Thousands of people gathered at Mud Island River Park in Memphis on Saturday night for one of the city’s annual festivities.
The outfits varied from blouses to dresses, but all the guests had one thing in common – they wore white outfits. This is a mandatory rule of admission to the All White Affair hosted by Curtis Givens of CGI Entertainment – a staple of the Memphis party scene for more than two decades.
The party was billed as “the most anticipated party of the summer” with an estimated 2,500 to 3,500 people expected to attend on Saturday. People took photos in their all-white outfits at the “Memphis” sign at Mud Island River Park. Others enjoyed drinks and food while listening to music in the seating and VIP areas.
The All White Affair kicked off at 4pm and the park began to fill up with revelers arriving fashionably late close to 6pm with the sea of white attire visible across Mud Island.
There were plenty of cooling tents for people wanting a temporary respite from the weather, with the heat index regularly over 100 during the late afternoon at outdoor events. Cooler tents were conveniently located near the various food trucks and tent bars.
“People deserve credit,” Givens said of his success. “They make me who I am. With their support, it makes me stronger and stronger. I give all the credit to the people, not to myself.”
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Givens, the founder of CGI Entertainment, has become a key figure in the city’s events, parties and nightlife scene. He has helped organize University of Memphis basketball’s Memphis Madness and has created multiple perennial parties such as Can I Live Weekend and the annual All Black Affair after Thanksgiving. Givens has also thrown lavish parties celebrating his birthday every February.
“Put your head down and grind, man,” Givens said. “I work, I get dirty, I put my hands on things. I never pretend I’m too big to do anything.”
Givens held his inaugural All White Affair in 2002 at the old River Terrace Yacht Club. It drew less than 200 people. By 2009, the event had moved to The Peabody and was attended by more than 2,000. Today, the All White Affair is the centerpiece of the now annual multi-day, multi-event Can I Live weekend.
Corliss Givens, Curtis’ brother, said attendees can always expect a great time, spectacular service and “an experience you can’t get on a regular weekend.”
He also said the All White Affair shows the city can hold events where people inside and outside of Memphis can have a good time while staying safe.
“People fly in every year from out of town,” Corliss said. “It gives people a reason to stay in town in the summer because a lot of people travel to (Las) Vegas and Miami and places like that. It gives people a reason to stay home and invite their friends in town to come party and enjoy Memphis.”
Kenny Burns, a self-described “lifestyle specialist,” has co-hosted the All White Affair for the past seven years. Burns said he has traveled and hosted clubs all over the country, but Memphis is unique in many ways.
He also appreciates Memphis’ commitment to enjoying not only new music, but classic throwbacks from the 1990s and 2000s, which were regularly played at Saturday’s event.
“Memphis, they consider it a B or C market. It’s a market for me, man, because people actually have a good time here,” Burns said. “When people go out to party or celebrate, they worked hard all month to save for (all) white (Issues). They worked hard to see Kenny Burns talk about it, pour them drinks and show love. It melts my heart, man, because I do it for the people.”
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General admission tickets for the party were $30 in advance or $50 the day of the event. A number of attendees parked in the Mud Island River Park parking garage and received free shuttles to the All White Affair. Others paid, in some cases, as much as $30 or $60 to get prime parking access to the event.
Latasha Freeman is a regular participant of All White Affair. What does she enjoy about this event?
“Grown up. Class. Just grown up and sex. Everything. I’m talking about everything,” she said.
When asked what people can expect at All White Affair, Freeman said: “They’ll just have to come out and see for themselves. I can’t say much … I’m sure a lot of Memphis knows … he (Givens) is a great guy.”
Reporter Bob Mehr contributed to this story.
Omer Yusuf covers the Ford project in Haywood County, residential real estate, tourism and banking for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached via email [email protected] or followed on Twitter @OmerAYusuf.