Our gal experiences the estuary and hits Brandywine Conservancy’s ruby anniversary celebration, the Celebrity Chef’s Beach Brunch and more.

Hello, dahlings! Red brings excitement to the black-tie benefit scene. Anyone reluctant to dress to the nines kicked back during brunches and such.

Imagine an exhibition preview party where strangers start smiling at each other, affected by the sheer delight of the imagery. A magical watercolor and gouache on paper called “Rabbit Among the Fairies” by John Anster Fitzgerald—plus more than 100 other works by world-famous illustrators­—will do that to ya. A tuft-haired Jamie Wyeth was among the enthusiasts at “Flights into Fantasy: The Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection of Children’s Illustrations,” which recently showed at the Brandywine River Museum. Earlier, Allan Daniel himself, of Bergen County, New Jersey, gave Jamie the lowdown on how the golden age of folklore evolved. The two men stood near a sketch of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.

“There are very few American fairy and fantasy paintings. The British really developed that field,” Allan told Jamie. “The basic period was 1860 to 1940. Then Disney animation changed quality into a more cartoon-y approach.”

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Guests re-lived the wondrous world of childhood through works featuring Peter Rabbit, French elephants Babar and Celeste, and that red-haired rag doll Raggedy Ann. “I saved a whole roomful of children’s books,” recalled Jeana Levinthal of Kent Crosslands, Pennsylvania. “The only one who was interested in them was my daughter, who didn’t have children.”

Redheads Rock
Make way for the reign of the redheads. When The Return of Pre-Raphaelites Gala lit up the Delaware Art Museum, a copper-coiffured Tatiana Copeland, the event’s chair, scored a coup in snagging Sir David Manning, ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, plus his wife, Lady Manning, as guests of honor. We must also observe that a conspicuous number of the long-tressed ladies in the oil-on-canvas paintings by Daniel Gabriel Rossetti happen to be regal-looking redheads. So it was no coincidence that Tanya enlisted her husband, Gerret Copeland, chairman of the museum board’s executive committee, to “adopt” the most sensuous of the group, Rosetti’s “Lady Lilith,” on her behalf. “A love token” was Tanya’s phrase for Gerret’s gesture.

A few FYIs: The Copelands have always been big patrons of the art museum. The night’s champagne reception was held in the Gerret and Tatiana Copeland Wing. And “adopt” does not mean that a painting’s sponsor gets to take the piece home and display it on special occasions. It means that a plaque with the sponsor’s name will hang next to it for a year. That small restriction didn’t stop Peggy Woolard, the event’s other chair, and her husband, Edgar S. Woolard Jr., from adopting “Veronica Veronese,” a pensive redhead. According to Tanya, “We refer to the Pre-Raphaelites as our stunners.” Back in the Victorian era, the models—some of whom were taken off the streets and asked to pose—must have been the Nicole Kidmans of their day.

Danielle Rice, the museum’s executive director, pronounced herself delighted with the collection’s re-installment after a two-year international tour. Ambassador Manning, who cut the ribbon of velvety red rose petals, was similarly impressed. “It’s quite an achievement on the part of the Copelands,” he remarked.

Such kudos aside, fashion-on-parade emerged as an integral part of the evening. Female guests who were stunners in their own right included curator Margaretta Frederick in a strapless lilac gown with pleated bodice and her sister Rebecca Frederick, who went trendy in a short, sexy red dress with criss-cross straps in back. Alicia Stein of Centreville looked sumptuous in a pumpkin-colored silk shantung coat enhanced with an aquamarine-and-diamond necklace and matching ring. Martha Carper chose a black, camisole-topped dress and matching shawl while her friend Carol Rothschild, a trustee, stood out in a textured, garnet-colored dinner suit. Carol avoids black, she told Gabby. “I only have a few years left, and then I’ll be in black forever.”

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Many of the nearly 130 guests, who soldiered on to the five-course, Victorian-inspired banquet, sit on the museum’s board or the newly formed Rosetti Circle: Irenee du Pont May, Kathy and Daniel Kristol, Aimee and Charles Elson, Jan Jessup, Donald Puglisi, Phyliss and Norman Aerenson, Carol Ammon, David Baldt, Steve Boyden, Donald DeWees Sr., Siobhan and Henry Fulton III, and Dr. Paula Malone. (Some members have been listed with accompanying spouses).

About 150 works comprise the Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Jr. Collection of Pre-Raphaelite Art. Asked for a favorite, Rice demurred, “That would be like a mother choosing among her children.”

Ruby Slippers—and Tuxes
Crimson, garnet, red. Whatever you call that visceral color, The Ruby Anniversary of the Brandywine Conservancy (formed in 1967) practically sent a message that said “You go, gang!” to those enamoured of theme dressing. And why not, since the special occasion was a masked ball? Frolic Weymouth—the conservancy’s founder—was  front-and-center in the museum’s courtyard, wearing a top hat and red sequined Mummers’ coat, festooned in feathers, that one guest described as “very Elton John.” Frolic always shines in the spotlight, and this time his flair evidently inspired guys to follow suit, fashion-wise. There was Nathan Hayward, a party benefactor, in a red fedora, red sunglasses and a red velvet suit with zebra-striped lapels. Brett Jones, outgoing president of Young Friends of the Brandywine, glued red sequins on his shoes and converted his tux into a red-sequined jacket with a helping hand from the family babysitter. Tinted red lighting illuminated the 773 revelers. And, if you want to stretch that color motif into culinary pleasures, shrimp salad, salmon and a crepe enhanced the theme.

Crabby for a Cause
Crab cakes are always a crowd pleaser, and fans of that particular crustacean had plenty to feast on at the Celebrity Chefs’ Beach Brunch held (where else?) at Crabbers Cove in Ruddertowne. Jennifer Robino of Rehoboth Beach—chic in a fluttery, scarf-print tunic over pants—and her mother, Snookie Kennedy of Dover, decked out in turquoise jewelry, munched on lobster-crab cakes by Blair White & Shelly Wooters, the culinary whizzes at Victoria’s at the Boardwalk Plaza. Busy Jen, a fixture on the black-tie scene, had just added chair of the Sussex County Heart Ball in February to her benefit dossier. “When she was little, she used to lead parades,” Snookie said. Cindy DelGiorno, new wife of Wilmington filmmaker Gordon DelGiorno, praised Victoria’s pan-seared crabcakes, too. “I better say I like them, because we’re getting married in a week and I don’t want any friction,” Gordon joked. Meanwhile, William S. “Bill” Lee moved in on the lamb loin with wild mushroom risotto from Atlantic Seafood Grille. This complicated further choices. “By the time I got to the crabcakes, I was full. Then I had to go downstairs for some gelato to settle my stomach,” Bill said.

Jennifer Melvin and Brian Tharan and Margot and Tom Williams, Wilmingtonians all, turned out to share similar food preferences. Scrambled eggs with goat cheese and nasturtiums by David Lynch of Classic Catering got their vote. So did the chocolate-covered cherries served by Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. “Once I did the chocolate-covered cherries, it was over for me,” Margot raved. Maybe Gabby, who hates chocolate-covered cherries, should have tried one.

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A River Runs Through It
“Hey, is this the Delaware table?” asked  Bob Tudor, of the Delaware River Basin Commission, as he stopped by en route to dessert at the Experience the Estuary Celebration. Sure ’nuff, hands went up, including those of Joanne Ruft and Nancy Parker, retirees of Artesian Water Co. in Newark, and Alfred Taylor, who grew up at 7 Red Oak Road near Rockford Park. “It was a different neighborhood back then. People weren’t as into landscaping. They let their dogs roam free,” reminisced Alfred, who now heads Greenspire Associates in

Kennett Square


“The Delaware: A Living River, A Working River” was the theme of the fundraiser for the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. Almost 400 supporters basked in the stunning party site: the neoclassical Turbine Hall, which dominates the rehabilitated  Wharf at Rivertown overlooking the Delaware in Chester, Pennsylvania. Turtles were the silent auction’s artistic theme. Corporate sponsors pitched in galore. So why doesn’t the partnership enjoy the same high profile as similar non-profits here?

According to interim executive director Jennifer Adkins, “We would love to have a heightened awareness of the estuary. We do our best to get the word out, but the Delaware Bay and the Delaware River are better known.” Folks, thump that tub. More than 200 species of fish and the world’s largest breeding population of horseshoe crabs will thank you.

Ta-ta, ’til next time.

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