Photos by Jason Huynh.

It’s Friday night, February 22, 2019, and there is a flutter of activity and lively chatter as hundreds of local community members file into their seats for the annual “Evening on the Runway,” a fashion show and fundraiser to showcase local boutiques and shops, as well as raise money for the Historic DeSoto Theatre Foundation.

The foundation, which purchased the building for one dollar from the Rome Little Theatre just 10 years ago has raised over $750,000 to restore the theatre to its original glory of 1929, explains Michelle Picón, Development Director of the Historic DeSoto Theatre Foundation.

As the foundation looks forward to the next decade and more, one of their goals is adding a new backstage roll-up door, that will be allow larger set pieces and larger productions to access the theatre stage. “The picture frame [from tonight’s show]….I bought about five years ago to…do a renovation. I pulled it out of the attic and cut it. And it’s all built right their in the floor because we don’t have a back door, and it won’t fit out a door. Which is a problem we hope to solve with this new project,” explains David Clonts, Interim President of the foundation.

"The models themselves are community friends and supporters, such as well-known architect Mark Cochran, businessman Ira Levy and Rome history lover Leigh Barba."

As the hosts for the night, Hayley Carpenter and Julia Pollard, take the stage, the shows begins. Models grace the red carpet with their local looks; ranging from classy jewelry from Ford, Gittings, and Kane Jewelers to outdoor, sporty looks from Blue Sky Outfitters. The models themselves are community friends and supporters, such as well-known architect Mark Cochran, businessman Ira Levy and Rome history lover Leigh Barba.

Rome Floyd Chamber Interim Director, Jeanne Krueger, says: “The chamber is a small sponsor for tonight, and the reason for that is this reinforces the Shop Rome message. It’s really important to us to get out to our community to ‘Shop Rome, Shop Floyd County, Shop Local.’ We have great retailers, great jewelry stores, great clothing stores. They will be showing their merchandise tonight, and we just want to celebrate them and celebrate that message.”

Later, there is also a segment presented by Redmond Regional Medical Center, where models from the hospital staff wear red to bring awareness to heart health, as February is Heart Health Awareness Month. As Andrea Pitts and Chris Cabell present the models, they also educate the audience on heart health facts and even how to do CPR correctly, based on songs that are 100 beats per minute, the correct rate of chest compressions.

As the segments continue, three local artists in partnership with the Rome Area Council for the Arts (RACA); Cheryl Reiner Hodge, Harmony Knight and Siri Selle; take turns painting a collaborative piece of art, inspired by the fashion they’re watching. “The Rome Area Council for the Arts is always proud to support our local artists. This project was a really fun way to show off the amazing talent right here within our community,” says RACA Director Mandy Maloney.

As the show draws to a close, Lou Dempsey from Dempsey Auction Co. unveils and auctions off the beautiful painting for $2,100. Also auctioned off for $3,000 is a special wine dinner and entertainment, hosted by the Historical DeSoto Theatre Foundation board members. Finally, patrons are asked to participate in either the silent auction or give even a $50 donation to support the foundation’s renovation projects.

Michelle Picón, who has been working for weeks to produce this event is proud of how the fundraiser is so supported by the local community. We are excited that so many people come together for this event. We try to highlight many people from the community, [and] it’s a great representation of the Rome community and the arts.”

To help keep the “Jewel of Broad Street” shining bright, you can donate to the DeSoto Theatre here: