This year’s party happened to fall on the first official day of summer, so event organizers went with a theme somewhere between A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Lord of the Rings.

Story and photos by Amy George

This year’s summer solstice fell on Friday, June 21, and it proved to be the perfect day for the Mattress Factory’s 22nd annual Urban Garden Party.

The beautiful weather—a rare occurrence in Pittsburgh—provided a fitting backdrop to the festive celebration of summer. The thematic, ticket-exclusive event lasted from 6 to 11 p.m. both inside and outside the contemporary art museum.

“This year [the Urban Garden Party] just happened to fall on the summer solstice, so that’s the theme we chose,” said Mandy Wilson, director of the Mattress Factory’s Marketing and Communications team. 

The abstract, mythical otherworldthink A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Lord of the Ringswas the brainchild of Event Architect Thommy Conroy.

Greenery filled every space, tiny dangling lights produced an orange glow effect, and colorful streamers framed the indoor entrance. 

Women wore flower crowns and men wore their best suits. The adventurous ones donned elaborate costumes, with some party attendees looking like they just stepped out of a fairytale. Gnomes, fairies, druids, and a mish-mash of various other woodland creatures were a common sight.

Party-goers Katie Koffler and Zena Ruiz, “naturally crafty” employees of the Children’s Museum, got creative with their costumes at a low cost.

“I added decor from around my house,” said Ruiz, who sported antlers, bold makeup, and earthy jewelry. “This is called the 30-minute Project Runway. Amazon handed me this skirt.”

Like Koffler and Ruiz, most attendees were young adults enjoying a good night out. The more than 1,000 party-goers savored locally sourced cocktails and beer provided by Pennsylvania Libations, Big Spring Spirits and Penn Brewery. An array of delectables came from Black Radish Kitchen, War Streets Brewery, Salem’s Market and Grill, Greek Gourmet, Bistro To Go, The Zenith, Macaron Bar, and many more. The Factory also held a midsummer silent art auction and guests bid on a variety of prizes. 

The party’s live music could be heard from blocks away. Local band Bad Custer rocked out on the museum’s lower level. DJ Dave Zak, Beauty Slap, DJ Samuel Andres and Steel City Kitty Burlesque and Variety Show also performed.

Since its founding in 1977, the Mattress Factory’s Urban Garden Party has grown exponentially, and each year raises thousands for the museum’s artist residency program, exhibitions, public programs and educational outreach through VIP and general admission ticket sales. 

The Factory Fellows, a select group of the museum’s young professional leaders and supporters, served as event chairs for the evening.

Needless to say, many Pittsburghers are already looking forward to next year’s event.