On Wednesday, more than 250 mayors from around the country came together for the 76th Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors at the Capital Hilton Hotel, and then bused over to the National Building Museum for a gala dinner. “Last year was the first event at the museum, instead of the hotel. This building is more of a draw for them,” said the Bulfinch Company's Babette Penton, who planned the evening with Elena Temple Webb and Lina Garcia, the directors of communications for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Gold lighting accented the museum's towering columns, with the space divided into a reception and a dining area for the 750 guests. Looking to depart from previous years' pastel color schemes, Penton chose a black-and-white tablecloth with graphic swirls that she first spotted at last year’s Corcoran Ball. “I wanted it to be completely different,” she said, noting that Occasions worked on both events. “And this building is so beautiful that it compliments whatever you do here.”
To match the cloth, the tables, which circled the museum’s center fountain, held spare white plates, black napkins, black-stemmed glassware, and small arrangements of pink roses in the center. A stage and large screen at the head of the room was used for closing remarks.
Passed hors d’oeuvres during the reception included small mac-and-cheese bites topped with Carolina-style pulled chicken, and olive and goat cheese beignets covered in Parmesan, while the dinner menu featured a molasses-and-balsamic-glazed beef tenderloin on a bed of wild mushrooms.
The evening wrapped up with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg—clearly a celebrity in the crowd, with many murmuring of his potential presidential run—receiving the President’s Award on Global Climate Protection from conference president Mayor Douglas Palmer of Trenton. Bloomberg spoke of his plan for New York, to cut greenhouse-gas emissions 30 percent by 2030 and turn the city’s taxi fleet into hybrids. Then he turned to the economy, a hot topic as debate on the economic-stimulus package progressed on the Hill (keeping House speaker Nancy Pelosi from attending the event).
Bloomberg blamed both parties for failing to find a compromise. “They spent most of this past decade when things were good running up bills with reckless abandon,” he said. “I think they ate the seed corn without worrying about the next year's crop. Here we are, the seed corn is gone, and all we've got is a barn full of I.O.U.s.”