With no chairman or committee this year, Lowry Park Zoo trustees played host at the 22nd black-tie Karamu gala Saturday, especially Catherine Lowry Straz, recently unanimously re-elected to a second term as chairwoman of the board of the zoological society. Zoo staffers and Chief operating officer David Zimmerman turned the Safari Lodge into a Polynesian retreat, projecting blue waves and red flames on the walls for a South Pacific "Ring of Fire" theme. He shot many of the photos compiled in a scene-setting montage, and made the twinkling tropical centerpieces topping iridescent lava-hued linens.
Giraffes chaperoned a sloth, a slink, a Kinkajou and a Gypsy Vanner mare flirting with 300 guests during cocktails in the courtyard. Polynesian dancers beckoned; Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay served scallops, short ribs and a trio of Tahitian treats.
Straz, Karamu 2002 chairwoman, honored Sally Lowry Baldwin for founding and chairing the first Karamu in 1989, and thanked the three other chairwomen there: Betsy Stagg (1995), Susan Kynes Baldwin (2001) and Mindy Murphy (2005).
Full Circle got the crowd dancing, but first auctioneer Blake Kennedy snared $1,500 bids from Mary Jane and Buck Jones to name a rhino and from Bob Rasmussen to name a zebra. Zoo-related auction packages helped new director Craig Pugh net $180,000 for animal care, conservation and research.
Fashions for Freedom, the Tampa Woman's Club's 62nd annual Fashionollia luncheon, saluted the U.S. military with fashions from Apropos, Brooks Brothers and Strasbourg Children, including camouflage print warm-up suits and a red, white and blue evening gown finale. Jefferson High ROTC students solemnly presented the colors; Lisa Casalino sang the national anthem to 225 guests at the Tampa Airport Hilton on March 27.
This year's beneficiary, Bob Williams, who runs Support the Troops, thanked the group with a flag that had flown over a U.S. base in Afghanistan. He'll buy postage with the proceeds to mail care packages — with everything from snacks to shampoo — to soldiers. Fashionollia co-chair Marilyn Alessi read thank-you notes from several recipients.
Co-chair/emcee Kathleen Hudson introduced Joann Torretta Guagliardo to narrate the fashion show, which featured their daughters: Air Force Lt. Col. Julie Hudson and Gayle Guyardo, plus Gayle's four daughters.
Other models: City Council member John Dingfelder; HSN senior manager Jan Radcliff; Army Sgt. Elena Sanchez-Coates; Bay News 9's Jessica Schwarzkopf; Tampa Bay Lightning cheerleader Megan Shelley and WFLA-Ch. 8's Leigh Spann.
Friends of Joshua House
No peanuts or Cracker Jack at elegant Cirque du Sonsoles. Mise en Place served cauliflower and crab bisque, beef tenderloin and goat cheese cheesecake at this dinner benefit named for the Avila street where hosts Mary Ann Stiles and Barry Smith reside.
Joshua House Foundation's Circle of Friends widened as 118 supporters dined beneath two enormous grandfather oaks strung with colorful paper lanterns April 3. Ribbon dancers and stilt walkers led the way to poolside cocktails, where a performer floated on the water inside a giant plastic globe. During dinner, a contortionist mesmerized the crowd.
Co-chairs Anita Shuler and Melanie Bavol dropped ticket prices from $500 to $350 this year but still netted $54,500 for Joshua House programs to help neglected and abused children who are removed from their homes.