SUPERBLY CREATIVE: Kergan Edwards-Stout and Russ Noe as Vincent Van Gogh and his sunflower inspiration. (Daily Pilot / November 2, 2011)

Los Angeles may boast the West Hollywood Halloween Costume Carnaval on Santa Monica Boulevard, but in Orange County the Halloween party of choice may just be the annual Friends of Dorothy Guild Haunted Halloween gala at the Village Crean in Santa Ana Heights.

Some 250 guests attired in creative costumes converged upon the Crean estate for a recent Saturday night dinner and auction benefiting AIDS Services Foundation of Orange County.

Event organizer and Friends of Dorothy Guild founder Barbara Venezia gushed with excitement, raising a record $70,000 at the Halloween party and setting a high bar for the organization. Since its founding in 2007, it has raised a total of $622,782 for programs offered by AIDS Services Foundation of Orange County.

"We feel terrible that we had to turn people away, but the event was sold out and there just wasn't any more space," Venezia said, adding on a more serious note: "Even as we laugh and cheer at each amazing costume, we are always deeply aware of our purpose, which is to raise money to make it possible for ASF to continue offering the important services it provides."

AIDS Services Foundation uses donated funds to assist people suffering with HIV/AIDS by providing them with food, transportation, housing, mental health counseling, family support programs, emergency cash financial assistance, as well as HIV/AIDS education and disease prevention information.

"Our purpose is a matter of life and death," Venezia said. "But we have to keep the fun in fundraising in order to raise the much needed dollars to help those suffering."

Major financial support for the Halloween extravaganza came from Mark Eskander representing the Louise Mandel Charitable Trust. Corporate donors and underwriters included Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, Billy's Naked Chicken, Golden Mike DJ, Ellie Shoes, Spirit Halloween Store, Classic Party Rentals, the Newport Beach Explorers, Diva Cakes and Nothing Bundt Cakes in Costa Mesa.

One of the big live auction items of the night was dinner and a Duffy ride on the Newport Bay courtesy of Venezia and OC Register columnist Frank Mickadeit. A bidding war for the package ultimately raised $8,000 for AIDS Services.

In the crowd were ASF Board President Maria Marquez and Executive Director Phil Yaeger along with supporters including Caroline Soaks, Tim Dunn, Shelly Kim, Gerilyn and Mark Eskander, Dan Flynn and Emily Crean-Flynn, and Kergan Edwards-Stout and Russ Noe as Vincent Van Gogh and his famous Sunflower painting.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.