becoming designers and to generally ignite and inspire connection.

“We want to meet the creatives and support them,” said Hibbard. “The fun and exciting part is that we’re not sure who the ball is going to bring out. We’re just excited to meet them, whoever they are. And as this goes forward, we’re hoping the scene will get bigger and more vibrant. And as it grows, so will these events.”

As if the ethos of the event weren’t inspiring enough, 100% of the proceeds from the North Bay Fashion Ball will go to Face2Face, a Sonoma County nonprofit formed during the original AIDS crisis, which provides ongoing and unbiased care, testing services and prevention methods to those with AIDS.

The North Bay Fashion Ball is 6-10pm, May 28 at the Phoenix Theater, 201 Washington St., Petaluma. Tickets are $7.50-$15, available at eventbrite.com
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