Neither slight of hand nor mirrors but down-to-earth creative imagination and hard work created the success of the seventh annual Magic Under the Mangroves on March 3.
Conservancy of Southwest Florida administration, staff, committee members and a cadre of volunteers worked on the event which was staged in Pelican Bay on Gulf Bay’s Cap d’Antibes mangrove-fringed property. Held within a vast tented area totalling 20,000 square feet easily large enough to float a boat, the relaxed event drew 426 supporters who were welcomed by J Robert, popular mangrove music man who entertained throughout the evening. Conservancy president and CEO Andrew McElwaine; Rob Moher, vice president for development & marketing; Nancy White, event chair, greeted the crowd, along with a handler properly fitted out with leather glove and tethering jesses for his red-tailed hawk.
Those who had studied the thick catalog of silent auction items, thanks to the efforts of auction chair Kerry Edwards, made a beeline for their choices, stopping along the way for drinks and hors d’oeuvres offered by an army of white-coated wait staff from Miami-based Joy Wallace Catering who also designed the evening’s meal. Most stopped by a special table for tastes of Naples restaurateur Tony Ridgway’s traditional artisanal cheese selections. Since many present have attended the event ever since it’s inception, friendly feelings were palpable all around.
The adjacent, water themed dining area décor created by Kate Kintz, Conservancy graphic designer, and Garden District proprietor Rufino Hernandez wowed the crowd. The subtle ambience of multiple, blue-hued fish and other complementary design components; glimmering, sequined table covers; low-energy lightning; and sustainable fabrics and natural materials provided a serene backdrop for the energy-filled live auction conducted by Mayor Bill Barnett and Scott Robertson.
An event highlight was the posthumous presentation of the highest Conservancy honor and coveted 2011 Eagle Award to the late John Briggs. Briggs and his family funded the creation of the Briggs Nature Center and were instrumental in the creation and growth of Naples Community Hospital and the Conservancy. His surviving spouse, Mary Jane Briggs, accepted the award sponsored by Bank of America and U.S. Trust Wealth Management, on behalf of the family.
Barbara Wilson, Conservancy director of marketing and communications, has announced that event net proceeds totaled $550,000. Tickets were priced at $550 per person. In addition, silent auction income featuring varied Fund-A-Need solicitations that resulted in bidders wearing sea turtle “blinkie” buttons; an exciting nine-item, live auction inventory; and finally, the Macy’s-sponsored “Float-the-Boat” initiative ensuring that the treasured Good Fortune will continue in service brought $80,000 in bids with all contributing to the final figure. Major sponsors were Northern Trust and Gulf Bay.