Rooted in tradition but still with its finger on the pulse of DC society, the Meridian International Center‘s annual Meridian Ball continues to break the mold of the typical stuffy, black tie fundraiser. Simply put, it’s actually fun.
Washington abounds with formal fundraisers for all types of worthy causes each year. But most follow the same familiar playbook, with programs consisting of speeches, awards, and a sea of banquet tables amid some sort of cavernous backdrop.
An evening at the Meridian Ball too, of course, features a dinner component. However, the dinners themselves–some 30 spread across the city hosted by various ambassadors at their private residences–boast a degree of intimacy that is purposely designed to foster better conversation and hence a more lively time. The Ball itself is really the “after party” to all of these dinners during which guests converge at the historic Meridian House on the grounds of the Meridian International Center.
Just about the time of night other black tie benefits start to lose steam, the Meridian Ball therefore experiences a sudden jolt of energy as the party starts anew. Equally important, the Ball brings together people from all pockets of Washington life: the Hill, CEOs, the White House, the diplomatic community, and even a handful of twenty and thirty-somethings that are just out looking for a good time on a Friday night (there are no VIP areas or special sections cordoned off for specific guests). This is how it has made it to 50 with no sign of slowing down.
While this year’s banner celebration chiefly followed the same format as prior years, it was notable for a few reasons. First, instead of having one Chair, as has been the case for the 49 previous balls, Friday’s affair united all former Chairs (including the very first Meridian Ball Chair, Jane Sloat Ritchie) into a single comprehensive leadership committee as a way of recognizing the contributions of those who have served in the past in addition to the present day organizers.
This year’s Meridian Ball was also much larger than in prior years with the party overflowing from the grounds of Meridian House into the neighboring White-Meyer House (the normal pre-ball White-Meyer Dinner was also expanded and temporarily moved to a nearby tent on the grounds of the Center). This added capacity allowed the nonprofit to sell more tickets, which resulted in a take of well over $1 million for the evening.
These funds serve as the lifeblood for the nonpartisan nonprofit whose stated mission is to “[strengthen] U.S. engagement with the world and [build] global leaders through the exchange of people, ideas and culture.” The Meridian International Center achieves this through a series of programs throughout the year designed to create an environment conducive for leaders to better understand global issues and cultures and collaborate on solutions.
And for one night a year at least, they can do this all the while still having fun.