A Who's Who of Winnipeg streamed through the frosty air into the Fort Garry Hotel's 100th birthday party -- a cocktail party the likes of which hasn't haunted the hotel in a century. Greeters in formal suits placed flying gold balloons into each guest's hand with 67 fancy prizes to be won -- including hotel sleepovers and Ten Spa packages. Then they squished into elevators giggling like little kids, with their balloons bobbing all the way to the the double ballroom bash on the seventh floor. What a way to end a Tuesday work day!
Shimmering in warm gold decor and lighting, with a glassed-in oyster bar hidden off to one side, the party space invited guests to seek out stations loaded with yummy finger foods and bubbly around the rooms. You have rarely seen a friendlier party. In fact, Variety Club mischief-maker Wayne Rogers was spotted with University of Manitoba's Wendy Kramer inhaling a helium balloon and singing a duet starting, "We're off to see the wizard!" You know the one.
Entertainment included José Poinera, who played the Palm Room piano bar for many years, and sax god Walle Larsson. The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra closed the show.
Spotted: "James Bond" with a martini "shaken not stirred" (played by Leon Alexander of Scheme-a-Dream) and two Bond Girls, one on each arm. Making the sophisticated social scene in the ballrooms: Rick Watts, 59, just named Manitoba's Male High School Athlete of the Half Century, Heritage Winnipeg's Cindy Tugwell, film commissioner Kenny Boyce, Mann Assurance honcho David Mann, Genny Sacco-Bak from the Manitoba Arthritis Foundation; city councillors Russ Wyatt, Dan Vandal, Jenny Gerbasi and Jeff Browaty. Winnipeg Free Press publisher Bob Cox, city editor Shane Minkin, associate editor Julie Carl and former managing editor Murray Burt made the scene along with Fort Whyte Honcho Jackie Stephens, Tina Jones of Banville & Jones Wine Co. , Mike Pepe and Maria Nucci Pepe of Nucci's Gelati, CancerCare's Anita Stenning, philanthropists John and Bonnie Buhler, the WSO's Lisa Abram, Manitoba Gardener's Dorothy Dobbie, artist Jordan Van Sewell, and band leader Danny Kramer on a rare night off from playing Christmas parties and weddings. CIBC Wood Gundy's Bob Vandewater got off the elevator with a smile as did, St. Andrews Society board member Tim Flook, and St. Charles Country Club GM Cameron Gray.
MYSTERY DINNER AT $125. The Residents of the Exchange District (R:ED) were all abuzz waiting for taxis coming to take them to a Mystery Dinner on Tuesday night organized by executive director John Giavedoni -- a chartered accountant by day. So much for the boring accountant jokes! The group's December event is always a dinner party, but this year he wanted to create "a truly extraordinary New York-style experience." He enlisted the culinary talent of chef Alejandro Mora to cater the event (Psst! Mora's the GM for the new Carnaval Brazilian BBQ restaurant opening on Waterfront Drive in January.) Thirty six residents paid $125 in advance for the five-course dinner, not knowing where they were going or what it was, only that they would depart from the lobby of the Fairmont.
Eight taxi cabs snaked through the Exchange District to ensure that everyone was lost and confused before pulling up to a deserted-looking building on Higgins Avenue. Residents stepped inside with a chorus of "Wow!" to discover that The Graffiti Gallery, had been transformed into an elegant dining room. Fortified with Prosecco and hors d'oeuvres, guests wandered the surprisingly intimate two-story warehouse to discover white-linen covered tables, candles and an eight piece orchestra playing Christmas music. Tables were arranged between large-scale structural art installations by emerging Winnipeg artists. Residents enjoyed the unique dinner with wine pairings by De Luca Fine Wines. Guests included Tia Provici of Provici Cosmetics, City Councillor Mike Pagtakhan, Brick's Fine Furniture owner Cynthia Brick, Western Financial Group's VP Justin Friesen, PCGI Consulting's Taisa Monastyrski, IKEA's Danda Santos, Scollin Design's John Scollin, Exchange Community Church's Doug Wiebe, artist Christian Worthington and Message Communication's Deborah Zanke.
Giavedoni said he does these dinners "to create community. People think that living downtown must be cold and lonely. Not in the Exchange District! We are working to build a warm community environment where you can walk down the street to your bank, coffee shop, restaurant or concert, and bump into neighbours that you know. I have had three different couples tell me they know more neighbours in the Exchange than they ever did in the suburbs. That is what R:ED is all about!"
ST. KNICKERS MONTH: During the next two weeks, the The BraBar & Panterie is accepting lightly used bras and money donations to purchase panties that will be donated to Siloam Mission and Chez Nous Drop-In Centre -- and they could do with much more help. "Last year we donated 364 bras and 404 panties to Siloam Mission" says Crystal Cunard of the BraBar. "We really need lightly used bras of ANY sizes. But panties are really more important! A higher need is money for new underwear, it's at the top of the needs list at Our Place Chez Nous drop-in centre and Siloam Mission. Even $5 goes a long way, but more would be appreciated. This year, we're going to Giant Tiger, a Canadian business, to try to get the best deals we can." Kind folks can drop off donations at 554 DesMeurons Street: (204) 231-3487.
Got tips, events, sightings, unusual things going on? Call Maureen's tip line at 474-1116, email to Maureen.Scurfield@Winnipegfreepress.com, or send letters to Maureen Scurfield, c/o The Insider, 1355 Mountain Ave., R2X 3B6