Home again on campus after total renovation of its facilities, the March 7 Conservancy of Southwest Florida “Magic Under the Mangroves” gala sold out at 430 attendees.
The ambience began as guests traveled over the wooden Smith Preserve Way bridge leading into the Conservancy Nature Center grounds. The theme was “inspired by our amazing native wildlife.”
Live oaks illuminated with red lighting and a walkway lined with colorful streamers installed by Robin who set the tone as a latter-day hippie who played a flute while perched up in an oak. For more folk flavor, Florida musician J. Robert fiddled the evening long.
Stopping off to register and pick up BidPal silent auction electronic bidding devices, the “eco chic” attired group included jackets for males, a boon in view of the chilly breezes. Women opted for whatever cover-ups fit the weather bill.
Sara Fumagalli, wife of presenting sponsor Northern Trust president John Fumagalli, beat the cold under a blond, faux fur jacket.
Sandi Davies, all in black, was mostly covered in feathers ranging from ostrich to game birds. She’d even embellished her shoes with feather accessories found online. Her partner, Douglas Schumann — she teased him as “Label Boy” — wore black leather Argentine trousers, Versace tie, Armani jacket and Gucci loafers.
Live and silent auction and silent fund-a-need displays were designed by Collins & DuPont and boards indicating rising bids continually updated.
Bidding action was fueled during the opening reception with generous liquid potions and hors d’oeuvres prepared by Windows Catering Company. Russell’s Clambakes, featured caterer at the prior Cuban-inspired Magic patron party on Keywaydin, also cooked up dinner for Magic gala volunteers.
Lynn Slabaugh, Conservancy board of directors vice chairwoman, explained that the event would emphasize wildlife and honor six local veterinarians with Eagle Awards as well as recognize hundreds of volunteers.
Dining room décor labeled “Magic Takes Flight” by Rufino Hernandez/Garden District included centerpieces of area foliage resting on red cloths with espresso-shade overlays. Suspended, handcrafted local birds included bald eagles, frigates, kites, wood storks, green herons and roseate spoonbill facsimiles sailing through red glow lighting.
Conservancy Executive Director Andrew McElwaine offered welcoming remarks and opening comments, followed by a seemingly spontaneous mob flash performance dedicated to the sponsors that initiated when vocalist Evelio Mendez launched into “The Drinking Song” from Verdi’s “La Traviata,” joined by Steffanie Pearce and Melissa Vitrella and a mob of Opera Naples performers who joined the throng.
Fumagalli and Slabaugh presented the Eagle Awards to veterinarians the Doctors Damien Lin, Tonya Loreman, Erik Madison, Jeffrey Noble, Frank Ogden and Christi Warren.
Auctioneer Scott Robertson was joined by NBC-2 anchor Kellie Burns in conducting the live auction of eight offerings of adventure experiences, two dinner party opportunities and a precious, Port Royal Jewelers “Heavenly Flight” bejeweled bangle. The pair also conducted the Wild About Wildlife and Fund-a-Need auction initiatives.
The formal program featured a video featuring Joanna Fitzgerald, director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, and her activities in directing the care of injured and other ailing animals.
Magic chairperson Jeannie Smith and Barbara Wilson, director of marketing and communications, have furnished an estimated figure in net proceeds of $937,000.00 including ticket income of $550 per person, all auction income, sponsorships and miscellaneous donations.