News & Politics

PHOTOS: The 50th Anniversary Meridian Ball

PHOTOS: The 50th Anniversary Meridian Ball
Ambassador Stuart Holliday (center), President and CEO of Meridian International Center, poses with guests Jessica Hogle, Natalie Jones, Jessica Straus, Sarah Venuto, Nora Connors, and Diana Doukas during the 50th Anniversary Meridian Ball.
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Party photographer Dan Swartz’s diary of bashes, benefits, and galas.

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.

Amy Baier, Fox News Channel’s chief political anchor Bret Baier, Politico CEO Patrick Steel, and Meridian COO Lee Satterfield.
The famous dessert table at the Meridian Ball.

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.

Japanese Ambassador Shinsuke J. Sugiyama hosted one of the pre-Ball dinners at his private residence.
The first course at the Japanese ambassador’s dinner.

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.

White House Social Secretary Rickie Niceta (right) with her former colleagues at Design Cuisine Jenn Lynch and Bill Homan (middle).
The formal District of Columbia resolution recognizing Meridian International Center’s 50th anniversary.

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.

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, Politico Playbook co-author Daniel Lippman, Alice Lloyd, Antonia Gore, and John Gore.
This year’s White-Meyer Dinner was hosted in a large white tent temporarily erected on the grounds of the Meridian Center.

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.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly.
Department of State Assistant Secretary Marie Royce and Congressman Ed Royce.

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.

The Atlantic editor-at-large Steven Clemons, Andrew Oros, former Department of State assistant chief of protocol Nick Schmidt, and Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart are “photobombed” by Kosovo Ambassador Vlora Citaku.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and friends.

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.

Erika Gutierrez and Kevin Sheridan (who were married at Meridian House) with parents Edilia Gutierrez and former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, and Mariella and Michael Trager.
DJ Neekola kept the dance tent crowded and moving well past last call.

And for one night a year at least, they can do this all the while still having fun.


Huda Farouki, Samia Farouki, Megan Beyer, and Congressman Don Beyer.
The champagne bar at the Ball.
Narges Gheissari, Dan McCarthy, Jayne Visser, and Councilmember Jack Evans.
Maverick PAC National Co-Chair and Mission Group restaurateur Fritz Brogan and Brooke Brogan, who were married at Meridian House.
Toni Verstandig, Heather Florance, Dylan Glenn, and Mimi Glenn.
CityCenterDC General Manager Timothy Lowery and Michael Zingali.
Penn Biden Center’s Sophia Sokolowski, Modern Luxury editor Kristen Schott, IO Sustainability co-CEO Steve Rochlin, and Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Christina Sevilla.
Rory and Lauren Pillsbury.
Courtney Rodgers, Washington Speakers Bureau’s  Jamie Carroll, DCI Group’s Miriam Warren.
George and Kristen Lund.
The Japanese ambassador’s pre-Ball dinner setting.
Ben and Ashley Chang.
WeWork Director of Public Affairs Anastasia Dellaccio, Chef Gianluigi Dellaccio, and BBC News’ Suzanne Kianpour.