Photo by Ziva Agel

I admit it.  I am a vintage girl at heart who should have been born in another era wearing gardenias in her hair, visiting supper clubs by night and dancing until the wee hours of the morning with the love of my life in a pinstripe suit under a full moon to a live swing band in the 1940’s.   So it may come as no surprise that I have always wanted to produce a 1940’s themed event.

When The Howard School in Carpinteria asked me to plan their 2011 Annual Fundraiser Event, I wanted to come up with something fresh.   In this economy and with so many organizations in need and demanding money from the masses, my vision was to create an “escape” for the guests and provide an “experience”.  I wanted to break the tradition of simply having guests pay a ticket price, eat dinner, bid on auction items , and if they were lucky, maybe have a little dancing at the end.  Of course, we needed to raise money, but I felt that if the “fun” was returned to “fundraiser”, the money would follow.  And it did.  We not only met the financial goal of the school – we exceeded it.  It also proved to be the single most successful fundraiser in years for The Howard School.  This is the moment when all things come together personally and professionally and I truly love what I do.  And with the teamwork of two dynamic chairs in charge of the “money” component – tirelessly raising money, and my contribution for the event /fun element, it is no wonder this fundraiser was uniquely successful.

The Vision: to create a vibe that would take guests back to the 1940’s to participate in a guest-interactive murder mystery, incredible dinner, swing dance lessons for guests and dancing.

The Location: The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

The Event Supply Partner All-Star “Cast”: Catering Connection,    Ventura Party Rentals,    LBPS Events (lighting design & audio),     Stecker Entertainment (DJ/Music/Auctioneer),     PMaxwell Productions (professional acting troop & swing dancers/instructors),  Farmer’s West Florals,    Effloresce ,    Classic Motoring Car Rentals, and capturing the story as it unfolded this incredibly quintessential Santa Barbara day:  Ms. Ziva Agel, Photographer Extraordinaire to whom we owe every bit of credit for every image you see here on this page.

Photo by KLD

The Evening – Stepping Back in Time

As guests arrived in costume, they passed the gorgeous 1941 Cadillac provided by Classic Motoring Car Rentals on down across the rushing creek to the Silent Auction where they were greeted by characters from the murder mystery setting the “stage” with clues and getting guests guessing who the murderer was.  Tray-passed appetizers of Artichoke Fritters with Bearnaise Sauce, Ahi Tuna Tartar on Wonton Crisps with Wasabi Cream, Grilled Chicken Quesadilla with Queso Fresco & Cilantro greeted guests while they bid on Silent Auction items and tried to decipher which people were “real” guests and who may be the “guilty” party who would later commit the “murder”.


Photo by Ziva Agel

As the doors to Fleichmann Auditorium swung open to welcome guests to their dinner tables, each named after a popular 1940’s song (In the Mood, Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar, Stardust), guests heard the first few notes to “In the Mood” and professional swing dancers were on the dance floor to “strike up the mood”.  The Howard School logo was projected on the red theater curtains. Deluxe VIP’s had special “Boxed Seats” at the “supper club” with satin chair covers, red water goblets, complimentary wine and special service.  LBPS Events created a soft textured “wash” of light over the room, uplit the stage area, highlighted the buffet and bar areas and provided perfect audio for our actors, MC and auctioneer.  The succulent dinner buffet provided by Catering Connection and their incredible team included: Rosemary Chicken Breast, Roasted Red Pepper Suace, Grilled Tri Tip, Mexican Salsa, Fresh Seasonal Vegetable Medley, Tri Color Fusilli Pasta with Garlic Cream Sauce, Shepard Salad with Vegetable Toppings and Champagne Dressing, Freshly Baked Breads and Artisan Rolls, Mini Dessert Buffet and Coffee.

During dinner, the plot thickened and a “murder” was committed.  Guests were then accused of being guilty or asked their opinion on “whodunit”.  After dinner, the evening was masterfully orchestrated by local celebrity talent Gabe Saglie as the MC, skillfully guiding the Live Auction and rest of the evening’s festivities with grace.  Skip Stecker (aka “Glenn Miller”) put on a lively performance as the Auctioneer and the energy continued to heighten.  At the end of the evening, guests were treated to swing dance lessons and open dancing on the dance floor while a slide show played on the stage showing 1940’s images of popular movies, movie stars and themes.

DJ & Auctioneer Skip Stecker
(aka Glenn Miller)

MC & Talent Mr. Gabe Saglie