The Crowd: A 'jewel' of a night at the Great Park

The fifth annual Jewel of Orange County unfolded July 31 on the grounds of the Great Park.

Sponsored by the Great Park Conservancy, an independent foundation that supports the development of the massive project, this year's event began inside the restored World War II Hangar 244.

Conservancy Director David Horowitz and his wife, Michelle, welcomed the crowd in the hangar for a wine and cheese tasting reception, while the music of the Bulgarian Triada Guitar Trio entertained. The wine and cheese was donated by Bacchus Secret Cellar of Irvine.

Conservancy board members Robert Currie and Doug Neff coordinated a fine and rare wine silent auction, while guests mingled and checked out information relating to the launch of construction for the park's projects, including an art and culture center at the Palm Court and Squadron Complex.

This undertaking will transition aging World War II squadron buildings on park property into contemporary public art and culture space.

Following the welcome reception, the crowd entered the Hanger 244 patio for an al fresco dinner created by chef Azmin Ghahreman of Sapphire Restaurant, Laguna Beach. Conservancy Chairwoman Marion Bergeson addressed the dinner crowd and thanked board members, including Janet Ray, Teddie Ray, John Sullivan, Rick Hume and others, for their dedication to the complicated process of turning an enormous piece of Orange County land into a public park.

"By next year we will transform the empty warehouses and decaying concrete into Orange County's newest center for the creative arts," Bergeson said.

As the crowd enjoyed dinner under the stars, the sounds of jazz from 2000 Lbs. of Blues had the guests up on their feet dancing.

Sponsors of the evening included Microsemi, Sprouts Farmers Market, the Irvine Co., Orange County Business Bank, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, Judith Posnikoff, Donna and Doug Neff, MacGillivary Freeman Films, Great Park Neighborhoods, Marilyn and Tom Nielson, and chairs of the evening the Horowitz family.

Also spotted in the dinner crowd were Mike and Melanie Ellzey, Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang, Dan Bolar, Joe Adams, Mike LeBlanc, representing the Irvine Co., and Jim Peterson, chief executive of Microsemi, the major sponsor of the night.

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

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