The Crowd: It's never too wet for Jazz Festival

It's hard to imagine, given the spectacular weather of the past week, that for a brief moment California was being soaked by torrential rain at the beginning of the month. The downpour did not deter the dedicated volunteers of the Ocean Institute from producing the 2014 Jazz Festival at their headquarters in Dana Point over the weekend of Feb. 28 through March 2. Docents with yellow and blue striped umbrellas greeted patrons arriving for the Friday and Saturday night outdoor concerts and dinners. An enormous white tent had been erected to shield the festival attendees from the elements. Inasmuch as Southern Californians tend to be afraid of a drop of rain, one might assume that the turnout would be disappointing. On the contrary, there was not an empty seat in the big top for any of the weekend events. Over the three performances, 630 patrons were front and center under the chairmanship of Robert Beaulieu, raising an impressive $260,000 net for Ocean Institute educational programs benefiting school-age children, kindergarten through 12th grade.

Headlining the jazz festival were performances from David Benoit, Peter White, Eric Marienthal and Spencer Day. The enthusiastic crowd cheered for their exceptional jazz performers while enjoying an amazing culinary spread provided by an assortment of fine restaurants catering the different events Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Donating culinary participants included the Balboa Bay Resort, the Laguna Cliffs Marriott, the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Montage Laguna Beach, the Ritz-Carlton, Park Hyatt Aviara Resort and specialized vendors including Pear Valley Vineyards, Bristol Farms, Savannah Chop House and Dana Point's Luciana's Ristorante. Major sponsors of the festival were Scott Schoeffel, Irvine BMW and the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

The 12th annual jazz festival at Ocean Institute is one of Orange County's unique and special events produced in conjunction with the annual Festival of Whales. Funds raised enable Orange County youth to experience hands-on marine science environmental education, which turns the Ocean Institute into a classroom through its 61 award-winning programs that reach more than 115,000 students annually. To learn more about the Ocean Institute, please check out its website at


A toast to the Pacific Coast

The Island Hotel Newport Beach opened its formidable doors March 1 for the 7th Annual Pacific Coast Wine Festival produced by and benefiting the Pacific Symphony. More than 300 patrons in early spring cocktail attire converged upon the hotel for what has become one of the most lavish wine-tasting opportunities of the season. Following an impressive reception with some of the world's most prominent vintners, not only from California but from France and Italy as well, offering samplings of some 60 wines, the crowd was then seated at a fabulous multi-course dinner created around very special wine pairings. By the end of the evening, an impressive $372,000 net was raised for the Pacific Symphony benefiting artistic and educational programs. Organizers made special note of the fact that the funds raised this season exceeded last year's tally by more than $152,000.

The event was co-chaired by Fred Salter, Valerie Van de Zilver and Michael Kerr, festival founder and chair of the symphony's board of directors. Kerr commented, "We're established as one of Southern California's premiere wine events. We have remarkable wineries pouring their wines and donating items for our auction." Van de Zilver added, "This event has gained the respect of wine enthusiasts throughout the United States, especially in our own local area."

The event was sponsored by Newport philanthropists Phil and Mary Lyons, Bill and Pat Podlich, Pascal and Sage Houillon and Fred and Wendy Salter. Corporate sponsorship came from Land Rover-Aston Martin-Jaguar of Newport Beach and BNY Mellon. The Island Hotel's executive chef, David Man, prepared a perfect dinner featuring seared filet of beef with truffle sauce served at elegant tables centered with verdant multicolored spring roses mixed with perfectly arranged fresh fruits. Auctioneer Jim Nye sold off both fine and rare wines and one-of-a-kind dining and travel experiences helping to make the evening a major financial success. This year, Pacific Symphony, led by music director Carl St.Clair, celebrates its 35th anniversary on the Orange Coast.

THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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