Attendees have a royal good time at Ashbury College's Taj Gala

Evening raises a net total of more than $215K for private school's student financial assistance program and for new Centre for Science and Innovation, slated for completion in 2019

The Infinity Convention Centre was fit for an Indian emperor (and empress!) on Saturday night as it offered all the wonderful sights, sounds and tastes of India while serving as host venue for Ashbury College's signature event, the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala.

Many attendees in the crowd of 317 donned elegant Indian formal wear, from elaborate and colourful sarees for the women to regal sherwanis for the men, while others accessorized with exotic jewelry and scarves. 

Attendees included our newly re-elected mayor, Jim Watson, whose two nieces graduated from the school and whose sister, Jayne, previously served on one of its boards. “I look around and everyone is so beautifully dressed,” said Watson before delivering his well-received zinger: “Justin Trudeau would fit in nicely with this crowd.” *

You could feel the eternal love in the room with the giant ice sculpture of the iconic Taj Mahal, created by Ice Culture, a company based out of southwestern Ontario. The work of art weighed roughly 900 pounds and took about nine hours to complete.

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This year's Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala was held at the Infinity Convention Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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The Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala featured an ice sculpture of the Taj Mahal, weighing approximately 900 pounds. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The gala was co-chaired by Ashbury College parents Mashooda Syed and Nimroz Thawer, the latter of whom handles marketing and sales for Tasico Hospitality, a second-generation, family-owned hotel ownership and management company (its properties include the Days Inn hotels on Rideau Street and on Moodie Drive and the Best Western Plus on Richmond Road).

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From left, Ashbury College parents Mashooda Syed and Nimroz Thawer co-chaired the organizing committee for this year's Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Gala committee co-chair Nimroz Thawer with her son, Arman, who, as a Grade 9 student at Ashbury College, greeted guests to this year's Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The evening raised a net total of more than $215,000 for Ashbury College, a co-ed private school of 700-plus students located in Rockcliffe Park. The proceeds will specifically be directed toward the school's student financial assistance program and toward its $10-million campaign to create a new Centre for Science and Innovation at the school.

Ashbury broke ground on its new centre this past June. It was because of the ongoing construction work at the school that the gala was moved off-site this year to the Infinity Convention Centre, which is owned by a respected group of Indo-Canadians: the Sohal family and Anand Aggarwal.

The new science facility will: replace the school’s 45-year-old science wing, consolidate all the science classes in one area and be linked to the school’s creative learning centre. It will also offer university-level labs, as well as mixed-used classrooms, when it opens in the fall of 2019.

“Tonight is all about ensuring that we sustain and deepen the vibrant learning environment that exists on our campus, and that the school experience continues to be inspirational, innovative and accessible,” Ashbury College head Norman Southward said in his welcome remarks.

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Norman Southward, head of Ashbury College, with his wife, Anna Rumin, at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Mayor Jim Watson at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The gala, emceed by Ashbury College graduate and former head boy Adrian Harewood of CBC Ottawa News, featured an Indian-influenced dinner as well as live cultural performances. Returning as the main sponsors were Selzik.com and Star Motors of Ottawa and Mercedes-Benz Ottawa. 

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From left, Arnie Mierins and Vicki Mierins from Mercedes-Benz Ottawa with Tara-Leigh Mierins and her husband, Jeff Mierins, owner of Star Motors of Ottawa, at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Dominique Laframboise, Cindy Sezlik and Charles Sezlik with luxury realtor Sezlik.com at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

From the Ashburian community were campaign co-chairs John and Crickett Lindgren, Ashbury board chair Lori O’Neill, and Karen Haebe, president of The Ashbury College Guild, which is a parent volunteer organization.

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Karen Haebe, president of The Ashbury College Guild, with her husband, Dr. Jeff Haebe, at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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John Lindgren and Crickett Lindgren at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Lori O'Neill, with her husband, Tim Orr, at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Ashbury College alumnus Adrian Harewood emceed this year's signature gala dinner. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The gala featured silent auction items as well as a live auction led by Ryan Watson with Raising the Bid. Up for grabs were: a gastronomic experience at Gusto Worldwide Media’s television studio; dinner for 10 with Belgium Ambassador John Verkammen and his spouse, Kathleen Billen, at their official residence in Rockcliffe; a weekend at the Kentucky Derby; a necklace pendant worth $4,500 donated by Howard Fine Jewellers & Custom Designers; a dinner for six hosted by Southward and his wife, Anna Rumin, at their home; and a private cocktail party with gift certificates at Sukhoo Sukhoo Couture, valued at $10,000.

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Frank Spagnolo from Howard Fine Jewellers with its co-owner, Stephanie Appotive, at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Benoît Desjardins with Robert Borden and Chantel Gingras, president of Ginsberg Gingras, which is a firm of licensed insolvency trustees, and Borden's husband, Ted Mann, managing partner of Mann Lawyers, at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

There was also a dinner for eight at Chef Joe Thottungal’s Coconut Lagoon; a day with CTV Question Period host Evan Solomon, a $3,000 fur jacket from Pat Flesher Furs; a wine and cheese party hosted by Jacobsons Gourmet Concepts; a one-week stay at Peter Nicholson’s Grand Isle Resort & Spa in the Bahamas; a suite to a Sens game, followed by the opportunity for a bunch of students to get a behind-the-scenes look at what its takes to run an NHL franchise.

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Dr. Sanjay Acharya, with the Queensway Carleton Hospital, and his wife, Colleen, at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Francis Pomerleau, CEO of construction company Pomerleau Inc., with his wife, Sophie Dagenais, at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Shawn Malhotra, COO of Claridge Homes, and his wife, Louise Malhotra, with Jacqui Wilson and her husband, Mike Wilson, co-CEO of 1251 Capital Group, at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Dean Solloway with luxury realtors Reba Wilson and Marilyn Wilson, and Wilson's husband, Dr. Allan Wilson, at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Sanjay Shah, founder and president of ExecHealth, with his wife, Dr. Bella Mehta, and Sarah Waters and Michael Waters, CEO of Minto Group, at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Ryan Watson, who dressed for the occasion as live auctioneer, with Olivia Taggart, advancement and alumni relations coordinator at Ashbury College, at the Ashbury Ball: Taj Gala, held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca

* Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received criticism for overdoing it on his wearing of traditional Indian outfits during his visit to India earlier this year.