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Guests enjoying the champagne reception.

More than 360 guests attended our 31st annual Opening Night Party and Auction at the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival on February 19. They helped us raise over $320,000 for Washington Park Arboretum—breaking last year’s record by about $15,000!

Mediterranean Dreams” began with a champagne reception in the South Atrium Lobby of the Washington State Convention Center. While enjoying the reception, guests had the opportunity to sign up for unique experiences, such as a bird walk in the Arboretum with local naturalist Larry Hubbell.

Guests previewing the display gardens.

Then the doors of the Exhibit Hall opened, and guests savored an exclusive first-look at the Garden Festival’s fabulous displays. They also participated in a tantalizing silent auction and were entertained by belly dancers from Raks Malika.

When it was time for dinner and the live auction, the belly dancers led guests on a procession to the dining area in the Skybridge Lobby. As everyone settled into their meal, Arboretum Foundation Board President Jason Morse and Interim Director Jane Stonecipher welcomed our guests and thanked our event partners and sponsors.

Belly dancers performing in the garden area.

The talented and funny Graham Crow returned as our auctioneer this year and guided the audience through an enticing live auction that included a “speakeasy” in the Arboretum (on April 11, 2019) to celebrate the 80th birthday of Director Emeritus Dr. John Wott, as well as a trip to the Antarctic for two.

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Our Honorees: Arboretum Units
Read some background information on the units and a timeline of their key accomplishments. In the photo is Unit 95 – TWIGS, which sponsored a table at the 2019 Opening Night Party.[/framed_box]

Our guest speaker, UW Director of Regional and Community Relations Sally Clark, gave a wonderful speech, paying tribute to the impact of the Arboretum Foundation Units. She provided a short history of the Units, who for 80 years have provided vital funding and volunteer support to the Arboretum, and also created many of its most successful programs.

Guests enjoying the dinner and program.

Sally also talked about how inspiring the Units story is to current and future generations of Arboretum supporters. “For many years, the Units were the primary vehicles for women’s voices to be heard—and for women to take leadership roles—in the Arboretum. They blazed a trail here, and their efforts as volunteers paved the way for today’s generation of professional women decision makers.”

Sally then led a toast in honor of Unit members, quite a number of whom were present as party guests. Volunteers passed out roses to each of the Unit members, and then musicians and dancers from Oleaje Flamenco gave a stunning surprise performance in their honor. (See the YouTube video of the full performance below.)

Oleaje Flamenco performing as part of the toast to the units.

To give the Arboretum Foundation Units’ story some personal perspective, Sally invited Meg Harry of Unit 52—the Couples Unit—to the stage. Meg spoke about her parents, Mary Joan and David Hervey, also of Unit 52, and her childhood memories of helping out with the Arboretum plant sale in the 1970s.

Meg talked about how important the Arboretum has been to her family over the years, as a place to come together. She described how her parents’ legacy of love and support for the Arboretum has passed down through her (along with joining Unit 52, Meg has also served on our Board of Directors) to her children, two of whom were students at the Fiddleheads Forest School here.

Meg Harry speaking about her family’s legacy as part of Unit 52.

“I grew up feeling like the Arboretum was my family’s special place,” said Meg, “and now the third generation is growing up with it as theirs. I hope each of you, and our whole community, realize that the Arboretum is ours. It is yours, it is mine, it is our children’s. It is worth preserving, enjoying, celebrating and caring for. Please, this year, make the Arboretum yours. Make it part of your legacy. Love it, use it, share it, and make sure to help pass it on to your next generations.”

After Meg’s speech, Graham led a raise-the-paddle that resulted in more than $110,000 in gifts to the Arboretum! 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.

Our “Mediterranean Dreams” party program.

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

The Arboretum we all love and cherish would be unimaginable without the dedication of such a wonderful community of people who—like our Units—donate their time, resources, and effort to help this special place thrive.

EVENT PHOTOS: Top, Niall Dunne; all others, David Rosen, SlickPixPhotography.