On Thursday night, the women's board of the Chicago Horticultural Society presented the “All Aboard! Wonderland Express” dinner, which drew some 400 guests and raised funds for an in-the-works plant conservation science center at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The evening's centerpiece—an indoor model-train exhibition filled with garden-scale replicas of Chicago landmarks—set the tone for the dinner, which “was meant to feel like a train voyage," said event chair Barbara Metzler.
To that end, staffers at the check-in table handed out mock itineraraies in lieu of table cards. The itineraries directed guests to one of three dining areas—where thematic decor reflected the destination-inspired names “Shanghai Express,” “Rive Gauche,” and “Saint Petersburg”—and also listed a series of ”sights to see.” The suggested highlights took guests on a tour of the garden's Regenstein Center, starting with a holiday piano bar toward the front and a speciaty Scotch bar (complete with a kilted bartender) outside the back greenhouse.
Metzler said that the three-year old event has seen “an increase in underwriting” since it began, with this year's sponsors including ComEd and National City. She added that, along with ”good fortune and good PR,” word of mouth has helped attract guests and sponsors to the dinner. “It's a charming, low-pressure evening,“ Metzler said of its appeal. “We have no raffles and no auctions. We sell nothing but tickets to the dinner."