Balance Tampa Bay and EPIC’s masquerade returns

ABOVE: The “Showdown: Breaking Barriers” logo, photo courtesy EPIC.

TAMPA | Balance Tampa Bay and Empath Partners in Care (EPIC) will present “Showdown: Breaking Barriers” July 31 from 8-11 p.m., their sixth Masquerade Ball benefiting EPIC’s fight against HIV/AIDS.

The long-running partnership is an extension of Balance’s mission to promote inclusive philanthropy. It has raised more than $80,000 for the nonprofit since it began, skipping only 2020 due to COVID-19.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” says Balance Vice President Ryan Young, also the event’s chair. “Masquerade has always been so personal to me … I’ve had in-depth conversations with people that have taken so much from it. You become very attached to the event and not having control was tough.”

“Fearless: An Unmasquerade,” their 2019 venture, raised $17,000 for EPIC, and Young says he’s eager for the fundraiser’s return. He’s particularly excited about this year’s theme.

“Originally we came up with it when discussing the different battles that people have gone through in our community – how we’ve broken through those barriers together – and then COVID hit,” he explains. “So for me, out of all the themes we’ve had in six years, this is probably the one that’s the most relatable in today’s time.”

This year’s masquerade will return to the site of its last outing, the 2,880-square-foot Tampa River Center at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park. While organizers promise “a fantastic night of music, dancing, cocktails, bites, auction, friendship and philanthropy,” only 200 guests will be permitted to attend this year due to the ongoing pandemic.

The reduction in capacity is enforced by the venue. “We are going to sell out,” EPIC Special Events Coordinator Molly Robison says. “We cannot exceed 200, which is smaller than it’s ever been. They’re going quick, and it’s going to be really fun this year – for many reasons, not the least of which is people are excited to be getting back out again.

“We know we’re not going to raise as much money,” she continues, “that’s the simple reality when you have to limit your capacity. But after a year hiatus, people are ready to gather and celebrate. All of the components are coming together.”

The evening will begin with a VIP reception from 7-8 p.m., with general admission from 8-11 p.m. All guests are encouraged to adhere to CDC guidelines, but as for this year’s dress, Young says they “can come any way they want.”

Upscale chic is encouraged, but “I think the most important thing is getting people back together and having a good time,” he continues. Young also notes that this year will be his final as masquerade chair.

“It’s bittersweet because I love it,” he says, “but I’m excited to see where it’s going to go down the road.”

In the interim, tickets and sponsorships for this year’s masquerade can be purchased for this year’s outing at

“We want people to know how grateful we are for their patience and for their sponsorship,” Robison says. “We’re excited to see everyone for our first foray back out.”

More in News

See More