Gala under wraps: Historical supporters brave chill

Naples Historical Society members reveles in seeing the city's Palm Cottage all decked out for the season during their annual fundraising gala.

Naples Historical Society members reveles in seeing the city's Palm Cottage all decked out for the season during their annual fundraising gala.

About a half-dozen fur-clad, prescient females showed up on the Palm Cottage doorsteps on Dec. 3, and became the envy of those not heeding the warnings of predicted temps in the 50s by evening’s end.

Marilyn Vernon’s chinchilla-accented, black sheared-mink wrap appeared the coziest.

Dressed for the cold or not, everyone came to the $300 and $500 ticket annual Palm Cottage Gala dressed for the season. Julia Valentine came as a valentine in a brilliantly red, short and puffy taffeta Teri Jon number she said she found here at Saks. Stella Thomas had picked up a sparkly silver snood at the Vintage Lady shop in Greenwich, Conn.

Mary Watkins recalled a 1949 eggnog party hosted by then cottage owners, the Alexander Browns, whose only Christmas tree was a native Florida pine tied to the newel post — “A far cry from what we have today,” she said.

Her daughter-in-law, Ellin Goetz, landscape architect who designed and directed the “rebirth” of the Norris Gardens, enjoyed the crowd who came: “I love seeing all these people, It’s like old Naples, baby!”

Following cups of cheer and freshly baked hors d’oeuvres, the nearly 140 merrymakers sped from the warm interior to a tented dining area in the adjacent Norris Gardens. Responding to a few strategically placed heaters and additional spirituous nips for the dinner, attendees also warmed to the period sounds and seasonal tunes of the Fort Myers-based Jordan Ross trio.

The red-coated You’ve Go It Coming catering staff were at the ready under the direction of new owners Robert Worrad and Dan Johnson. After 32 years at the helm, former owner Roger Arbury will continue in an advisory capacity while partner Victor Kenyon enjoys full retirement.

Chef Peggy Meldrum created a salad course of citrus-cured salmon and shrimp served with hand-rolled bread enhanced with Gorgonzola, mozzarella and Swiss cheeses followed by beef tenderloin stuffed with walnuts, sundried tomatoes and spinach.

The sweet finale: cherry sauce- and ganache-topped chocolate profiteroles filled with chocolate mousse.

Gala co-chairs were Mary Smith and Diana Wingard. Executive Director Elaine Reed estimates net proceeds may reach $60,000, to be used in maintaining the house museum and gardens and fund activities of the Naples Historical Society.

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