Vienna's annual LifeBall is truly one for the books. It’s part Burning Man, part Olympics Opening Ceremony and part New York City Fashion Week - all for a good cause, to support AIDS research.

Founded in 1993 by Gery Keszler, the Life Ball began as a simple fundraising event for the LGBT community. Keszler originally decided to hold the event in Vienna to emulate the tradition of the Viennese Ball, where opulent costumes and décor are standard. Since its inception, the Life Ball has become one of the largest charity events in the world, drawing in famous celebrities and personalities, huge party-going crowds, global media attention, and raising millions of dollars each year for HIV/AIDS research and outreach projects around the world. And as the perception of HIV has transformed from a disease effecting only gays to one of global impact and importance, so has the audience of events like this.

Each year the Life Ball kicks off with an elaborate opening ceremony in the main square of Vienna City Hall, which can accommodate thousands of people and easily rivals opening ceremonies of any Olympics or World Cup.  With insane light shows, costumes, and music, you could say the Life Ball is the sinfully delightful event the Olympics always wants to be! And because the Life Ball started as an event amongst the LGBT community, it is only natural that there’s a fierce fashion show! This is the most anticipated traditions of the Ball, and sees some of the biggest names in the industry hit the red runway. To make sure that the true meaning of the event is not lost in all the glitz, there are moments of silence in honor the people who have been lost to HIV/AIDS, as well as various speeches from dignitaries and partners for the event.

Tickets to the event are always in short supply—but locals are able to score a deep discount by purchasing a “costume” ticket. In exchange for the markdown, Austrians are required to put together a costume that fits the year’s theme. So be sure to plan ahead and prepare yourself for some epic outfits dressed to impress!

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