Spring Benefits Preview: Trends in Decor, Catering, and Entertainment

By Jenny Berg March 21, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT

The Butterfly Ball in Chicago, and other quintessentially springy events, will help usher in the new season of philanthropy.

Photo: Eddie Quinones for BizBash

As of Wednesday, spring has officially sprung. And as gala-goers store the mink stoles and break out the pastel evening wear, we asked reps from nonprofits across North America to share what's on tap for their big spring benefits. Here's a look at the upcoming season's trends.

Color-blocked decor and late-night bites
In Canada, the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario is gearing up for its April 20 POGO gala. With a “glamorous” dress code, the event will have “crazy, beautiful decor and some wacky entertainment,” communications and development officer Kelly Zorzi said. Though designer William Fulghum is keeping most specifics under wraps, planners shared that the event at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex will have asymmetrically positioned furniture, color-blocked decor in pink, turquoise, yellow, and purple, and staggered lounge seating running down the center of the space.

There will be a main course of tenderloin of beef and vanilla-miso salmon; during the late-night after party, passed savory snacks will include mini Reuben sandwiches and maple-bacon donuts. As for the wacky entertainment? “There's going to be a glue artist,” Zorzi said. “It sounds weird, but there's a video that shows how incredible it really is.”

Natural themes and farm-to-table fare
The Greatest Party on Earth
, a Boston fund-raiser for Artists for Humanity, is scheduled for April 27 at the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter. It will have art and decor inspired by its eco-conscious theme: Climate Change. In Chicago, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's May 3 Butterfly Ball will also have a nature-driven theme: Savour Nature. Inspired by the museum's new exhibit “Food: The Nature of Eating,” the event will have a farm-to-table menu that incorporates sustainable and local ingredients. Event Creative's decor will be a “whimsical and chic take on food and gardening,” says a rep for the museum. “The centerpieces will be created with vegetables; and of course, butterflies will have a presence." 

Farm-to-table fare will also show up on guests' plates at Catalina Island Conservancy's camp-themed Conservancy Ball on April 13 at the Avalon Casino Ballroom. Designed by chef Paul Hancock and inspired by camping, the menu will incorporate local California ingredients such as brook trout and a truffled goat cheese. The dessert will be a high-end take on s'mores, made with bittersweet dark chocolate and a coulis of tangerine and Tahitian vanilla bean.

More natural inspiration will show up at Unicef's water-themed Message of Hope gala and after-party in Chicago April 12. Taking place at the Four Seasons Hotel, the event will have interactive installations from Kehoe Designs meant to raise awareness about waterborne illnesses. The event will also incorporate social media, with live tweets and Vine videos posted throughout the evening. 

Ballerinas and European culture
The Boston Ballet's gala, scheduled for April 20, will have a historically rooted theme. Dubbed the “Balanchine Ball,” the ornate gathering will be a “Russian-inspired special tribute to George Balanchine,” said spokeswoman Iman Richards. “This theme will be carried out through the menu, performances, and decor,” with help from Max Ultimate Food, Altieri Events, Be Our Guest, and Winston Flowers

The Washington Ballet's annual gala on April 12 also will have a European theme. The event, “A Moveable Feast: The Hemingway in Paris Ball,” is inspired by the company's production of Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises and has an apt honorary chair: Mariel Hemingway. Held at the Library of Congress, the event will serve Jack Roses (old-school cocktails mentioned in Hemingway's books) and feature decor from Syzygy Events that will channel Parisian cafes of the 1920s. “Think flappers and cancan girls,” said the ballet's PR manager, Susan Heffren.

Optimistic buzzwords
At another dance-centric event, the Joffrey Ballet's Spring gala in Chicago on April 19, the theme will be Beauty and Inspiration. The Flower Firm will provide dance-inspired flowers and “the room will sparkle,” said a rep for the ballet. On the menu, springy dishes from the Hilton Chicago will include a pear-parsnip soup; the live auction will have more lots than last year.

A similarly optimistic theme will shape the American Cancer Society's Key Gala in Boston April 4. Held at the Park Plaza Castle, the event will have a Hope Reigns theme that will be carried out in regal decor. The live auction will offer vacation-related prizes, including a trip to Aruba and a stay at Canyon Ranch in Arizona.

Ambitious fund-raising drives
At another American Cancer Society event in Chicago—the Discovery Ball, held at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel April 27—the theme will be Passport to Discovery. Celebrating the society's 100th anniversary, the glitzy event “will take guests into the past—1913, the year the American Cancer Society was founded—the present, and into the future,” said the charity's PR manager Susan Swartz. Inspired by the society's bold logo, HMR Designs' decor will incorporate hues of blue and orange. Like the POGO gala, the event has fun, late-night snacks in store, including sliders and miniature milkshakes.

In terms of fund-raising, this year's Discovery Ball launched a distinguished leadership group called “100 Ambassadors for Our 100th Birthday.” Volunteers invited corporate leaders and philanthropists to join the group by donating a minimum of $25,000. At the event, guests will participate in the live auction on their smartphones, “eliminating the need for our attendees to carry another device or to learn how to use something new,” Swartz said. 

Torch songs
Crooners will come out in full force this spring. Harry Connick Jr. is set to headline the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade's gala on April 26. With a 1940s supper-club theme, the event will take place in the center's concert hall, where the orchestra level will be transformed into a “festival floor.” The performance will include a 20-piece orchestra and piano, and it will be a “full concert, as opposed to the usual brief gala appearance,” said a spokesperson for the event.

And in Washington, Glee star Matthew Morrison will headline the Washington Performing Arts Society's April 13 gala at the Ritz-Carlton. Morrison is expected to serenade the crowd with songs from his new album of standards, which includes—'tis the season— “Younger Than Springtime.”

And, um, Victorian dolls
Later this spring, Luminato's Big Bang Bash in Toronto will have a decidedly more sinister, Victorian vibe. Held at the Royal Ontario Museum's Thorsell Spirit House June 8, the first-time event will raise funds for the Luminato festival. It will feature the North American premiere of Dolls by Victor & Rolf. The catwalk installation, created just for Luminato by the famous fashion-design duo, will feature miniature Victorian mannequins wearing scaled-down couture dresses. The event will include cocktails, a seated dinner, and a “one-of-a-kind” after-party on which details are still mum.

Sign up for the BizBash Daily - stay current with the event industry.
Your email inquiry will be sent to 3 venue