Showing posts with label gala. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gala. Show all posts

Monday, March 17

The Boating Party Party

Right after I left NPR (yes...I worked for a serious news organization. I am not totally shallow and fluffy) when I had my daughter, I got a call from someone I had met when I first moved to DC.  He had been with the Washington Opera and had moved over to an amazing museum called The Phillips Collection (TPC). TPC is probably best known for this, its signature work of art Renoir's Luncheon of The Boating Party.

At the time, I had no intention of going back to work but he made me an offer I couldn't refuse. TPC had just finished a major renovation and addition and most of its main pieces of art had been on a 4 year international tour and were coming back to the purty new space.  They wanted to have a major Gala to celebrate these important milestones and guess who they wanted to plan it??? ME! The best part was that I got to work from home as a consultant so I could spend a ton of time with my new little munchkin. 

It took an entire year to plan and I didn't do it alone. I brought on famed event designer David Tutera to create the look. Working with David was a dream. He is truly one of the sweetest, funniest people I've ever worked with - no drama, no ego. Just adore him. In fact, we went on to do two more events together including the first Trust for the National Mall Benefit Luncheon I mentioned before. 

Here is how the tent looked after all the planning. Stunning right? 

The entire theme revolved around France in honor of Renoir but David took it in an entirely fresh direction. The food was also AH-mazing. The menu was created by chef Yannick Cam and included poached lobster and stuffed quail. FANCY! Here are the place settings close up. 

You can see that all the centerpieces have French tulips and grapes. Lots of lace inspired candle holders and even the bread baskets. And if you look closely, on the table below there were even baguettes included in the design. The tent was also decked out with life size exact replicas of the Boating Party that David had recreated and that we auctioned off at the end of the night.  I was lucky enough to snag one for myself  and it currently hangs in our guest room. 

Because the Gala was huge (800 people) but the museum is small, we hosted the event at this former estate of Washington Post owner Katharine Graham in Georgetown. We ended up constructing 8 - yes 8! - tents on the property that were all connected. We even had to cover the pool to create the kitchen. It was a SCENE to say the least. 

I think my favorite memory from the night was that a hurricane was blowing off the coast and we were getting torrential downpours and heavy wind. At one point, the chairman of TPC came over to me and to the guy who built the tent and said "There's no way this tent is coming down with all of these people in it, is there?" and without missing a beat, the tent guy said "No sir! She is solidly built and you have nothing to worry about." Our chairman walked off and without missing another beat, tent guy turns to me and says "I can say with almost certainty that this tent is coming down. It's vinyl attached to poles which may as well be lightening rods. And filled with people and open flamed candles. You're likely screwed my friend" and walked off.  I spent the rest of the night praying to the Lord above that I wasn't responsible for planning the event that killed 800 of Washington's most prominent people.  Luckily, it stayed up and it was a great night.  

The event raised close to $1M for the museum's education programs and he next day, it was the talk of DC. My career as a freelance event planner was officially off and running and I suddenly had a ton of work.  I went on to plan 3 more TPC galas after that. We moved it back to the museum itself which presented the incredible opportunity for people to dine right in front of the art.  Here are some pictures from inside TPC Galas:

8 years later, I am still working for the Chairman of TPC - but with his new organization called USAgainstAlzheimer's.   Another non-fluffy, serious organization (just for the record)! But I do miss these fancy affairs. 

Friday, March 7

An Homage To Ball On The Mall

Despite what your mother always told you, it is true that people have favorites. For me, the events I have planned are like my babies and I definitely have favorites. One of those was an event called The Ball on The Mall.

In 2007, I was hired by an awesome non-profit called Trust for the National Mall which was is the official partner of the National Park Service to restore and renovate the National Mall.  Having lived in DC for a while by that point, I had spent a good amount of time on or around the Mall and the idea of being involved in its restoration was exciting.

The Trust brought me on to create a signature fundraising event for them called The Benefit Luncheon. We constructed a tent right on the Mall with views of the Washington Monument and The Capitol dome and invited ladies to wear their favorite spring hats to the event. It was a huge success, raising more than $600,000 in its first year. It has gone on to raise millions for the Trust and is a perennial favorite among the DC social set. Here's a shot from inside the first luncheon tent.  Stunning right? 

But we put so much time and effort into constructing the tent and all of the necessary infrastructure for an event - kitchen, bathrooms, electrical, etc. - it felt sad to tear it all down after just one four hour luncheon. So my colleague Lindsay and I hatched a plan to keep the tent up for an extra few days and create an event for young professionals - and the Ball on the Mall was born!

The success of that first year, and several after that, was due to the people we got involved in the planning and promotion of the Ball. We named this group the L'Enfant Society and we recruited many of my friends, colleagues and even my husband to be involved. And they made it what it became - which was one of the most popular events in town. 

Here are some pics of the VIP dinner in 2010 which included remarks from Rick (not Ricky) Schroder and if you don't know who that is, check out Silver Spoons

We had incredible participants including celebrities, Ambassadors, Members of Congress, etc. The guest list and number of sponsors grew each year as did the awareness the event generated for the good work the Trust is doing to make America's Front Yard a place everyone can be proud of and enjoy. 

In 2011 our theme revolved around Japan and I love the way the decor turned out that year with giant paper cranes and paper lanterns. 

Last week, the Trust announced that they would not be hosting Ball on the Mall this year. I have long since left and don't know any more about why - but I will always love the memory of this great event. Just don't tell the others that it was my fav!

A quick shout out to some the vendors who worked so hard on these events. THEY are my favs too!