Jan. 19 was a special occasion for the Guadalupe Center of Immokalee — an exposition of Spanish culture and cuisine for the nearly 300 who gathered at the Naples Yacht Club to enjoy the mid-week extravaganza.
It featured tapas, those savory small bites that Spaniards thrive on at cocktail hour since dinner isn’t generally served until as late as 11 p.m. in Spain.
Customary beverage of choice that night, as always, was Sangria, a red wine-brandy based punch with sliced fruit. The term tapa comes from the little plates of bites balanced atop the glasses. An adjustment for the partying Neapolitans: larger dinner-sized portions and a wide array of sweets were also available buffet style.
Although it wasn’t a costumed event, some women came festively attired in fringed shawls rediscovered in old trunks or covering grand pianos. Ron McGinty, a man who’s already planning a return visit to Latin America with his wife, was dashing in a red leather sports jacket he’d bought in Buenos Aires.
Mood-setting decor designed by Milda Vaivada of Soiree, assisted by her daughter, Daiva Dupree, included vine-draped black wrought-iron candelabras with red votives, scarlet-covered chair seats and a number of authentic Spanish brocade tablecloths.
Tablao performances by Andalusian-born singer/guitarist Paco Fonta and flamenco-dancing wife Celia, who was professionally trained in Spain, held the audience in thrall.
Many of the thoughtfully proffered silent auction items had Hispanic origins, such as Rioja wines and original artwork including Joan Miro lithographs. Live auctioneer Andrew Lick elicited winning bids totalling $29,000 that included an absentee bid of $7,000.
Following welcoming remarks and event committee recognition by Roger Vasey, chairman of the board, and Barbara Oppenheim, executive director, Program Director Megan McCarthy individually introduced an academically successful lineup of Guadalupe alumni.
Lisa Morse, director of development, has announced that the event handily reached its net goal of more than $300,000 that included auction proceeds and ticket sales beginning at $300 per person. Board trustee Phil Beuth successfully raised a total of $21,800 through $500 scholarship donation increments via a game he devised called “Jump Up.” Sponsoring partner was Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.
The mission of the Guadalupe Center of Immokalee is to break the cycle of community poverty by providing educational, social and other support programs and resources.