The Palm Beach Zoo’s annual dinner dance brought all kinds of wild and untamed creatures to the Mar-a-Lago Club.
Oh, and there were some animals there, too.
The aptly named Wild Thing benefit took place Friday night and was one of the season’s more, um, “celebratory” events.
Michele Kessler and her daughter-in-law Jennifer were chairwoman and co-chairwoman for the evening, which began with a poolside cocktail reception that featured live zoo animals such as New Guinea Singing Dogs — dingo-like critters that howl in harmony — a Hoffman’s two-toed sloth, and an African crested porcupine.
It also featured a signature vodka-based cocktail, a couple of which would make even the most dignified guest give those howlin’ hounds a run for their money.
Not that we would knoOOOWWww.
After cocktails, the sold-out crowd moved to the ballroom, decorated in the wildlife theme with jungle-like centerpieces and over-sized reproductions of Helmut Koller’s wildlife paintings on the walls. “Wow, they really look great,” Koller said, as he looked up at his handiwork, then laughed and said, “I didn’t know I was that good.”
Jamie Niven of Sotheby’s America conducted the live auction, which offered Super Bowl tickets, a private catered dinner for 100 provided by Buccan and Outback; a ‘forget-me-knot’ parure designed by Christopher Kaufmann, a luxury 16-person box at a Miami Heat game, and the naming rights to one of the zoo’s prized panther kittens, won by Amy and John Phelan.
The panther will be named “Why did you let me bid that much?”
OK, no, it won’t.
After the auction, the evening continued with dinner and dancing to the music of Soul Survivor, which went on until even the Singing Dogs couldn’t keep up anymore.
More than 500 people attended, including honorary chairwomen Lillian Fernandez, Karin Luter and Carol Mack; Tom Quick and Whitney Bylin, event committee chairman and chairwoman; auction chairwoman Samantha Storkerson; and Candy and Bill Hamm, Helga Wagner and the aforementioned Koller, just back from Europe.
That last part? Totally made up.
Proceeds from the evening — more than $1.2 million — assist the Zoological Society of the Palm Beaches in its mission to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat through endangered species propagation, education, health and wellness, field research, and conservation medicine; and assist the Palm Beach Zoo in its mission to provide an open-air classroom of living creatures to foster awareness, appreciation and respect for the natural world.