Dozens of charitable events, people dressed to the hilt, the auction of gazillion dollar luxury cars and a giant bottle of wine no one will ever drink. Then, omnipresent back patting and requisite chicken and filet typically complete the fundraising season in Naples. The exception is the Baker Park Gala to benefit the project that’s become like the David and Goliath of public private projects in the area.
Among the reasons that the Baker Park Gala stood out this year once again as a totally unique event – the spirit of the people who believe in the park and what it stands for. It’s really not about land or engineering or money. It’s about ice cream on a hot day, a ride on a carousel. It’s about having freedom to roam around, relaxing at a reading table before grabbing a bite at the café. It about toddlers getting so tired from a day at Baker Park that they fall asleep in the car on the short drive home. It’s about making memories with children and grandchildren and each other, or by oneself on a reflective stroll with the river in view.
Baker Park is already a happy place because it’s the People’s Park – designed by the people of Naples for the people of Naples and anyone else who desires to partake of what the park offers. This jovial spirit infused a fun quotient in the Baker Park Gala.
While Prelude to a Park 2 was upscale, it had a new star of the show this year in the spectacular carousel organizer Delores Sorey found to place on the site just for the gala and Amy Saad’s family day the next day. The carousel served as a reminder of a time when the best things in life happened in a park, when being a kid meant getting outside and doing something fun that didn’t include a smart phone.
Prelude to a Park 2 benefited Baker Park and it was as billed – a ‘Magical Evening under the Stars and the Glow of a Full Moon’. The reception was followed by dinner along Riverside Circle during which attendees were introduced to the new Baker Park and Honorary Chairs, Patty and Jay Baker. They viewed an updated master plan of the Park and participated in a live auction before dancing the night away to the music of Joe Marino & All the King’s Men.
The fireworks which were launched from a barge this year were as stunning as the previous year, marking another round of successful fundraising for the Park. As the carousel turned in the background, it was almost as if another side of Naples was emerging, one that calls to
young families and children and says, “Naples welcomes you, too.”
“Almost everyone there rode the carousel and it was really, really cute,” said Delores Sorey, Gala Chairwoman of the heart of the park. “The adults enjoyed it as much as the kids and that was the fun thing.”
Most of the Baker Park is slated to be passive but organizers hope the end plan will have a draw for people of all ages who want more than greenspace.
At the gala, a limited number of items were presented for auction including William Boyajian’s ‘Greenway Emerald Ring’ with Colombian emeralds, green diamonds, rare green tsavorite tourmalines and gem white diamonds in 18 karat gold. The auction sponsors include Bigham Jewelers, Inc., Preferred Travel of Naples, Avenue 5 and Truluck’s.
“Including pledges and items sold, plus the gala itself raised $800,000 so we are getting close to our $7.5 target,” said Sorey who reported an attendance of 400 gala guests. “When you have nothing but a big field and turn it into a gala it’s always a challenge but it was much easier this year than last year – we basically did the same thing as last year and the only addition was the carousel.”
FPL ran an auxiliary line so organizers had some help with power, but Sorey says she will be happy when there is running water there. This year’s gala brings Baker Park that much closer to people walking down the trails and sitting on the swings, looking at the river and hopefully taking a spin on the carousel. Images of parents and grandparents watching children at play or reading to them with the Gordon River in the background. And of course, having a glass of lemonade and some ice cream.
The gala was sponsored by The Friends of Baker Park, Inc. and The Ronto Group, design sponsor MHK Architecture & Planning – Matthew H. Kragh, AIA, NCARB, gold sponsor FineMark National Bank & Trust, William Boyajian’s Port Royal Jewelers, silver sponsor Beacon Real Estate Partners, Coleman, Yovanovich & Koester, Nancy and Jack Hurst, silver sponsors Nancy and Tom Cusick, Premier Property Management, The Law Offices of Sam J. Saad, III and Lutgert Insurance. Media sponsors include Life in Naples Magazine and Naples Daily News. In-kind sponsors include Five Star Valet, Grace Lakes Florist, Naples Print Source, T-Shirt Express, Taylor Rental Inc. and Wynn’s Market & Catering.
For information on Baker Park, visit www.friendsofbakerpark.com.