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New Benefit Lights Up Descanso Gardens

Published on Monday, July 15, 2013 | 4:55 pm

The partygoers wore silk dresses and cargo shorts, Ferragamos and flip-flops. In other words, the dress code was all over the map. And the guests were all over the Gardens as Descanso Gardens launched a new benefit, Light Up the Night, on Saturday, July 13.

Light Up the Night featured three distinct musical acts performing in three garden venues, with fabulous food from three Patina restaurants. Guests perched on lounge furniture and sat on low fences to enjoy the progressive dinner party. “What a great garden party! …The setting was spectacular … and music played a huge part,” said guest David Colker of Altadena.

La Cañadans attending included Hope Tschopik Schneider, Erin and Rich Atwater, Tania and Michael Cahill, David and Kay Linden, Katie and Chris and Poole, Mindy and Gene Stein, Gracella Gibbs and Gene Wilcott, Shirley and Ned Russell, and Shirley and Earl Gottschalk.

Pasadena residents attending included Ann and Peter Murphy, Grace and Ken Russak, Stephanie and Greg McLemore, Amy and David Lamb, Wendy Lees and Tom Boyle, and Descanso Executive Director David and Judy Brown. Pasadenans Margaret Leong Checca and her husband Michael were on hand, celebrating their 17th wedding anniversary. Karen and Louis Bachand of South Pasadena also hosted guests.

About 250 people gathered for the event. Each guest was given a flashlight to use as the party moved through the gardens, a sort of progressive dinner party with food prepared by three Patina restaurants. Hors d’oeuvres from Ray’s and Stark Bar were set up in the Promenade, where the Dustbowl Revival band performed bluegrass, blues and roots-y music. In the Rose Garden, guests enjoyed a self-serve dinner, prepared by Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse and Kendall’s Brasserie and Bar, with music by guitarist Roger Espinoza and his band. The dinner was mostly finger food – with salads served in hand-held bamboo cones.

The party ended at the Center Circle with dessert, where the smoking “Dragon’s Breath” meringues were the hit of the night. Guests lined up for the super-cold sweets – then tried to outdo one another in spewing out smoke from mouth and nose. DJ Matthew Rubino, “the curator of vibes,” created a party-perfect music mix to keep the party going.

Light Up the Night was conceived as a different kind of benefit from Descanso’s long-running Only at Descanso gala (which is scheduled for September 28). Tickets for Light Up the Night were priced at $125 each. “We wanted to create a casual, fun event that would appeal to a wider audience,” said Juliann Rooke, chief operating officer. “Not everyone can afford the gala. We wanted this to be an opportunity for more people to help and celebrate Descanso Gardens.”

“We couldn’t have achieved this evening without the support of our sponsors,” she continued.  Light Up the Night was generously sponsored by Patina Restaurant Group, Taylor’s Steakhouse, The Capital Group, Karen & Louis Bachand, and Christie, Parker & Hale, LLP. Pasadena NOW was the online media sponsor. “Patina was our largest sponsor, virtually underwriting all the food and beverage,” Rooke said.

The event committee included Judy Brown, Amy Lamb and Stephanie McLemore of Pasadena; Tania Cahill and Kay Linden of La Cañada Flintridge; Johanna Clark of Los Angeles, Lovell Holder of Burbank, Mark Jerusalem of South Pasadena, and David Klinger of Houston (formerly of Eagle Rock).

The benefit raised roughly $60,000, Rooke said. The net proceeds, which have not been determined, will be used to sustain the 160-acre botanic garden, which is accredited as a museum of living collections by the American Alliance of Museums.

The benefit of Light Up the Night goes beyond the evening’s fund-raising, she said. A large number of the guests were not garden members. “There were a lot of new faces to Descanso. This was an opportunity to get to know us and all that we have to offer.”

“Based on the great feedback from guests and the numbers, Descanso will strongly consider making Light Up the Night an annual event,” she said. “The Gardens can easily handle 1,000 guests or more in this format, and we really want to share Descanso with as broad a community as possible.”

About Descanso Gardens

Established as a public garden in 1953, Descanso Gardens is located at 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, near the interchange of the 2 and 210 freeways. The Gardens are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas Day. Parking is free. Admission fees are $8 for adults; $6 for seniors and students with I.D.; $3 for children 5 to 12, and free for members and children 4 and younger. For information, call (818) 949-4200 or visit Descanso Gardens is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

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