Lincoln Park Zoo Ball 2012: A $1 Million Record Breaker Featuring the Village People

The Women’s Board of Lincoln Park Zoo hosted its 35th annual Zoo Ball in one of my favorite venues in Chicago.  As 1,000 black-tie clad guests entered the zoo grounds through the East Gate, they were greeted by more than 30,000’ feet of dramatic sweeping tents.  Earlier in the day, due to heavy rains, one of the tents came down but all was well by the time the event began.  During the cocktail reception, across from the Kovler Lion House, one could hear the big cats roaring their approval as guests raised funds to keep them supplied with kitty food.  The “Feed a Friend” program offered supporters the opportunity to donate for various zoo animals and receive a corresponding stuffed animal to show their support.  Levels included $100 to feed a gibbon family for three months all the way up to $15,000 to feed a gorilla family for a year.  It was a great way to get guests involved in the zoo as well as raise funds.  And for those who didn’t want to take the stuffed toys, they could be donated to Lurie Children’s Hospital which has a floor sponsored by the Zoo.

Themed “The Great Catsby” and presented by Guggenheim (who underwrote the evening’s dinner in its entirety), the event was co-chaired by Suzanne Meder and Cynthia Polayes with Honorary Chair Anne Pramaggiore.   Abby Zanarini, Women’s Board President, welcomed the crowd and thanked Guggenheim and J. N. Pritzker/Tawani Foundation/Pritzker Military Library for their continued support.  She also acknowledged Barbara Higgins (Allstate), Anne Pramaggiore (ComEd), John Alexander (Chairman of the Board) and Kevin Bell (Zoo President and CEO).

Event Creative’s Jeffrey Foster helped bring the chairs’ décor vision to life.  An elegant Hampton’s vibe included masses of blue hydrangeas and twinkling chandeliers as well as a stage that resembled a white gate complete with hedge walls.  Auction Chair Bridget Campbell arranged a vast array of silent auction items in the chic Leopard Lounge that included Andrea Bocelli box seats (sold for $5K), Master’s Golf Package (two passes for all four days sold for $19K), a one week stay at the Four Season’s Costa Rica (sold for $6K), a signed Joakim Noah jersey, Ryder Cup tickets and so much more!   Guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres from J & L Catering that included mini Black Forest ham, gruyere and Dijon Panini fingers, Maryland crab cakes, vegetable spring rolls, maple glazed dates and mini corn muffins with tomatillo braised chicken.

Following the reception, a recorded lion’s roar summoned guests into dinner.  Against the musical backdrop of Rendezvous, guests enjoyed a delicious tenderloin dinner with caramelized shallots, fingerling potatoes and succotash.   Dessert consisted of strawberry shortcake, a key lime tart with Michigan berries and a chocolate ganache.   The highlight of the evening came when surprise performers the Village People were introduced.  As guests jammed the dance floor, this popular 1970’s disco group performed their hits, “Macho Man” and “In the Navy.”  They whipped the crowd into a frenzy with their closing number “YMCA” amid a sea of camera flashes. It was so exciting!  How in the world they kept this a secret, I’ll never know!

Seen on the scene were Barbara Higgins and Daniel Glynn, Tina Koegel, Wendy Krimins, William Holdeman, Paul Iacono, Sherren Leigh, Ken Norgan, Myra and John Reilly, Beth Levin and Marcus Lemonis, Vicki and Bill Hood, Kathy Brock and Doug Regan, Rebecca and Charlie Besser, Janet and Rodger Owen, Leslie and Bob Zentner, Gale and Jay Gottlieb, Wendy Chronister and Peter Rogers, John Alexander, Ann and Blake Benjamin, Bridget and Matthew Campbell, Kimbra and Mark Walter, Holly and Peter Francis Geraci, Jeff Shea, Veronica Zepeda and Bob Loquercio, Mary Ann Young, Ami and Kevin Connolly, Donna and Michael Rigert, Cynthia Holbrook, Debra and Martin Beck, Susan Regenstein, Wendy and Steve Beard, Charlie Huebner, Tracey Benford, Joan Cusack, Jennifer and John Caruso and Deborah and Bruce Crown.   At the close of the event, attendees received gift bags that contained John Derian glass momentos provided by Guggenheim, along with cool treats from Pinkberry and late-night slices of pizza from Connie’s Pizza and Catering truck.  Chauffeured courtesy cars, BMW 750-I’s, were stationed out front to whisk guests home…..Loved this!  Proceeds from the ball, $1 million, will support the Women’s Board pledge to the zoo’s Nature Boardwalk and will provide critical support to maintain this community landmark that is one of the last free zoos (open every day) in the nation!  (  (Photos by Bob Carl)

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