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A Viennese Ball For Good

Each year the Life Ball begins with an extravagant opening ceremony in the main square of Vienna City Hall, which can accommodate 45,000 people.
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Award season here in the US generates an undeniable buzz. The Golden Globes, the Emmys, The Oscars, the SAG Awards and Sundance stir up a media frenzy with celebrity sightings, pre- and post-awards events, screenings, red carpet fashions, and galas of all kinds. Now that March has arrived and the red carpets are all rolled up, it's time to turn your attention overseas, for a ceremony that is, quite literally, life changing. The 2012 Life Ball hits this May in Vienna, Austria, raising money, awareness, and spirits for HIV/AIDS organizations.

Founded by Gery Keszler, the Life Ball started as a simple fundraising event for the gay community in 1993. Keszler chose to have the event in Vienna to play off the tradition of the Viennese Ball, where opulent costumes and décor are standard. With the permission of then-mayor Helmut Zilk, the first ball took place in, and in front of, Vienna's historic City Hall. Since its inception, the Life Ball has become one of the largest charity events in the world, attracting big name celebrities and personalities, large party-going crowds, international media attention, and generating millions of dollars each year for HIV/AIDS research and outreach projects across the globe. And as the perception of HIV has changed--from a disease effecting only homosexuals to one of global impact and importance--so has the audience. It's no longer just a party for the gay community and the jet-setting elite, but an open invitation to the world.

And the world wants to come! Tickets are limited to only 3,780, and quickly become one of the hottest passes across Europe. If you are willing to dress in elaborate, creative, and decadent costumes based on the ball's changing themes (and who wouldn't?) then you can try your luck at getting a 'Style Ticket', which will also give you access to model your wears down the red carpet, among the celebrity contingent. If you're hoping to make your creativity be known this year, be sure to check out the Style Bible, which lays out the guidelines and dress code that these party goers must adhere to. But if you want to just have a good time in your regular gala-going formal wear, the tickets are awarded in a raffle system, or through giveaways with media outlets, as well as an online auction on ebay. You can also purchase a ticket just for the opening ceremony, which is going to blow any Grammy-pre party your friends went to last year and wouldn't stop bragging about out of the water. There is one ultimate one ultimate option in securing your Life Ball Experience with guaranteed admission. Steele Luxury Travel is the exclusive US tour operator in providing access to the Life Ball's annual extravaganza. Steele builds an entire week around the Life Ball complete with dinners, tours, parties as well as an extension jaunt to Prague.

The theme for this year's Life Ball is the final phase of a 4-year cycle started in 2009, celebrating each of the four elements. The first element was Water in 2009 with the theme of "Let Love Flow!", followed by Earth in 2010 with the theme "Sow The Seeds of Solidarity", and Air in 2011 with "Spread the Wings of Tolerance". Rounding things out this year is Fire with "Fight the Flames of Ignorance". So plan your costumes accordingly!

Each year the Life Ball begins with an extravagant opening ceremony in the main square of Vienna City Hall, which can accommodate 45,000 people and easily rivals opening ceremonies of any Olympics or World Cup in theatrics. With lavish light shows, costumes, music, and opening acts, you could say it's the sinfully delightful event the Olympics always wants to be! But to make sure that the true meaning of the event is not lost in all the glitter, there are moments of silence in honor of all those the world has lost to HIV/AIDS, as well as opening speeches from dignitaries and partners for the event.

Once the opening ceremony is finished, usually lasting around the 2-hour mark, those with tickets to the gala are shown inside the beautiful and historic city hall, where rooms, gardens, and other spaces not usually accessible to the general public are opened up to the revelry of the night (and early morning!).

And, of course, a charity ball is nothing without its celebrity guests, and Life Ball has them in spades. It has become a destination for budding international starlets and legendary names alike to show up and celebrate, all in the name of solidarity. But the famous are not just sticking to the red carpet anymore; many have chosen to join the fight as spokespeople, both for Life Ball and other organizations that help fight the disease, and stigma, of HIV, including President Bill Clinton, Janet Jackson, Brooke Shields, Sir Elton John, Naomi Campbell, Fran Drescher, and Donatella Versace.

And because the Life Ball started as an event amongst the gay community, you know there's got to be a fierce fashion show! This fashion show has become one of the most hotly anticipated traditions of the Ball, and has seen some of the biggest names in the industry hit the red runway. With Thierry Mugler starting things off with the first runway in 1993, names have included John Galliano, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, Roberto Cavali, Christian Lacroix, Donatella Versace, Heatherettte, Patricia Field, and in 2011 DSquared. These fashion shows see heavy hitting names in the model world such as Heidi Klum, Eva Padberg, Naomi Campbell appear alongside international stars and celebrities like Udo Kier, Olivia Jones, Til Schweiger, Kylie Minogue, Cyndi Lauper, and Dolly Buster.

So if the fact that the Academy Awards is right around the corner, thus ending our awards season and celebrity ogling for the year, gives you the shakes, simply turn your gaze to the international stage and mark the Life Ball down on your calendar this May. It is a celebration of acceptance, tolerance, love, and awareness. Which makes for a pretty good statue.

Get all the information you need for Life Ball 2012 at their site here . And if you are of the adventurous spirit, check out this year's guidelines for the Style Tickets at Life Ball's Style Bible site. Be sure to check out Steele Luxury Travel's available Life Ball travel packages, with an exclusive post Life Ball excursion to Prague where guests will stay at the luxurious 5-star Roccoforte Augustine Prague!