By Jenny Berg Posted July 12, 2011, 5:34 PM EDT
CHICAGO Hosting an alfresco event presents its own set of challenges, as planners of the Lincoln Park Zoo Ball have learned. “Rain is the only unwelcome guest at the ball, and heat is a close second,” said Erin Dahl, senior manager of events, before Friday's benefit. “We are really hopeful for a clear and cool night.” Planners got their wish, and the skies stayed blue for the 1,000-guest function on zoo grounds.
This year, the event got a Hollywood-inspired vibe replete with mock paparazzi, a red carpet entrance, and a star-filled Walk of Fame leading to the zoo gates. “We charge the gala chairs with selecting a creative theme that will not only be fun to develop a party around, but weaves in the animal element that is so important to the Lincoln Park Zoo,” Dahl said. “The 'Hollywood and Vines' theme was the chairs' brainchild, representing not only one of the most famous street corners in the world, but the intersection of Hollywood and a jungle beat.”
After the theme had been chosen, “we select our vendors through an R.F.P. process, gaining a minimum of three bids in each major area of the event: catering, decor, AV, and tenting,” Dahl said. “The zoo is not your average ballroom, so vendors are asked to be creative while staying within budget and maintaining the integrity of zoo grounds.”
Food for Thought handled catering, and developed a menu with courses inspired by the Rat Pack era. Passed hors d'oeuvres included deviled eggs and mini Monte Cristo sandwiches, and the main course was surf and turf. Inspired by the lyrics of Frank Sinatra's “Fly Me to the Moon,” the dessert came garnished with a vanilla star. Heffernan Morgan Ronsley's decor gave and old-fashioned supper club look to the area under HDO's tent, and Frost handled the audiovisual production.
For the first time this year, planners used BidPal to manage the silent auction. “Guests will have the opportunity to view and bid on items right from the comfort of their own chairs. We hope they find this new technology as cool and user-friendly as we do,” said Dahl. Between sponsorships and live and silent auctions, the event ultimately raised more than $1 million.