The Sizzling Hot Pink Saratoga Hat Luncheon

DSC_0617The Race Course was pink and pretty on Friday for Fabulous Fillies Day, the annual celebration of women’s contributions to the thoroughbred industry and fundraising event for The Breast Cancer Research Association. Pops of magenta could be found all over the track, but none were quite as bright as the glittering scene at the Sizzling Hot Pink Saratoga Hat Luncheon.

For the second year in a row, fashion powerhouse ESCADA presented the event and dazzled guests with a wonderland theme, covering the Pavilion with black and white décor. Guests arrived and were greeted with a glass of pink Moet and Chandon champagne, before eagerly making their way to the on site ESCADA boutique. We spotted Nancy DiCresce, Patty Riggi, Sandy Foley and Margie Rotchford poring over the luxurious fashion, hand selected by ESCADA stylists for the ladies of Saratoga. Also milling by the boutique were Suzanne Grande, Michele Funiciello, Mary Gatzemeyer, Mara King, Lisa Torani and Denise Dubois. Everything from sumptuous knits to equestrian inspired baubles were on display, with ESCADA donating 20% of all boutique sales to the BCRF.

DSC_0642 DSC_0628 DSC_0600 DSC_0625Standing regally at either side of the boutique, were two life size horse sculptures, handcrafted with reclaimed wood from Balinese artists. These globe trotting fillies made their way overseas to the US to be featured in ESCADA’s flagship store in New York City, before they were generously offered as an auction item for the luncheon. Michele Riggi will be taking home the two beauties with her winning bid, which raised an additional $5000 for the BCRF.

Maggie Wolfendale welcomed attendees as they took their seats for lunch, while beguiling models continued to glide by the tables, showcasing stunning couture gowns. President and CEO of NYRA Chris Kay introduced the luncheon’s honoree, Stella Thayer, whose accomplishments epitomize the spirit of Fabulous Fillies Day. Ms. Thayer was the first female president of the Thoroughbred Racing Association as well as being a past president and member of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, amongst her many other achievements. The program then went on to spotlight ‘Breast Cancer: How We are Winning the Race’ as guests heard from Margaret Mastrianni, Deputy Director of the BCRF and Dr. Larry Norton, the organization’s scientific director. Dr. Norton’s in depth discussion and Q&A session gave guests an incredible opportunity to ask about current trends and treatments in breast cancer, from one the fields leading experts.

In the audience were several of the luncheon’s honorary chairmen including Jane Golub, Patty Riggi, Michele Riggi, Nancy DiCresce, Julie Bonacio, Theresa Behrendt and Maureen Lewi. Also showing their support were Jane Wait, Joanne Adams, Terry Lee, Carole Tarantino, Mary Gavin, Kristie Roohan, Julie Johnson, Beth Alexander and Lisa Moser.The Sizzling Hot Pink luncheon continues to be one of the most well regarded events of the social season, easily attributed to its fabulous mix of fashion, philanthropy and racing.

DSC_0539 DSC_0525DSC_0605DSC_0545DSC_0566

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region Chef Challenge

The competition was hot last week at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region Chef Challenge at the Excelsior Springs with presenting sponsor MVP. Guests arrived promptly, not wanting to waste any sampling time, and filled the space happily chatting and mingling as they tasted the offerings in the new this year People’s Choice Cocktail Competition between Brown’s Malt Room and Capital City Gastropub.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is the oldest, largest and most effective youth mentoring organization in the United States and has been the leader in one-to-one youth service for more than a century, developing positive relationships that have a direct and lasting impact on the lives of young people. Big Brothers Big Sisters serves children, ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country – including NY’s Capital Region, and their mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported 1-to-1 relationships that change their lives for the better, and guests included many Big Brothers and Big Sisters who are helping change young lives today.

Once inside the ballroom, guests had a chance to sample bites from a number of local restaurants, each competing for the 2014 People’s Choice Award and the chance to compete in the Chef’s Challenge for next year. Competitors lined the walls of the ballroom and guests table hopped, enjoying samples from competitiors including DUO, Cafe Calabria, Carney’s Tavern, Lucas Confectionery, Carmen’s Cafe, Capital City Gastro Pub, Excelsior Springs, and Reel Seafood Co.

Before the judges took their seats, including international blogger, John “Doc” Sconzo and the owner of Crush & Cask in Saratoga, Patricia Novo, an intense bidding war started between Patty Riggi and Gary Dake for the fourth judge’s seat which was the single live auction item of the evening. Patty eventually was the victor, and took her judges seat for the 2014 Chef’s Challenge Competition. In this year’s competition, the 2013 Chef’s Challenge Champion, John Ireland of Saratoga Golf and Polo Club cooked head to head against the 2013 People’s Choice Champion, Joe Mazza of Prime at Saratoga National for the 2014 title using chocolate as the secret ingredient, donated by Hillcrest Foods, Inc. Kevin & Shanna from 99.5 the River Morning Show kept the crowd updated on the dishes, and judges shared their thoughts and favorites as the judges prepared an appetizer, entree and dessert for them to try.

It was a tough and very close competition to judge, but in the end Chef John Ireland pulled out a “three-peat” victory and will go on to compete once again next year in the 2015 Chef’s Challenge where he will compete against the chef from Excelsior Springs, who took home the People’s Choice Award this year, and was joined by the People’s Choice Cocktail Competition winner for 2014 Brown’s Malt Room.

Overall the event was a complete success, exceeding their goal of $35,000 by raising $37,700 all to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region.



Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Bow Ties and Bourbon Fundraiser

On Sunday, August 3rd, over 300 people filled the historic Canfield Casino in downtown Saratoga Springs to support the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Bow Ties and Bourbon fundraiser. Traditionally held the night before the Fasig Tipton Saratoga Sales, the TRF annual gala raises awareness and support for its programming. Founded in 1983, the TRF cares for over 950 retired race horses at 26 locations around the country. It also operates the TRF Second Chances program, through which inmates are taught to care for horses, providing the inmates with vital life and vocational skills and the horses with second careers as teachers.

Co-chaired by TRF board member Jerry Bilinski, DVM and renowned philanthropist and businessman, Ed Swyer, the gala garnered additional lead sponsorship from Bouchey Financial Group, Ltd. and Hogan Equine. An Honorary Committee of individual donors from around the Capital Region, as well as notable racing communities in Kentucky and Florida, gave generously to promote Thoroughbred aftercare, as well as the TRF Second Chances program. An event committee of seasoned volunteers lent time and talent to create a very special evening.

Photos provided by Lisa Miller, Studio di Luce

Photos provided by Lisa Miller, Studio di Luce

Photos provided by Lisa Miller, Studio di Luce

Photos provided by Lisa Miller, Studio di Luce

The Casino ballroom, adorned with farm tables, string lighting, and Mason jars bursting with sunflowers welcomed party-goers who spent the first hour of the evening in the regal parlor sampling bourbon generously donated by Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek and Basil Hayden. Sherry-Lehmann complemented the bar offerings with ample supplies of wine and Champagne. With drink in hand, guests were able to peruse the silent auction that boasted over 50 items, appealing both to the racing enthusiast and those who call Saratoga their home.

When guests entered the ballroom to the smooth sounds of Garland Nelson and Soul Session, they were greeted by a culinary palette presented by Hattie’s Restaurant that included Hattie’s famous fried chicken, mouthwatering ribs, and an array of salads that delivered the south to the north. Capturing the festivities were photographer Lisa Miller, who donated both a beautiful print from her exhibit The Foal Project, as well as her time that evening.

The highlight of the evening was the introduction of two TRF Second Chances graduates. Bryan Beccia, once incarcerated at the Blackburn Correctional Facility in Lexington, KY and now an exercise rider for Triple Crown Hopeful Ride on Curlin’, and Evelyn Spillman, once incarcerated at the Lowell Correctional Facility in Ocala, FL, and now an aspiring student, each shared stories of healing and redemption, as well as the quality equine education they received through the Second Chances program. Their stories had the audience on its feet for a standing ovation and inspired a flood of emotions that had people generously bidding in the live and impact auctions that followed.

Evelyn Spillman and Bryan Beccia on stage after their presentation Photos provided by Lisa Miller, Studio di Luce

Evelyn Spillman and Bryan Beccia on stage after their presentation Photos provided by Lisa Miller, Studio di Luce

Diana Pikulski, the VP for External Affairs at TRF, had this to say about the presentation, “Evelyn and Bryan told the TRF story in ways that made everyone feel in their hearts  why the program is so important and so deserving of public and racing support. The supporters in the room were absolutely elevated by the moment.”

The night wound down to the beat of Soul Session, as people danced in celebration of the horses and the important work of the TRF.

Saratoga Hospital’s 32nd Annual Summer Gala

Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson Photo courtesy of Image Photos and Events

Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson Photo courtesy of Image Photos and Events

Over 900 Saratogians fell down the rabbit hole together last Wednesday for Saratoga Hospital’s 32nd Annual Summer Gala. With picture perfect weather, the polo meadow was transformed into a spectacular wonderland as guests arrived at the “Mad Tea Party” themed event. Co-Chairs Chelsea Silver and Robin Dalton stood amongst the brightly colored oversized daisies and welcomed attendees as party goers admired the whimsical décor. Tiny glass bottles filled with iced tea and Harvest vodka adorned with bejeweled ‘drink me’ tags were passed as guests explored the tents, one featuring a stunning top hat hung from the ceiling and tiny tea party set high above the silent auction items and the other, featuring the queen of hearts and red and black touches.

The décor was complemented by the world class food from Jennie Jurkiewicz and Chef Shawn Nash and their team at Saratoga Casino and Raceway who took inspiration from the evening’s theme and offered guests everything from sumptuous lamb chops and seared tuna, to a dazzling display of tiny confections. Ed and Maureen Lewi, Mike and Marlene Okby, Greg and Suzanne Grande, Rod and Amy Sutton, Delores and Frank Parillo and Sylvia and Paul Heiner were all spotted making their way through the tents before the live auction began.

Sonny Bonacio, Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Linda Toohey Photo courtesy of Image Photos and Events

Sonny Bonacio, Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Linda Toohey Photo courtesy of Image Photos and Events

Mary Gavin, Jim LaVigne, Dolores Parillo Photo Courtesy of Image Photos and Events

Mary Gavin, Jim LaVigne, Dolores Parillo Photo Courtesy of Image Photos and Events

The live auction at this Gala in particular is always one of the most impressive of the season, and this year did not disappoint. The bidding got off to a strong start with Jenn and Kyle Perry taking home a fabulous Miami Heat Package and continued to heat up as the evening progressed. Terry Amrosino will be enjoying a trip to see the Country Music Awards and Brian Crowley was thrilled to win Yankees Legends Tickets. When some particularly coveted items were up for bid, the action was so heated, emcee Terrence Collier was able to secure the donation of two items, thrilling the crowd. That was the case with the customized golf cart which was taken home by Kate Calbone and a very surprised Angelo Calbone as well as Rich and Mary Flaherty. The chef’s dinner donated by Bob and Mary Alice Lee at the Wishing Well was also won twice; once by long time hospital supporters Mike and Linda Toohey and then in a surprise move, Terry Lee donated herself as part of the dinner package and Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson raised their bid to $50,000 to win the dinner. The generosity of Mrs. Whitney and Mr. Hendrickson brought the crowd to its feet, as they thanked the event’s Honorary Chairs for their incredible donation towards Saratoga Hospital and the Community Health Resource Center.

Bob and Lisa Moser were the other high bidder’s of the evening and were spotted talking with Julie Bonacio after the auction about their new Orange County Chopper which Bob tells us will be displayed in his office on Railroad place. Several of the Gala’s previous chairs were on hand celebrating the evening including Mary Gavin and Jim Lavigne, Julie and Scott Johnson and Colleen and Skip Carlson as well as Dr. Phillip Fear, Dr. David Strauss, Frank and Colleen Messa, Lisa Stratton and others from CDPHP. Also in the crowd were Joe and Gloria Dalton, Candace and Charles Wait, Patty Riggi and Sandy Foley and Cara and Toby Milde. For the first time in over 15 years, Tom and Kristie Roohan were unable to attend the Gala but continued to give generously to the event, their box on Traver’s Day alone was auctioned for $5500! (Next year’s Gala Chairs tell us they have pledged to sync their calendars with the Roohans for the scheduling of the 2015 event.) Organizers were thrilled to net $298,000 from last Wednesday’s party, $22,000 over the 2014 goal. The money from the Summer Gala will go towards the operation of the Hospital’s Community Health Center which provides high quality medical, dental and behavioral health services to every member of the Saratoga community, regardless of their ability to pay.

Julie Fuller, Marcus Fuller, Matt Dalton, Jay Arnold Photo Courtesy of Image Photos and Events

Julie Fuller, Marcus Fuller, Matt Dalton, Jay Arnold Photo Courtesy of Image Photos and Events

 Alyssa Arnold, Heath Ames, Amy Cantanucci Photo Courtesy of Image Photos and Events

Alyssa Arnold, Heath Ames, Amy Cantanucci Photo Courtesy of Image Photos and Events


Fashionable Fillies Luncheon at the Hall of Springs

It’s the Year of the Horse according to the Chinese calendar this year, and that very Saratoga appropriate event served as the theme for last week’s Fashionable Fillies Luncheon at the Hall of Springs to benefit the Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation, a charitable trust which provides financial relief and assistance to needy members of the Thoroughbred industry and their families; and Shelters of Saratoga, which strives to ensure that those in the greater Saratoga region who are homeless or at risk of homelessness have safe, affordable and secure places to live.

The first part of the afternoon was spent with the fashionable guests perusing the purses, totes, clutches and evening bags that were up for auction and guests placed bids on their favorites. Scattered amongst the offerings were tongue in cheek fashion themed “fortunes” and beautiful Chinese masks. There were quite a few purses that had hot bidding sheets, but there were plenty of stylish options for everyone, as well as a very popular raffle which included Apple products, gift certificates and jewelry.

Mazzone Hospitality transformed the Hall of Springs with gorgeous Chinese themed decorations, including a large black and red traditional Chinese gate, which stood as an entrance to the catwalk for the fashion show.

Marylou Whitney, Heather Mabee, Theresa Behrendt, Marlene Okby, Maureen Lewi, and Chris Kay had a table front and center for the fashion show and spent the afternoon in high spirits laughing and chatting, and spotted in the crowd of guests was Patty Riggi, Sandy Foley, Mara King, Lisa Torani, Maria Harrison, Jill DeAnzeris, Holly Sofarelli, Marcia McDonald, Terrill Brown and Jennifer Marcellus. Each table had a beautiful purse shaped cookie jar centerpiece donated by Marylou Whitney and one lucky winner from each table got to take one home that afternoon.

The luncheon also had a Chinese theme, and plates complete with a classic Chinese takeout container with chopsticks sticking out the top were served to guests who complimented the delicious noodles and chicken dish.

After the auction closed for the purses, the up-tempo music kicked in and the bold and rather cheeky fashion show began with looks from Torso Lingerie Studio and Encounter Boutique. Gorgeous models strutted the runway in looks that ranged from quite daring to classically demure with a chic white sheath from Encounter being a crowd favorite, each look being very memorable and creating quite a buzz in the room.

Nancy Kelly, the executive director of The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation, had this to say about the successful event:

“We changed the event up a bit from the year before, and I think everyone was very happy with the new venue and the fashion show, which added a little bit of spice to event. And we were happy to be able to make a contribution to Shelters of Saratoga.”

As of press time numbers raised for the event were still not available, but the popular fundraiser has definitely been a topic of conversation since, and guests can’t wait to see what will be in store for next year.

Jake’s Help From Heaven 3rd Annual Finest Fillies

Heather and Brian Straughter Photos courtesy of Ed Burke Saratogian

Heather and Brian Straughter Photos courtesy of Ed Burke Saratogian

The competition at the track couldn’t hold a candle to the races at Vapor on Thursday night, where Saratoga’s Finest Fillies battled it out to raise money for Jake’s Help From Heaven. This playful event is in its third year and with a creative blend of games and fundraising is one of the most entertaining of the season.

Guests arrived and sipped “Sweet Jake” cocktails as fillies and trainers worked the room selling raffle tickets that would double as bets for the upcoming race. Brian Straughter welcomed the enthusiastic crowd and spoke about his son Jake, the inspiration for JHFH whose mission is to support individuals with multiple medical challenges or disabilities. Brian then went on to introduce the evening’s main event and emcee, Natalie Sillery. Natalie pulled post positions for the fillies who this year included Beth Alexander, Johanna Friedman, Kelly Hite, Julie Johnson, Elaine Sillery, Christianne Smith, Heather Straughter, Jenny Witte and Melissa Zieker.

The 2014 lineup of Saratoga's Finest Fillies Photos courtesy of Ed Burke Saratogian

The 2014 lineup of Saratoga’s Finest Fillies Photos courtesy of Ed Burke Saratogian

Natalie Sillery, event emcee extraordinaire Photos courtesy of Ed Burke Saratogian

Natalie Sillery, event emcee extraordinaire Photos courtesy of Ed Burke Saratogian

The finest fillies took their positions while Plinko Queen Colleen Carlson prepped the Plinko board. The way the evening worked was the fillies and their trainers sold raffle tickets that guests then placed in a box representing a filly of their choice for the chance to win one of several fabulous prizes. Then the Plinko game determined which filly would advance to the finish line. Sam the Bugler was on hand to begin the festivities and Natalie charmed the crowd with her play by play commentary as the plinko began. Several of the filly’s eager trainers watched as the game progressed including Susan Halstead, Trina Lucas, Jim LaVigne and Traci Jersen. Also spotted taking in the action were Mary Gavin, Lisa Moser, Lisa Gabryshak, Rebecca Beers, Marti Lard and Rick Partyka. Heavy favorite Heather Straughter took a commanding lead in the plinko race and took home the win, followed by Beth Alexander and Julie Johnson for place and show positions.

Photos courtesy of Ed Burke Saratogian

Photos courtesy of Ed Burke Saratogian

Raffle tickets were then drawn from the winning fillies box to determine the prize recipients, with lucky Theresa Russell winning two nights at the Crowne Plaza Time Square and the Carlson family who will be enjoying a two night golf trip to the Crowne Plaza in Lake Placid. Marti Laird was delighted to take home a night at Saratoga Arms and Kate Jarosh was thrilled to win a stunning print from Lisa Miller’s Foal Project. Event organizers Heather and Brian Straughter were delighted to report the evening raised over $20,000 for Jake’s Help from Heaven.

The 35th Annual Polo By Twilight Benefit

Event Co-Chairs Sara Hallberg Boivin and Donene D. Honnold with Anne Palamountain (center) photos courtesy of Erica Miller, Saratogian

Event Co-Chairs with Anne Palamountain (center) photos courtesy of Erica Miller, Saratogian

Polo By Twilight celebrated their 35th annual benefit on Tuesday with a full house of over 500 guests under the tents at Saratoga Polo Association. While the ponies and players battled it out on the polo field guests streamed in to help raise funds for the Joseph C. and Anne T. Palamountain Scholarship at Skidmore College. Launched in 1979 by Anne Palamountain, the fund provides support for Skidmore students whose outstanding academic records and c0-curricular service exemplify the unique contribution that the Palamountains have made to Skidmore College.

Event Co-Chairs Donene D. Honnold and Sara Hallberg Boivin (’96) welcomed guests into the first tent with an extensive silent auction spanning three sections. Anne Palamountian, looking chic and elegant in fuchsia, chatted with friends as guests placed their bids on items like tickets to Opera Saratoga, equestrian prints, and “Around the World” treasures from Anne Palamountain herself including vintage pieces like a Franor Royale French vessel and a James Kent strawberry bone china tea set.

Skidmore President Phil Glotzbach and wife Marie were spotted, as well as Tab Orthwein, Sally King, Dan Czech, Beth Harker, Emily and Jerome Mopsik, Tamie Ehinger, Charles and Mary Lou Wheeler, Charles V. Wait and his wife Candace, Dr. Mark Moreau and wife Carole, Virginia Kraft Payson, Lidia Bazar, Rachel and Tom Uccellini, Bonnie Walmsley, Cindy Spence, Mary Mastropietro, Peter O’Hara, Lisa Fox Martin and John Garofalo, Chip Babcock, Sarah Loughran, and Karen Schick.

Tabitha Orthwein and Beth Harker, photos courtesy of Erica Miller, Saratogian

Tabitha Orthwein and Beth Harker, photos courtesy of Erica Miller, Saratogian

Candace Wait and Tamie Ehinger, photos courtesy of Erica Miller, Saratogian

Candace Wait and Tamie Ehinger, photos courtesy of Erica Miller, Saratogian

Seated inside, Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson chatted with friends Ed and Maureen Lewi as guests were called in to enjoy the always remarkable dinner put on by Skidmore’s Dining Services under the helm of the very talented James Rose, Skidmore’s Executive Chef. Always a highlight of the event and of the summer itself, Rose really outdoes himself in the cuisine and it always leaves guests raving. This year’s menu had an Adirondack theme and featured a risotto with braised duck and pheasant, pan grilled Millbrook Farms venison loin and a generous raw bar which was very popular with guests. The menu always has a local focus as well, highlighting local foods to perfection.

The evening’s program began with opening remarks from Skidmore President Phil Glotzbach, and included the presentation of the Denis B. Kemball-Cook Award, named after a respected former trustee of Skidmore College that honors extraordinary commitment in giving to Skidmore College. This year, the Skidmore Board of Trustees voted unanimously to give the award posthumously to Dennis D. Dammerman, a longtime executive at General Electric who served on the college’s board of trustees for nearly 10 years and was well known in Saratoga Springs and beyond for his involvement with local civic and business enterprises. Linda Toohey presented the award which was graciously accepted by Dennis’ family to a great round of applause.

After the award presentation Anne Palamountain thanked guests for attending and helping to make the scholarship such a success for students at Skidmore, which has supported 18 scholars this year. Before long the live auction was underway, and Chris and Sarah Ward of Bidforyourbenefit took to the stage to get the crowd going with their unique energy. Items on the auction block this year included dinner with acclaimed Mystery Author Archer Mayor courtesy of Cantina Restaurant and Northshire Bookstore, a seven night stay at a Gold Crown Resort of the winner’s choice courtesy of Mary and Gary DiSanto-Rose, and a West Point Thoroughbreds Ownership Experience which went to Ray Bryan, Dr Martin Ferrillo, and Kyle Kordich.

Colleen Barber (’04) also received the inaugural Anne T. Palamountain Scholar Award, created to recognize Palamountain Scholars who have distinguished themselves through leadership and service to society. Barber is a vocational rehabilitation specialist for the VA Boston Healthcare System. “I am very grateful to have received the Palamountain Scholarship,” said Hursh. “Not only did it provide generous financial assistance to my family and me, but it also provided a unique and special connection to Skidmore, for which I am incredibly appreciative.”

As the elegant evening came to a close, the polo ponies headed to their trailers and guests ambled out onto the field as the sun began to set on another very successful benefit, firmly a staple in the Saratoga summer social schedule.



Jake’s Help from Heaven’s 3rd Annual Finest Fillies at Vapor Thursday, July 24th

JHFHThe Tattlers are ready to race on Thursday at Vapor Nightclub to help raise funds for Jake’s Help from Heaven. Place your bets on Jenny and Robin to win it, click here for more information and come down to Vapor this Thursday to cheer on your filly! Bets CAN be made online even if you can’t attend, click here to make a bet and buy tickets today.

Here is the complete lineup of Saratoga’s Finest Fillies competing on Thursday night…

Beth Alexandertrained by Chef Jasper Alexander

Johanna Friedmantrained by Alison Robbens

Kelly Hitetrained by Susan Halstead

Julie Johnsontrained by Brian Straughter

Elaine Sillerytrained by Trina Lucas

Christianne Smithtrained by Jacob Hopper

Heather Straughtertrained by Jim LaVigne

Jenny Wittetrained by Robin Dalton

Melissa Ziekertrained by Traci Jersen