Country-western dancers lasso in funds for nonprofits

Cowboys and girls from around the region will mosey into Pure Nightclub this weekend to hit the dance floor for area nonprofits.

The 14th annual Lassos & Lariats charity country-dance event will be held from 4-11 p.m. tomorrow at Pure, 1221 St. James St.

Lassos & Lariats was founded in the 1990s as a community fundraiser for the now-defunct Gay and Lesbian Switchboard. Once the organization closed down, event founder Michael Flynn decided to open up Lassos & Lariats as a benefit for other LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations.

The 2009 beneficiaries are The Attic Youth Center and the AIDS Coalition of Southern New Jersey.

Event co-chair James Erhart said organizers are hoping to bring in $15,000, to be split between the groups — but that, in light of the recession, fundraising efforts have been slow.

“Unfortunately it’s been a very tough year,” Erhart said. “We’re getting donations for raffle baskets but so far we’ve had a really hard time getting money this year.”

Lassos & Lariats was last held in 2007, as last year’s event was postponed, and drew $12,000 for The Attic and local HIV/AIDS organization Siloam.

About 300 people attended the previous event, and Erhart said he expects attendance at this year’s festivities to be on par with that number.

The night will kick off with dance lessons from 4-6 p.m. and a dinner buffet from 5-7 p.m.

The entertainment portion of the event will feature performances by drag star Shana Matthews, the D.C. Cowboys and the Manhattan Prairie Dogs.

Country DJ Leigh Richards of 92.5 WXTU, who’s lent her emcee skills to Lassos & Lariats for a number of years, will return again to host the event.

Attendees will be invited to the dance floor for several open-dancing sessions throughout the night with DJs John Stypa, Cliff Roberts and June Bromley.

Erhart noted that partiers do not need any country-dance experience to take part, as instructors will teach them the moves.

“Country’s a lot of fun and you can meet a lot of new people,” he said. “If I’m teaching a new person, I usually teach them the two-step to a slow song first to get the beat and rhythm, and then build it up from there.”

Lassos & Lariats co-chair Diane Forsythe said she’s eager for this year’s event to generate a large turnout and a large contribution to the worthy beneficiaries.

“The Attic is a wonderful beneficiary because the money goes right to the kids, and I think we all could’ve used a place like that growing up,” Forsythe said. “And the AIDS Coalition does such good work. By giving to them, you may even be helping someone you know without even knowing it. It’s always good to give back.”

Forsythe credited the hard work of the all-volunteer board for bringing the event back year after year.

“We have no ties, except to the community. We’re just friends and we pitch in and everybody does what they can to get the most for the beneficiaries.”

Tickets to Lassos & Lariats are $25 and can be purchased at

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].