Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Galas herald springtime

May Festival event kicks off official change of seasons

By Jim Knippenberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

OK, so the weather doesn't always show it, but it's now officially spring in Cincinnati. Why? Because the May Festival opened with its annual gala, a $75-a-head black-tie party where the array of flowers - on tables, railings, balconies and bars - is sometimes as much a star as the gala.

As are the springy, pastel and floral gowns everyone wears. Even the men, despite all the usual black-tie rules, were showing up in floral bow ties and cummerbunds. And in one case, socks.

About 250 showed for what was close to an all-nighter: at 5 p.m. Friday, a cocktail party in the Music Hall foyer, followed by a steak and halibut dinner in Corbett Tower, followed by the all-Verdi concert, followed by an after-concert bash at Nicola's hosted by May Festival board president Carole Rigaud.

And yeah, it was a festive crowd. You knew that early, when hosts and hostesses had major difficulties herding the cocktail party out of the foyer and up to the Tower. Always an excellent sign.

• It was even less springy - cold and rainy - but no less enthusiastic Saturday when the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society threw the Journey of Hope Gala, the first of what the society promises will be an annual event.

About 150 paid $150 each - though some included an extra donation, one topping out at $15,000 - for cocktails, dinner (filet and chicken) and dancing in the Cincinnati Club's Oak Room.

Besides raising funds and awareness, the purpose of the gala was to honor people who have gone to exceptional lengths donating to or working for the society.

That would be John Davies, founder of the John & Shirley Davies Foundation and a consistent big-dollar donor; Scott Maier, patient advocate, former board member, one of the first marathoners to join the society's Team in Training and, ironically, battling follicular lymphoma since 2002; and Dr. Frank Smith, director, Division of Hematology/Oncology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

E-mail jknippenberg@enquirer.com

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