A garden party

Peonies, mint juleps and mingling

They gathered on a springtime Sunday afternoon, donning their garden attire and their hat. This fundraiser for the Allerton gardens was also a celebration of the newness of spring. Those who came out had a wonderful afternoon of strolling through the brick wall gardens, the peony garden, and bulb garden listening to live music and having great conversation with friends old and new.

There was food and drink, too. A seafood station that featured oysters on the half shell, tombo poke with sesame ponzu and wakame, and spicy scallop poke with fresh ginger and chive blossoms. There was also a grilling station with braised pork shoulder, smoked chicken thigh and German potato salad with bacon jam and fennel. There were also vegetarian options. The drinks were very unique and guests really enjoyed them. They had a complimentary mint julep, mojitos and other drink samples, like a wonderful grapefruit wine that was served by the some 68 varieties of peonies.

In the late afternoon, strollers enjoyed Pies by Inge and Prairie Fruits Farm gelato in the meadow area.                      

Artists created masterpieces while garden partiers watched and took part in the creation by showing interest and support of the “plein air”- French for the act of painting outdoors- artisans. Beth and Martin Saupe, of Merrybeth Farm Carriage Service gave rides with the help of powertrain horsepower of the four-legged kind, Rooster Cogburn and Lonesome Dove, who gently snorted and nuzzled the garden party attendees.

A unique auction of both silent bidding and an actual live auction-with auctioneer Randy Ott- took place in the meadow tent. There were 50 auction items like fine art, pies, centerpieces, overnight stay packages at Allerton, wine, flowers, jewelry and a bird watching kit. Excitement was everywhere. There was live music from the Chip McNeil Band, too!

Director of development, Bridget Frerichs is no stranger to fund-raising. She worked for as a special events coordinator on the popular Crisis Nursery Holiday Shop fundraiser, which is very successful. A Garden Party is now in its fourth year. It’s a unique experience that gives garden supporters a chance to enjoy part of their monetary gift, because half of the $80 ticket price is purely a donation. (It’s also tax deductible.)

“It’s a fundraiser built into the ticket price. Plus, it supports the bulb garden endowment. The gardens require lots of intricate work,” she said.

She said that fundraising is something that is built over time.

“Our first year was a “friend raiser.” We changed it from Friday night to Sunday afternoon,” Frerichs said.

She grew-up in Monticello. And she knows the value of Allerton, and the valuable resource it is to Central Illinois. She said many are working very hard to get this information out to those who may not have ventured out to rural Monticello to Allerton.

“I would also like to thank the support of director Bruce Branham and associate director Derek Peterson,” Frerichs said.

Besides special events like A Garden Party, Allerton has space for weddings, meetings and other events. They also have gardens and natural areas for hiking and enjoyment. They also have a concert series that includes Irish Fest, the Prairie Sky Music Festival, a Campfire Jamboree and a Music Barn Festival, among others. They have children’s summer day camps, an Allerton Annual Family Campout and Exploration and Allerton’s Annual Children’s Concert Series.

For more information go to allerton.illinois.edu.