Party animals await ‘the Bash’

Pop singer Coolio performs at last year's Back to Session Bash.

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On Thursday, they’ll get their chance at a real blowout.

A decade ago, the first Back to Session Bash drew 270 people, mostly political junkies, who wanted to party and celebrate the beginning of the legislative year. Which they did, loudly.

The first party, at what was then called Mason’s, cost about $35,000, and the entertainment included — wait for it — the Sacramento Kings’ cheerleaders. Thursday’s price tag is expected to be about $150,000.

Thus, a tradition was born. Each year, the party animals come into their own.

“The magic is that it has become like a force of nature,” said Sacramento attorney and lobbyist David Quintana, whose clients include the California Tribal Business Alliance, a key sponsor of the event. Other sponsors and advisers include Pala Interactive, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, Pomo of Upper Lake, IGT, NAFSA, CBIA, California State Council of Laborers, California Business Properties Association, Southern California Tribal Chairmans Association, RJ Reynolds, Santa Ynez band of Chumash Indians, Capitol Weekly and the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.

Each January, revelers gather at The Park near 15th and L to imbibe grog, listen to live music and schmooze with lawmakers, staffers, an occasional newsie, assorted lobbyists, trade reps and political pros. And unlike most of Sacramento’s parties, this one isn’t a fundraiser. It’s an old-fashioned party – but on a grand scale.

“People are not there to hear politicians talk. They are there to see the show,” Quintana said. Despite the crowds, it’s always been peaceful. “We’ve never had a fight,” he noted.

On Thursday, Jan. 15, the 10th anniversary of the Bash is scheduled, with some 1,700 guests expected. The first party, at what was then called Mason’s, cost about $35,000, and the entertainment included — wait for it — the Sacramento Kings’ cheerleaders.

Thursday’s price tag is expected to be about $150,000. The planned headliners are a secret, but after they’re done, a dance band – Hip Service – is expected to play late into the evening.

The sponsors, led by the CTBA, cover the tab.

There’s a lot to cover: There’s the Tequila Bar, there’s the Rum Tiki Hut, the drink-dispensing Bashtini, the Scotch and Cigar Bar. There’s even conventional bar, the kind you belly up to. Several free drinks are covered by the invite; after that, you’re on your own. There are hors d’oeuvres.
There’s an exclusive VIP Lounge, and some people don’t get in: Cruz Bustamente, a former Assembly speaker and former lieutenant governor, tried twice and didn’t make it.

The event is usually mobbed, with a line out the door and down the street. The party starts at 5 p.m., and the live music kicks off at 6 p.m, and this year is all but certain to be no exception. Inside, its elbow-to-elbow, and navigating the throng is a challenge, and the interior of The Park is being temporarily reconfigured handle the party crowd.

The entertainment has only been late once — when the star performer, out with a friend and shopping, didn’t show up until 45 minutes after his set was supposed to start.

Some guests leave after a couple of hours, but hundreds of people party into the night, especially the younger Capitol staffers and their friends. “The staffers say, ‘This is my party,’ and that’s why they came,” Quintana said. “The under-30s and the legislators, they’ll close it out. And some of the legislators are good dancers — Marty Block, Nancy Skinner.”

There’s even romance: Some couples who first met at the Bash wound up getting married.

“We’ve had marriages,” Quintana said. “So far, we haven’t had any divorces.”


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