Startled golfers ending their rounds may have puzzled at the wavering flames of tiki torches that marked the path to the front doors of the Club Pelican Bay last Monday evening. Valets clad in safari attire and pith helmets busily greeted the more than 275 arriving guests who entered a world away. For them, here began the mysterious Dark Continent with torches continuing inside and the throb of drums clearly audible, in an African-themed fundraiser to benefit the Guadalupe Center of Immokalee.
Garbed in black and animal print shoulder sashes, waiters offered trays of South African wines and African-inspired hors d’oeuvres. Following rustic signs pointing to a “boma” and three “watering holes,” guests passed by a small thatched hut and beyond through dense jungle growth where oversize photo reproductions of zebras, large cats and other wild life peeped at their progress.
Then came the moment of arrival at the boma, that magical outdoor living and dining room surrounded by a fence of native saplings. And, yes, those were lifelike reproductions of giraffes peering at them from outside while stuffed fabric monkeys swung from above, drawn by the sight of fresh bananas centering tables covered in animal-patterned cloths.
The drummer and other musicians from the Miami-based Delou Fatala ensemble performed near displays of four live auction items and two dozen more, including examples of fine African craftsmanship, up for silent auction. Authentic clothing reflected their African villages of origin. From West African Guinea, their coordinator is musical educator Ibrahima Dioubate, a griot (oral historian) and legendary balafonist who also plays the Djun-Djun drum. Sabar drums from Senegal and the Kora, an African harp-like instrument, added to the fusion.
Club Executive Chef Joseph Gross enhanced the evening’s exotic fare spread by incorporating native nuances into the menu. A favorite: coffee bean-encrusted tilapia.
Event emcee Kellie Burns, NBC -2 anchor who had returned only the day before from three days reporting on the aftermath of two earthquakes in Haiti, kept the program at a quick pace, with a presentation by center tutor speaker Joseph Brueggen.
Naples Mayor Bill Barnett and Bob Moates conducted the live auction, with Moates handling “jumper” cash donation bidding in increments of $500 each. Those donations help fund teacher compensation for the center’s educational support programs that are the backbone to its work of eliminating poverty through education.
The featured auction item was a white gold diamond and deep blue tanzanite ring procured and partially underwritten by Yamron Jewelers; it went for $19,000. Cumulative bids reached a total of $16,800 on three paintings that included a work by Naples artist Tammra Sigler, one by Zimbabwean Kudakwashe Gavi and another by Ethiopian artist Wosene Kosrof.
Speaking on behalf of event chairs Linda Macartney, Bunny Salisbury and Sandy Vasey, their committee and board of trustees chairman Roger Vasey, Lisa Morse, the center’s director of development, placed the net income raised at $270,000. Included in that figure were ticket sales at a minimum of $250 per person auction proceeds and the jumper donations.
Grey Oaks Country Club donated the safari-themed props, which will ultimately be donated to the Naples Zoo.