9259 Mercato Way, Naples, FL
NAPLES — Leaving inhibitions at ground level, 325 Anglophiles rose to the pinnacle of hippiedom as they took possession of the Mercato parking garage roof on May 22.
Gathered in support of Youth Haven and its front-line child-support programs, the usually black tie annual fundraiser turned into a throwback to the 60s. Decked out in tie-dye, peace symbols, tinted wire rims a la John Lennon, sweat bands and frizzed hairdos, they queued for draughts drawn from kegs and special Beatles-themed cocktails, including the popular “Strawberry Fields.” The attendees started out ahead: One drink ticket was included in the $75 per person ticket price.
In an area seemingly vast enough to accommodate a Woodstock-size gathering, party perimeters were marked by two busy bars, one extended buffet spread, the white-topped band marquee and minimal seating along one side. Within the quadrant: high, round-topped dining tables and the all-important dance floor. Simple decor included British flags festooned everywhere, including some adorning the “uniforms” of a cadre of five sleekly attired, white-booted Youth Haven volunteers.
Noshes ranged from chips, chips and more chips served up from the kitchens of the downstairs Pub at Mercato with dips and mini-burgers and wings and cottage pie filling out the menu. Multi-colored cupcakes from Sassy Cakes drew Carnaby Street wannabes with a sweet tooth.
The center of attraction for the evening was Florida’s premiere Beatles Tribute Band, Let it Be. Headquartered in Tampa — several other similarly named bands hail from Lauderdale and Fort Myers — the band wowed the crowd with in-character performances. The foursome includes New Yorker Jeff Black, as Paul McCartney; Florida native Russ Perraud who assumes the role of George Harrison; Mark Jones from Omaha, a ringer for Ringo Starr; and John Santarone as John Lennon, whom he actually met.
Costume changes from white tails to a colorful Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band look added authenticity to their concert.
Guest winners for best dressed were Diane Loveless, a knockout in black and white, and best-dressed couple Blase and Dayanna Ciabaton in high ’60s style.
Presented by Sandi and Tom Moran of Moran Asset Management, the gala netted $30,000 as announced by Ron McSwiney, Youth Haven executive director. McSwiney also explained that sponsorships covered all expenses in advance of the function.
Funds raised included income from the raffle of a Las Vegas trip to see “LOVE,” the Cirque du Soleil tribute to the Beatles, a number of Beatles-themed prizes, and several jewelry items donated by Naples’ “perennial hippie,” Barry Nicholls, owner of Paradise Jewelry.
The event was organized by Jamie Gregor, Youth Haven director of development and marketing. Youth Haven offers children emotional and physical shelter; it has been providing care to abused children since 1972.