Visitors packed into the galleries on Saturday for a free Founders Day event celebrating the half-century mark for the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, and its anniversary exhibition, Monet to Matisse — On the French Coast.
Connoisseurs crowded the Marly Room, the conservatory and a spacious tent north of the museum for sold-out wine events; organizers estimated they raised more than $700,000.
Over three days, various areas of the museum were transformed into Parisian scenes from Maxim's to Cafe Montmartre, complete with a can-can line.
Five years in, the Margaret Acheson Stuart Society's Wine Weekend St. Pete is the institution's premier fundraiser. With stars Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset as guests of honor at Friday's "Dinner at Maxim's" VIP dinner, black-tie patrons indulged in a re-creation of the Paris restaurant. There was more French flair from Tampa's own Nicholas Allen, of Chateau Haut-Brion and Carte Blanche.
Culinary dream team Michel Cornu, director of cuisine and hospitality for the Boisset Family Estates, and Tyson Grant from Parkshore Grill oversaw the gourmet menus.
At a marathon auction under that tent, a confetti cannon fired each time donors bid more than $10,000 on one of 75 lots.
After Friday night's formality, Saturday's affair was glimmering casual glamour. Co-chairwoman and Chanel devotee Patricia Rossignol was in vintage white Friday and in sleek shiny silver and black at the auction; co-chairman John William Barger III wore a sequin-yoked Western shirt fresh off the Paul Smith runway. Auctioneers Tom DuPont and Jeff Burchard wore a paint-spattered "drop cloth" suit and tuxedo with red tie, respectively.
There were great bottles, including a lot of 2009 Haut-Brion and other top cru Bordeaux and Burgundy. A case of Napa 1985s and more came from the cellars of Allen, Boisset, Mary and Tom James, Marianne and Mark Mahaffey, Fran and Bud Risser, Chris and Bob Hilton, Helen and Peter Rudy Wallace and the Stuart Society board.
"Everything went over value," Barger reported.
Also auctioned were dinners combined with fine wines in the homes of Dr. Jean-Francois and Patricia Rossignol, MFA director Kent and Toni Lydecker and MFA chief curator Jennifer Hardin and Emmanuel Roux.
The biggest money went for tours of Northern California ($25,000) and another of Paris and Burgundy ($70,000), both to be hosted by Boisset and Gallo.
And both were so popular they sold twice, leaving the vintners beaming.
The couple spent the weekend in town, for a bottle-signing at Mazzaro's, an after-party at the Birchwood and a trip to the Dalí.
It was Gallo's first visit, and she left impressed: "The people, the energy, it's awesome," she said.
Sunday's brunch in the Marly Room was leisurely, with the doors open to the museum gardens and patrons lingering into the afternoon.
Helping to coordinate all that magic were many volunteers, sponsors and museum staff members.
The committee organizing the events included Stuart Society president Gail Phares, Candy Scherer Sharp, Carol Russell, Carol Treichel, Chris Hilton, Dawn Zachman, Dr. Lee Ann Brown, Elise Minkoff, Gerry Davidson, Jacqueline Chapman, Joann Barger, Lea Newman, Liz Heinkel, Maggi McQueen, Nancy Dunn, Pamela Barger, Pascale Durand and Susan Taylor.
Additional volunteers were Anne Smith, Barbara Zaccaria, Benjaporn Muhlhausen, Carol Piper, Carolyn Warren, Cary Rahall, Eric Lang Peterson, Jean Cantanese, Judy Jourdan, Lisa Johni, Liz Curry, Mary Anna Murphy, Mercedes Lavalla, Roseanna Costa, Ruth Kent, Sharon Withers and Virginia Ward.
Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg honored Five Fabulous Females at its eighth annual Friends and Flowers luncheon, held in the pavilion at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort.
The honors went to Stephanie Goforth, Northern Trust's president for the west coast of Florida; Rhea Law, chief executive of Fowler White Boggs; Sonia Raymund, community volunteer and philanthropist; Gayle Sierens, news anchor at WFLA-TV, Ch. 8; and Martha Rudy Wallace, educational leader.
The women received introductions from Academy Prep students Gabrielle Preudhomme, Robert Crabb, Amari Royal, Richard Spearman and Camryn Newton. Raymund, who was introduced by Royal, pledged to pay for her high school education.
Guests also heard from board chairman Joe Bourdow, head of school Gina Tanase Burkett, trustee John Erik Savitsky and emcee Jennifer Leigh.
Chris Duerson led the event committee, which included Michelle Cohen, Carol Fisher, Kimberly Jackson, Annica Keeler, Debbie Kobernick, Linda Marcelli, Marlene Peterson, Renee Savage, Georgine Savitsky, Debbie Sembler, Diane Sembler Kamis, Liz Sembler, Shelly Silverberg and Stephanie Stein.
Times correspondent Chris Sherman contributed to this report.