Bayside society party benefits Cook Library

A sea of fancy hats, floral sundresses and fast cars overtook the Bay Shore side of campus for the 31st Annual Pique Nique Sur La Baie. The event took place on Wednesday, April 2 and attracted more than 500 members of the Sarasota community. They mingled with NCF students, faculty and staff, while supporting the college and raising money for the Jane Bancroft Cook Library.

A catwalk, surrounded by three tents, led from the patio stairs of College Hall towards the bay. Guests chatted while sipping flutes of champagne and bidding on auction items.

Michael’s On East served attendees Coquilles St. Jacques nestled in a conch shell, sauteed haricot verts along with an appetizer of Italian breads, walnut-raisin bread and bread sticks. Dessert was strawberries and whipped cream crepes with strawberry sauce and mint.

“It takes my breath away,” President of New College Donal O’Shea said. “I’m always surprised at how fun it is.”

Though, Pique-Nique is a long-running event, this year’s incarnation saw a lot of firsts. For one, the committee that works with the new College foundation to stage the event had its first male- co-chair, Chip Gaylor. He will remain as co-chair next year along with his partner chair Marjorie Floyd. Additionally, Red Carpet Sarasota, a local entertainment group that covers high society shindigs in the city, spent the first hour interviewing and photographing the guests.

Like last year, the New College Foundation and the Pique Nique Board partnered with The Met, a self-proclaimed fashion emporium and spa, located on St. Armands. The Met donated gifts and curated the fashion show. Last year’s Pique Nique was immensely successful for the Foundation, raising more than $55,000 for the NCF library.

“It was a smashing success,” Floyd said. “The crowd was so responsive and it was the perfect way to showcase New College.”

“We were lucky to be able to stand on the shoulders of committees that came before us,” Gaylor added. “It’s a true labor of love.”

The show and the clothes were thematically divided into different scenes and Scene Three, entitled “Safari Sexy” featured an African American man without a shirt hitting a bongo drum while yelling what was apparently meant to be a tribal chant. Second-year Raina Nelson, who was invited by the Chair of the Board of Trustees Bill Johnston and his wife Betsy, is a lover and follower of high fashion and found the scene problematic but not unexpected.

“I felt kind of odd about it, but then at the same time I could also see [The Met’s] program director saying something like ‘this could be really interesting and edgy,’” Nelson said. “I didn’t appreciate it … I know what they were trying to do, I know a lot about fashion, but it wasn’t a necessary part of the entertainment.”
According to Shannon Duvall, the Foundation’s executive director and Vice President of Advancement, The Met was completely in charge of designing and executing the fashion show itself.

“The first time [we] saw the show was actually at the event,” Duvall explained. “I’m sorry if any of our guests felt uncomfortable, that certainly is not something that I would want to promote.

“The addition of the live music [compared to last year’s event] not only the drum, but the guitar, the strings … was intended to energize the fashion show,” Duvall added. “The various segments of the fashion show fit with current fashion trends and fit with what the designers are showing and what’s at the Met.”

Despite the mixed reviews for the fashion show, Pique Nique was overall labeled a success. The event more than doubled in sponsorships between 2013 and 2014, Duvall said, and there were more than 100 first time guests and potential donors in attendance.

“This [was] the 31st Annual Pique Nique Sur La Baie,” Duvall said. “While its rooted in tradition, it’s still evolving and it is a major fundraiser for the college. It’s a great way to introduce members of the Sarasota-Bradenton community and get them involved.”

Nelson also described the experience as interesting and memorable.

“It’s not something that I thought I would experience in college,” Nelson said. “I really liked having the opportunity to see who is in the community, who is powerful in our community and socializing with these people.”

As this issue went to press, the Foundation has not finalized the amount that was fundraised by the event and was not willing to print an estimated amount.

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