By Susan O'Neill Posted April 29, 2009, 8:00 AM EDT
TORONTO The Brazilian Carnival Ball—known for its elaborate decor and the colourful costumes worn by performers in its annual samba parade—took a cue from this year's charity, the SickKids Foundation, and opted for a teddy bear theme for the 43rd annual fund-raiser, held Saturday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. “Every child loves a teddy bear, so that's how we came up with the concept,” said 2009 event chair Janice O’Born, a member of the SickKids Foundation board.
Large pink, black, and silver bears—created by Brazilian artist and decor director Zeka Marquez—sat atop risers on the dining tables, and images of bears decorated panels that covered the walls throughout the ballroom. Marquez came up with the design for the event, and Toronto-based decor manager Luis de Castro put the look together, said Kathie Gayda, executive director of the ball. “The bears and the wall panels were produced in Brazil,” she said. In addition to centerpieces made out of Styrofoam, the decor team created two oversize bears that flanked the stage.
The team also covered the ceiling with panels of pink, white, and black fabric that ran the length of the room. De Castro created pink spandex palm trees for the dining room and reception area and designed all of the linens—bright pink organza with white polka dots—for the dining tables. Given the current economic climate, Gayda said, “You don’t want to look over the top, but we are over the top. We want it to be a great event every year.” O'Born added that the organizing committee did ”pare back” this year. “I was very mindful that we weren't going to bring in as much decor this year,” she said. “It was fresh and very colourful.”
Optex Staging created a checkerboard dance floor for the ball, which has become a tradition, Gayda said. “It’s both the dance floor and the stage for the parade of dancers. It goes from one end of the ballroom to the other in a zigzag pattern. It bisects the ballroom so everyone had a great view of the show.” Produced by Howard Gillick of Rio de Janeiro, the show included a samba parade with performers flown in from Rio and the music of the Via Brasil Band. The elaborate costumes, some of which lit up, were also shipped from Brazil. “They come in suitcases and bags that are packed into crates and shipped by DHL,” Gayda said.
The event attracted 1,650 guests, including His Royal Highness the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, the royal patron of the SickKids Foundation. He visited the hospital Friday and spoke about the importance of philanthropy at the benefit. “About a year ago I had the pleasure of sitting next to him at a dinner in London and I asked him to attend. In October he confirmed that he would be here,” O'Born said. “It's the first time any royal has been to the Brazilian Ball.” The prince was accompanied by four officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Scotland Yard. But his presence did not impact security for the event.
The CBC's Evan Solomon hosted the benefit for the first time, 11-year-old Madison Scott—a SickKids patient ambassador who is performing in the Toronto production of The Sound of Music—sang “God Save the Queen” and “O Canada.”
Organizers also invited food columnist Lucy Waverman to collaborate on the menu. “Lucy researched Brazilian food,” O'Born said. Rather than serving beef for dinner, as has been the case in recent years, the convention centre staff prepared a New Zealand rack of lamb crusted with farofa and served with a potato pancake, rapini, Brazilian black beans, and mint salsa. Servers offered a selection of Quebec cheeses following the meal, and a dessert table in the foyer had mini ice cream cones, churros, and bags of chili caramel corn.
Event sponsors included Rogers, the Printing House Ltd., BMO Financial Group, CIBC, RBC, TD Bank Financial Group, George Weston Ltd., Lexus on the Park, Toyota on the Park, Scarborough Toyota, American Airlines, Tiffany & Company, Metropolitan Hotels, Hallmark Canada, Charton Hobbs, Fabricland, Buntin Reid, Heidelberg Canada, The Globe and Mail, Bassett Media Group, Harry Rosen Inc., and Evian.