Kennedy Center Salutes Honorees With Romantic Lighting, Toned Down Centerpieces

For this year's Kennedy Center Honors gala, organizers kept costs in mind while maintaining the event's consistently elegant decor.

By Walter Nicholls December 9, 2008, 9:00 AM EST

The Kennedy Center Honors dinner in the grand foyer

Photo: Joseph Allen

Last night, at the 31st annual Kennedy Center Honors gala, some 1,900 arts supporters and official Washington types turned out to salute this year's honorees: Morgan Freeman, George Jones, Barbra Streisand, Twyla Tharp, Pete Townshend, and Roger Daltrey. Beyoncé, Queen Latifah, Clint Eastwood, and Garth Brooks attended, paying tribute at the two-and-a-half-hour gala in the opera house, followed by a seated dinner in the grand foyer, underwritten exclusively by the Boeing Company.

With the country in a recession and most nonprofits feeling the pinch, vendors kept costs down at the request of gala coordinator Campbell Peachey & Associates. “Certainly, we did a little belt tightening. But in past years, we have never been extravagant, so there isn’t a lot to cut,” said firm president Carolyn Peachey, who worked with gala co-chairs Buffy Cafritz and Ann Jordan and in-house caterer Restaurant Associates. “A little came off the centerpieces, but decor has never been an overriding factor.”

In the football field-length—and relatively narrow—grand foyer, floor-to-ceiling stripes of rose and pale green hues lit the walls, with six simple votive candles on each of the 168 tables (which each sat 9 to 13 guests). Muted brick red and gold linens from D.C. Rental had a muted effect, putting emphasis on the centerpieces of jumbo roses in red, yellow and peach.

JLB Floral was responsible for the series of six unobtrusive lemon-leaf screens that hid railings and unsightly air vents, and created a backdrop for the bar areas. Three kitchen and service tents on the River Terrace provided smooth access to servers under tight conditions. The evening's menu included duck confit in a white bean cassoulet beside a bundle of baby carrots and haricots verts. The performance segment of the gala will be broadcast on CBS on Tuesday, December 30.

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