It is one of the most beautiful annual events on the California Riviera. "Romance of the Mission," held on the ancient grounds of the historical Mission San Juan Capistrano, brought together more than 400 guests for an evening of fine food and wine, incomparable entertainment and, most importantly, a spiritual connection to the religious and historical pasts of early California.
Special honors of the evening were bestowed upon Gilbert Aguirre, honorary event chairman representing the Mission Preservation Foundation. Aguirre, vice president of operations for Rancho Mission Viejo Co., joins a list of past chairs of distinction including Ambassador George Argyros and Julianne Argyros, Gen. William Lyon and Willa Dean Lyon, Joan Irvine Smith, Madeline Swinden, Richard O'Neill, Ninetta Herbert, and Sandra Segerstrom and John Daniels, to name a select group. Aguirre joined Foundation Board Chairman George O'Connell welcoming the crowd, ultimately raising $198,000 net from the evening proceeds. Funds are earmarked for restoration of the mission's gate house, which is the only brick building on the site that dates to the founding period in the 1770s.
"This fundraiser is the beginning of a new chapter in the mission's history," Mechelle Lawrence-Adams, executive director of the mission, said.
"The Gate House Preservation Project will be nothing short of excellence in design, safety, compatibility and respect for the historic site."
Aguirre added, "The mission is the town, and those of us who are able, should do what we can to help make sure it's here for the long run."
Major support for the project came from donors, including The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, the O'Connell Family foundation, Sheila and Jim Peterson, Gilbert Aguirre, Janet Curci, Melinda and Tony Moiso, Joan Irvine Smith and the Athalie R. Clarke Foundation and Lula Halfacre of Traditional Jewelers.
Also supporting the mission in a significant manner were EJ Tracy and Tracy Industries, Mozelle and Myron Sukut, Eden and George O'Connell, Kim and Hank Weeks, Connie and Peter Spenuzza, Jan and Warren Siegel, the Cvengros family, Ortega's Mission Gift Shops and Shine Lighting Co.
Guests arrived for Friday evening cocktails in the mission's gardens underwritten by Southern Wine and Spirits and Young's Market Co. followed by a wonderful concert performed in the ruins of the Great Stone Church. The historical setting enhances even the best of the best performers transforming the experience to the highest level of enjoyment. On this occasion one of the O.C.'s most gifted musicians, Ron Kobayashi, and his quartet accompanied the elegant voice of operatic star Robin Follman casting a major spell over the audience.
Dinner followed in the Central Courtyard generously donated by The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, with wine pairing by Ignatius Cellars, Clare Valley, South Australia.
The setting was sublime. Dark purple silk tablecloths covered rectangular tables of eight, centered with the most beautiful centerpieces of white hydrangeas, Sterling Silver full roses, blush pink rosebuds, fragrant lavender, rosemary and sage, filling the night air with their intoxicating fragrance.
Basking the evening glory were dedicated mission gala committee members including Georgianna Hales, Barb Beier, and Diana Arrigon. Newport-Mesa support came from Buck Bean, Denny Bean, Greg Dillion, Mary Frome, Trina and Marc Lamkin, Marybelle and Paul Musco, Jo Skibby, Nancy and Jim Baldwin, Carol and William Fields, S.L. and Betty Huang, Eugenia and Bart Moore and Kathy and Sam Perricone.
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.