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Champagne reception.

More the 350 guests attended our 30th annual Opening Night Party & Auction on February 6. They helped us raise over $300,000 in support of the Arboretum and Seattle Japanese Garden—making it our most successful fundraiser ever!

The “Winter Garden Carnavale” began with a champagne reception in the South Atrium Lobby of the Washington State Convention Center, followed by a preview of the display gardens in the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival. Many guests got into the spirit of the evening, donning Carnavale masks and costumes.

Venetian masks.

When it was time for dinner and the live auction, stilt-walking performers from Animate Objects led guests on a procession to the dining area in the Skybridge Lobby. As our guests settled into their meals, opera singers dressed as waiters performed a surprise flash-mob rendition of the famous brindisi (drinking song) from Verdi’s La Traviata, in honor of the 30th year of the Garden Festival.

Our guest speaker, UW Director of Regional and Community Relations Sally Clark, gave a wonderful speech, paying tribute to two visionaries—Duane Kelly, the founder of the Garden Festival, and Iain Robertson, the designer of the Witt Winter Garden in the Arboretum, which like the Festival, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Stilt-walking performer.

Duane and Iain were present at the party as our honorees, and Sally thanked them for their foresight and talked about how “the investments they made 30 years ago are still impacting us—and our whole Seattle community—in positive ways today.”

Sally was then joined on the podium by our second guest speaker, UW Botanic Gardens’ School-Age Programs Coordinator at the Arboretum, Cait McHugh. Cait inspired the crowd with her personal story and her speech about the importance of connecting children to nature at an early age.

Opera flash mob.

“When we invest in special places like the Winter Garden, we continue to reap the benefits 30 years later and beyond,” said Cait. “Similarly, the early experiences that we provide to kids….can blossom and bear fruit, and eventually those benefits pass on to the next generation.”

After the speeches, auctioneer Graham Crow led a raise-the-paddle that resulted in more than $140,000 in gifts to the Arboretum—an increase of over $50,000 compared to 2017. At the end of the dinner and auction program, our guests returned to the main exhibit hall for one last look at the display gardens.

Enjoying the gardens.

THANK YOU to our incredibly generous guests for their commitment to mission of Washington Park Arboretum! A special thanks to our guests speakers, our event sponsors, our event co-chairs Carol Hoerster and Jenny Wyatt, our event committee, all the businesses and individuals who donated to our live and silent auctions, our table sponsors—and last but not least, our amazing volunteers!

It takes a village, and we are so fortunate to have such a dedicated community of people who donate their time, resources, and effort to help the Arboretum thrive.

Enjoying the gardens.