A Mid-Winter’s Night Soirée
The Canfield Casino became an enchanted wood on Saturday as Hattie’s hosted their 15th annual Mardi Gras Soirée. Well established as the first social event of the year, the New Orleans style party benefits a different nonprofit organization each winter. This year, the spotlight shone on the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, marking its 50th Anniversary celebration with a tribute to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the inaugural performance of the New York City Ballet at SPAC in 1966.
Hostess and belle of the ball, Hattie’s own Beth Alexander, welcomed close to 500 guests alongside Marcia White, President and Executive Director of SPAC. With longtime supporters and honorary chairs, Mary Gavin and Jim LaVigne, the pair adorned revelers in colorful beads and festive masks. Complimentary mint juleps, courtesy of Maker’s 46 and Southern Wine and Spirits, provided a touch of greenery befitting the décor. Sparkling trees, sweeping branches and eclectic floral arrangements were enhanced by backlit shadow boxes to create a magical forest. Donating their time and decorations, Michael Panza and the team at Fine Affairs had transformed the space in the likeness of Shakespeare’s setting.
In theme, exquisite costumes from the original ballet danced atop the silent auction displays. These treasures will also be exhibited at the National Museum of Dance for the next year. Below, bids climbed on original art, baskets of cheer, restaurant certificates and of course, tickets for the summer season at SPAC. There was even a patron-level membership allowing one lucky winner to take advantage of all this gem has to offer. Other popular packages included car detailing donated by New Country Motor Car Group and a week of house painting from Bonacio Construction. Spotted checking bids was Mardi Gras co-chair Heather Straughter, with her husband, Brian, and parents, Mike and Susana Hoffman. Also shopping the auction were Dr. Marty Breen and his wife, Katie, Marcus and Julie Fuller, Gayle LaSalle, Dr. Judy Harrigan, Jason and Stacy Komorny, Tom and Kristie Roohan, Andrew and Kate Jarosh, Dianne Winter and Joel Lilley.
Nearby, Margie Rotchford caught up with Kate Calbone and MaryAnn Paratore. Melissa Zieker, Melanie Manuel, Traci Jersen, Brittany Hayes, Bernadette Sprinkle, Jennifer Connors and Mary Beth Hogan took advantage of the perfect girls’ night while their husbands enjoyed a guys’ weekend out of town. Peter and Debby Copeletti toasted the festivities with masked friends David and Joanne Westfall.
Shortly after 7 p.m., Beth opened the ballroom doors to reveal the mischievous sprite, Puck, dancing with Titania, Queen of the Fairies. Young wisps, including Beth and Jasper’s daughter, Zoe, gracefully frolicked around the pair. Under the direction of Darlene Myers, the dancers from Northeast Ballet performed choreography to Mendelssohn’s score, beckoning the crowd in for the famed Hattie’s buffet prepared by Chef Jasper Alexander. Jambalaya, beans and rice, étouffée, ribs and cheese grits were just some of the delicious specialties served. Icy tiers overflowed with crawfish and jumbo shrimp. Colorful cupcakes, pastries and brownies were a sweet ending to the feast.
Applause for the dancers turned into a greeting for Mistress of Ceremonies and CBS6 News anchor, Liz Bishop, who took the stage to open the brief program. Beth followed, thanking attendees, honorary chairs, board members and all of the generous sponsors who had contributed to the evening’s success. She recounted how she and Jasper had founded the event in 2001 as a way to give back and support local charities, never imagining the impact their Mardi Gras Soirée would have for so many nonprofits like SPAC, Jake’s Help From Heaven, Shelters of Saratoga, Saratoga YMCA and Saratoga Hospital. Beth announced that next year’s party will assist Caffé Lena as the Saratoga institution embarks on a capital campaign, and the 2017 beneficiary will be AIM Services, Inc. Walt Adams, AIM’s newly hired Director of Public Relations raised a glass to that!
Beth introduced White to offer a quick snapshot of SPAC’s fifty years. The executive director noted that it is only with the tremendous support of the community that this performing arts venue has become what it is. She touched on some of the exciting classical performances planned for this special anniversary year, promising a true celebration of the visionaries who brought SPAC to life and all who have sustained, enriched and expanded SPAC for five decades. In closing, White reiterated her appreciation to Hattie’s and all in attendance.
Without missing a beat, Soul Session picked up where the program left off. Led by the incomparable Garland Nelson, the band rocked the house and a throng of fans rocked the dance floor. Seen were Dan and Ardie Russell, Tara Cosgrove, Amy Raimo, Wayne Flores, Henry and Carla Fox, Dieter and Michele Funiciello, Jeff and Bart Altamari and Christianne Smith.
The party continued with music, merriment and fun photos. Picture-taking alone was entertainment at Heather Bohm-Tallman’s Crazy Photo Booth. Grabbing props and posing were Natalie Sillery, Rick Partyka, Joe and Minnie DiGeso, Dan and Marianne Moerschell and Mary Martin with husband Lloyd. (A portion of proceeds from any photos purchased online will benefit SPAC.)
Basking in the glow of another successful Mardi Gras, Beth overflowed with gratitude for all of the sponsors, in-kind donors and friends who gave so generously. “And I want to emphasize that it also takes an army of volunteers to pull off such a fabulous evening,” she added.
“Lines were short at coat check thanks to the Saratoga-Sponsor-A-Scholar students manning the racks. They are great teens and I never have to worry about anything I ask them to do.”
Coincidentally, SSAS is a past Mardi Gras charity. Representing Saratoga Bridges, another previous recipient, Heather Varney managed check-in and ensured auction check-out was seamless. Elisa Sheehan of Lis Design contributed her time and artistry to create the event invitation and signage, and a crew from Rain and Shine Tent Company helped set up all of their donated equipment.
“I can’t thank everyone enough,” Beth concluded.
And the community can’t thank Hattie’s enough. Mardi Gras is truly a mid-winter dream.