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Scene & Heard: September 2012

It’s that time of year again for my light-hearted look back at the Best of the Best events and people who made the 2011-2012 social season so special.

Hottest Ticket

Once again, they were hard to come by—tickets to Gulfshore Life’s Bachelor Party. At the celebration this past October at the Mercato in Naples, hundreds of ladies clamored for a chance to party with the coolest single men in Southwest Florida. And what a young, edgy romp it was. Such energy, such flirting, such fun.

Best Guest Gift

The shelter for abused women’s “mending bro-ken Hearts with Hope” luncheon at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Not only did every one of the more than 900 guests receive a gorgeous Chico’s necklace and bracelet at this annual luncheon, but this year, for a small donation, guests went home with a butterfly-patterned silk scarf made by the company that produces the exclusive Hermès brand. The chair of the event, Shelly Stayer, worked with importer Mary Susan Clinton to bring these exquisite gifts to the tables, and the smiles all around testified to what a success this was.


AS EMCEE, I JOKINGLY TOLD THE CROWD THE VALET WAS CLOSED UNTIL THEY HIT THE GOAL. Hostage taker: Emcee Kellie Burns threatened to close the valet station until the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest reached its fundraising goal. (DAVID URBAN)

Most Dramatic Finish

The marathon afternoon last February at the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest at Miromar Lakes Beach Club. When it looked as if the auction might fall short of the organizer’s $2 million goal, Dave Copham, one of the festival’s founders, and Joe Anderson, of Benovia Winery, each stepped up in the final minutes with a $100,000 pledge to put the fundraiser over the top. Their bids encouraged other guests to chip in as well. As emcee, I jokingly told the crowd the valet was closed until they met the goal. The result: A hefty $2.3 million was raised (most of it going to the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida) and, thus, a new high for a fundraiser in Lee County.

Best Backdrop

The guadalupe center of immokalee’s “taste of China” at the Port Royal Club in January. As the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico in brilliant oranges and yellows, guests sipped cocktails around the club’s beachfront pool. Colorful Chinese lanterns and silk banners lined the terrace, creating a most gorgeous ambiance for raising a record-setting $500,000 for early childhood education. There was certainly a grand momentum to the evening when the Red Sox Fan Package sold for more than $100,000, and the JUMP UP segment brought in even more for GCI’s programs.

Best inaugural event

The exclusive russian imperial dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples, celebrating the first ArtsNaples World Festival. Gala chair Lacey King made sure all was authentic for the 120 guests—from the Russian vodka poured over an ice sculpture of a Russian palace to the caviar, borscht, sturgeon and beef stroganoff. Artistic director Maestro William Noll saw to the splendid entertainment in an evening of harmonious international togetherness.

Best flash mob

Well, it’s the only flash mob i have ever seen at an event, but this one celebrating the opening of the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples featured well-heeled guests in gowns dancing through the halls of the museum to a routine choreographed by event chair Shelia Davis. Raves to kicking up your heels, mobsters. The event itself was over-the-top wonderful in every way. You had the signature C’mon blue carpet leading guests inside, the cocktails and small bites centered around the museum displays, the huge, glittering white tent filled to the brim with guests in gowns and black ties, the delicious meal and more. This was a grand slam home run, bringing out a Who’s Who of Collier County. Guests included present and former mayors, supporters and sponsors—including $5 million donor Tom Golisano and his partner, Monica Seles.

Most creative theme

It’s just a number. when Fort Myers philanthropist Michele Eddy decided to celebrate a big birthday with a bash at her riverfront home, she wanted her guests to know “It’s Just a Number.” Which number it was, we will never know because there were numbers everywhere, from the decor to the games to the food. We are pretty sure, though, the shirtless young men who offered champagne at the door were in their 20s!

Best Acceptance Speech

Hope for haiti founder Joanne Kuehner. when Kuehner was presented with the Heart of Gold Award. This year the award was renamed after JoAnne for her humanitarian work. Her speech was simple and direct: “Thank you, but what is the fuss about? I’m just a pocket-picker. You all know because I have picked all your pockets many times.” Classic Joanne: honest, dedicated and never shy about tapping your wallet.


Soaring high: Denise Cobb, Shirley Hartmann, Russian Ambassador Sergey I. and Natalia Kislyak at the ArtsNaples Russian Imperial Dinner; Lily Mleczko at Magic Under the Mangroves. (IVAN SELIGMAN, AP ALEXANDER)

Most magical mission

Magic under the mangroves. the 2012 event returned to its original site—the Conservancy of Southwest Florida campus. Although renovations at the Nature Center are still underway, enough progress had been made to allow guests on-site. The elegant tented setting was transformed into an eco-friendly paradise with land-themed décor, native plants, sustainable materials, low-energy lighting, recycling and waste reduction. That’s pure devotion, sticking to your eco-friendly principles, even at your gala celebration.

Best dressed on the social scene

Linda Malone and Sonya Sawyer. Linda’s classic, elegant style is renowned in Naples. She sticks to simple, tailored dresses, blouses and skirts that complement her glowing fair skin and dark hair. Linda is always perfectly coiffed and styled. Sonya is the fashion opposite, a risk-taker when it comes to her attire. Whether it’s a custom-made plaid ball gown, a baby blue bi-level gown adorned with feathers or a funky lace cocktail dress, this businesswoman and mother of two always looks as if she just walked off the pages of a high-fashion magazine.

Most anticipated event for next season

Hats in the garden at The Naples Botanical Garden in November. The always sold-out luncheon serves as the unofficial kickoff to the new season in Naples. For this next one, Marissa Hartington, of Marissa Collections, has succeeded in wooing her friend, famed designer Michael Kors, to Naples as the honored celebrity guest. Not bad for starters, right?

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