Welcome to Baker Park. It was one of those magical nights that makes you wish every charity event in Naples was like this one. The Prelude to a Park Gala took place on March 15 along the banks of the Gordon River – a part of Naples now known as Baker Park thanks to the generous naming donation of Patty and Jay Baker.
The gala, which some feared would be a logistical nightmare (no running water or electricity is available on site), turned out to be one of the most beautiful ever to grace the Naples social scene. The unifying theme was a passion for the park and everywhere you looked, people watched with rapt enthusiasm as park architect Matthew Kragh of MHK Architecture and Planning showcased a threedimensional video of the future park.
The gala was expertly orchestrated and coordinated by committee chair Delores Sorey and vice chair Ursula Pfahl and the park gala committee. It took a village to bring it all together and volunteers worked tirelessly to morph a blank space into an enchanted evening. The music, provided by Joe Marino and All The King’s Men was the perfect backdrop to the jovial mood.
The evening ended on a high note – quite literally with a fireworks display that rivaled any fireworks most attendees had ever seen over the Gordon River. Fireworks
are an all ages, all inclusive enjoyment.
The spirit of the gala helped build momentum, extracting passion and punctuating the importance of Baker Park and what it will mean for generations in Naples. As
hundreds of people gathered on the property it was evident, perhaps for the first time on such a grand scale, what an asset the park will be to the Gordon River and
the Downtown area. It will help make the Bayfront and Gordon River area of town more accessible, less restricted to foot traffic and less removed from the ebb and flow
of the rest of Naples.
At a major event, no matter how luxurious the locale, the food is rarely something to sing about. But the food at the park gala was top notch with a wine selection to match. Carrabba’s Italian Grill catered the event, serving a duo of filet mignon and an Italian chicken dish.
Engraved brick pavers, benches, foliage, fitness trail points, an outdoor dining shelter and a myriad of naming opportunities were presented, but many donations including the Baker family’s donation occurred before the event.
Committee member Jim Rideoutte discussed in a previous story the staggering logistics involved in such an event. Working with a large plot of raw land offered an unprecedented opportunity to do something very unusual. The city leveled out the ground and used generators for lighting – aided by the full moon and giant romantic
lighted balloons that hovered above tables. A lighted stage also drew the attention of the crowd. The tables were smartly decorated, with little lanterns reflecting light off of wine bottles and glassware. The team selected ground cover and even before the evening was at an end, people could be overheard talking about next year’s gala. The
celebration continued the next day when family day welcomed the general public to celebrate the park.
For more information about park events or to make a donation, call 239.263.2673 or visit www.bakerparknaples.com.