Seven years ago, when artists Connie Bransilver and Nicolas Petrucci married, neither anticipated that their pairing would lead to yet another liaison.
Designed by the couple in celebration of the alliance of the Collier County's Audubon Society and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, 320 supporters gathered for a multimedia tribute presentation entitled "Guardians of the Everglades" on Feb. 7 at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club. The event is known as "Feathers and Friends." Although this year the group didn't bring an avian participant to meet the supporters, there were plenty of friends.
VIP guests initially gathered on an outside terrace overlooking the golf course where they enjoyed aperitifs while meeting and chatting with the featured Guardians before mingling with other attendees in the River of Grass ballroom foyer before dinner. Additional VIPs included visiting state Audubon executives
Attire ranged from women in cocktail wear — Bransilver opted for a slate gray, floor-length gown — to men in everything from business suits or sports jackets to khaki. A Davie resident, Lee Tiger, representing his father, Miccosukee Chief Buffalo Tiger, was unmistakable in a colorful patchwork jacket.
Many crowded about displays of 22 silent auction items that predominantly featured wildlife photos, including a Florida panther by Deborah Jansen. Everglades views by Bransilver, Dennis Goodman and Clyde Butcher reflected their efforts to capture on camera one of America's last great wildernesses for the benefit of future generations.
On the décor side, Bransilver also brought the outdoors in, with her diaphanous suspended banners of native orchids and other threatened species and large containers of live orchids as well.
Once summoned inside the ballroom for dinner, all attention was on the stage where easels supported Petrucci's portraits of seven guardians.
"I feel like a proud parent and that I'm here simply as the messenger of their heroic dedication to conserving and worldwide broadcasting of America's majestic, treasured Everglades," the artist declared.
The formal program included moving addresses by Guardians Butcher, Lee, Jansen, Franklin Adams, Nathaniel Reed and Ed Carlson, recently retired Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary director emeritus.
Collier County Membership Services Director Lori Beall has announced that estimated event net proceeds have reached $40,000. The total represents ticket sales at $125 per-person sponsorships headed up by Arthrex, auction income and miscellaneous donations.