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Snakes, alligators, and frogs-oh my! Guests at the annual South Carolina Aquarium Conservation Gala were transported from the Lowcounty all the way to the Indian ocean to celebrate the new exhibition A Journey to Madagascar while pledging their support for both the South Carolina Aquarium and the Kiawah Conservancy on Saturday evening. Welcomed by the strong beats of the Adande African Drum and Dance troupe, guests began to mill around Liberty Square for the cocktail hour. Donned in formalwear, guests could not have asked for better weather as they enjoyed hors d’oeuvres of crab fritters with cream corn and beet chips with crème fraiche. Patrons mingled with one another and caught up on the latest news—perhaps even gleaning some gardening tips from James Ferguson whose beautiful orchid graced the cover of our April issue. Others, like the 2013 co-chair Gretchen Penny, were already looking to next year’s event and wondering how one could possibly top the roaming tomato frog, boa constrictor, and alligator that were without a doubt the stars of the cocktail hour.
Before you knew it, the Adande drums were beating again and guests began to take their seats—but not before stopping in awe of the tribal dance that the Adande troupe were performing on the stage. Dinner was served under tents which conjured up the beach feeling you would expect from the African island—the orange of the sun complementing the lush green shades of fertile island growth. Adding to the Madagascan mood were the 300 stalks of bamboo, 200 bleached peacock feathers, and 300 bunches of dried okra used to decorate the room and visually transport attendees across the globe. WCBD’s Carolyn Murray welcomed everyone and the award ceremony was on its way.
As guests began meeting their fellow diners and donors (not to brag but we’re going to anyway, us Charlestonmagaziners were lucky enough to enjoy the company of Charleston Waterkeeper founder and executive director Cyrus Buffum!), the first award of the night was presented to the Kiawah Conservancy for their continued dedication to preserving and conserving the natural Lowcountry environment. Nibbling on pan seared wreckfish, strawberry salad with feta mousse, and sous vide beef tenderloin, patrons paused to exalt some of the environmental honorees of the evening such as Dr. Barbara Block who received recognition for her work with blue fin tuna and the surprise announcement of the Victor Samra, Jr. Award that went to Kelly Thorvalson, making the table of divers abundantly and audibly happy—granting her a standing ovation. Members of The Charleston Dance Project took center stage for an African inspired performance, and guests were treated to one last drum show from Adande as the gala ended and the after party started.
Leaving the island feel of the fete and transitioning to an ultra chic city vibe with white leather couches, modern silver light fixtures, and gorgeous white flowers, the After Affair kicked off with DJ PJ and DJ Moo Moo spinning for two separate dance floors inside the aquarium. While lucky patrons got a sneak peek of the new exhibit featuring adorable lemurs, exotic birds, and one very cheeky lizard, others sampled the dips, tacos, and delicious five tiers of desserts. After a long night, the most sought after spot was the sofa directly underneath the Great Ocean Tank—talk about a seat with a view! As the night drew to a close, gals gathered up their gowns and the gents loosened their ties to mark the end of a successful event celebrating two very worthy causes.