Hagerstown to get another 'Taste of Vegas'
Each year, Washington County area community members set out to try their hands at some wheeling and dealing to benefit Discovery Station children’s museum at Taste of Vegas Casino Night. This year’s event on Saturday, Feb. 29, will take place in the ballroom of The Maryland Theatre’s new Performing Arts Center.
Brittany Wedd, executive director of Discovery Station, said the museum has been hosting Casino Night as a fundraiser for about eight years. For three or four years, she said, the museum has worked with Carlisle, Pa.-based Phantom Entertainment Services to provide games.
“Our attendees come out to play different casino favorites like blackjack, craps and roulette. It’s a lot of fun,” Wedd said. “It feels like the ‘real deal’ with pit bosses and people dressing the part to engage the participants and man the tables. That ambience is a large part of why it is so successful.”
This year’s event will be a little different from previous ones in that the attendee who has the most money at the end of the night will receive a prize. The exact prize had not yet been determined at the time of Wedd’s interview, but she said it would be chosen from the many donations from area businesses that support the fundraiser.
“We’ve had a lot of items donated so we have plenty to choose from,” she said.
Around 200 people typically attend the event, which in the past has been held at Fountain Head Country Club.
“It’s always been awesome there, but with the new Performing Arts Center, we wanted to take advantage of the downtown location,” Wedd said.
Tickets to Casino Night, which is geared for people 21 and older, cost $40 in advance and $50 at the door, and cover “funny money” for gaming, as well as light fare by Desert Rose Cafe and Catering, and live musical entertainment of local cover band Staff Infection. There will be dancing, 50/50 raffles, tip jars, a live auction and emceeing by Mix 95.1 radio’s Ryan Smetzer.
“Staff Infection played last year. The response is phenomenal,” Wedd said. “People loved them last year as well as the year before.”
Auction items include earrings valued at $460 from R. Bruce Carson Jewelers, and a Golden Ticket to Leitersburg Cinemas, which is a personalized pass for free movie admission, drinks and popcorn for the pass holder and a guest for a year.
Casino Night has raised between $8,000 and $12,000 in past years, making it Discovery Station’s second largest fundraiser after Hangarfest.
“We have a really active board (of directors). They come along with their friends. We get a lot of people from the community. It’s a good mix,” Wedd said.
Discovery Station is a “hands-on” children’s museum focusing on teaching science, technology, engineering, arts and math. Proceeds from Casino Night will go toward operations, programs and exhibit development.
“All of our exhibits...fall under those categories,” Wedd said. “We rely on the support of foundations, grants and fundraising events as we develop new exhibits and get them off the ground.”
This past year, the museum introduced Little Sprouts Grocery focusing on nutrition and Discovery Savings Bank promoting financial literacy.
Supporters of Discovery Station engage in table games at the 2019 Taste of Vegas Casino Night. (Submitted photo)
“We use a two-generation approach for children and caregivers or parents,” Wedd said. “A mixed-element exhibit gives kids early financial literacy and helps them understand wants, needs and savings. At the same time, there are parent resources to take home to help them with meal-planning, budgeting and utilizing a checkbook properly.”
This year, the museum will feature a new dinosaur exhibit, and in March, it will unveil a banner display on pollinators.
Discovery Station topped its attendance records with more than 20,000 visitors in 2018 and was on track to hit 30,000 during 2019.
“With our growing attendance and a very engaged visitor base, people are really getting involved and on board with all of our events and fundraisers,” Wedd said. “Businesses support us through donations and through sponsorships. All our attendees will get an ad booklet so we get a lot of support through those.”
Around 50 businesses in total supported Casino Night through gift certificates, gift baskets and other contributions.
While the event is billed as “business casual,” some people show up in sequined dresses and tuxedos.
“It runs from business casual to cocktail,” Wedd said. “Whatever you feel comfortable wearing. Casino Night is just a really fun event. There is music, food, the atmosphere brings a little bit of Vegas to Hagerstown for the night. It’s a night out for parents to have fun and relax with friends while supporting Discovery Station.”
Top photo: Attendees try their luck at the 2019 Taste of Vegas Casino Night to support Discovery Station’s hands-on children’s museum in Hagerstown. (Submitted photo)