Spanning a decade from conception to fruition, the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (C’MON) was officially unveiled on March 23 to a joyful gathering of over 520 supporters.
Labeled Dream Gala 2012, the extravaganza fully encompassed the two-acre site located within the North Collier Regional Park on Livingston Road.
Greeted by a coterie of sometimes fearsome fairy tale characters, guests, many dressed in C’MON blue or blue ties, strode along a winding blue carpet. Quick to accept wine from circulating waiters who passed youth-inspired hors d’oeuvres that included mac ‘n’ cheese breaded balls, cheese filled celery sticks dotted with watermelon “caviar” and miniature short rib sliders, they also gathered round the bar while awaiting the ribbon cutting.
Following a proclamation presented by Mayor John Sorey and another from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Executive Director Joe Cox, former Mayor Bill Barnett, founder and honorary chair Allyson Loos and honorary chair Tom Golisano as well as event chair Shelia Smith Davis all spoke briefly. Aas the ribbon was snipped, all surged inside.
Dispersing upstairs and down and throughout the exhibits, most were in awe equal to that of first-time visiting kiddies who revel in the look, touch and listen aspects of the unique museum created just for them.
Overheard witty remarks: Bill Barnett explaining that he’s gone from a Who’s Who entry to “Who’s he?” And Golisano in observing the happy assemblage, “People in Naples are obviously very generous. Where else would anyone be excited simply by paying so much for a ticket?”
Notables present for the festivities were Jane, Joe Cox’s proud mother visiting from their native Malta, and Monica Seles, formerly No. 1 world tennis professional and now resident in Naples.
Among apparel standouts Sonya Sawyer in an aqua Giovanni gown she found in Tampa comprising a strapless, feathered bodice, diamanté midriff and tulle, feather-studded skirt, short in front and extending to a train in back; and handsome in dress blues, retired USAF Colonel Denny Ferriel.
After an hour of camaraderie both inside and in the adjacent outdoor Johnsonville Backyardville and near the rolling hill and still maturing hedge maze, it was on to the massive dining tent. Interior décor designed by Rufino Hernandez and his Garden District team used C’MON logo colors for playful, suspended jellyfish, floral centerpieces and table coverings.
Alan James Powerhouse band entertained throughout the evening right until dancing diehards called it a night. Chair Shelia Davis was first out on the floor, expertly dancing with a professional partner. When not on the dance floor, revelers ended the evening in the intimate Stargazer Lounge.
On a wow note were very young Naples Performing Arts Center students Allie Vallieres, in ostrich feather-trimmed silver, and Clinton Wood, properly decked out in white tie and tails who took to the dance floor in a polished dance performance.
An army of Ritz-Carlton chefs and waitstaff provided drink and food service throughout the gala including the three-course dinner. The menu amusingly featured the dreaded “peas & carrots” veggie combo often deplored by youngsters.
Kellie Burns, NBC-2 News Anchor, working in tandem with Napa Valley auctioneer and Arietta wine purveyor Fritz Hatton, magically raised a total of $271,000 in live auction income derived from nine packages acquired by auction co- chairs Linda Malone and Simone Lutgert. Bob Harden was dinner emcee.
C’MON Director of External Affairs Heather Patton announced that net proceeds from ticket sales at $1,500 per person, live auction and sponsorship income and a $25,000 donation made that evening totaled an estimated $450,000.