There's nothing quite like the sound of champagne corks popping to put you in a good mood.
Partygoers at this year’s Ashbury Ball simultaneously uncorked their bottles together as a way of kicking off the evening this past Saturday night. It seemed fitting, given that the theme of La Belle Époque is all about a golden age of progress and prosperity.
Ashbury College, a 700-student private school located in the exclusive neighbourhood of Rockcliffe Park, attracted some 350 attendees to its signature event. The dinner was held in the gymnasium, which was in disguise that night as a seriously fancy ballroom.
Among the most striking features — besides the the white ceiling drapes, chandeliers and eye-catching candelabras — was the four-foot-tall chocolate Eiffel Tower. The base of the edible creation was decorated with French macarons. The iconic tower, donated by Claude Bonnet, owner of upscale bakery Le Moulin de Provence in the ByWard Market, sold for $2,500 after being auctioned off later in the evening.
Guests arrived in masquerade ball masks (talk about putting one’s face-recognition skills to the test!). The crowds were entertained throughout the cocktail reception by the Ashbury Trio musicians, principal harpist Raquel Nisi from the Ottawa Youth Orchestra, and whimsical performers from Orbital Talent.
Charles Sezlik and Dominique Laframboise from Sezlik.com luxury real estate properties were back as presenting sponsors with Arnie Mierins and Vicki Mierins from Mercedes-Benz Ottawa, and Jeff Mierins and ball committee member Tara-Leigh Mierins, from Star Motors of Ottawa Mercedes-Benz.
The dinner also received the backing from Graham Fallis, senior wealth manager and director with Scotia Wealth Management/ScotiaMcLeod, dental specialist Dr. Sam Hickman, and dozens of corporate table sponsors.
Attendees included Micheline Saikaley, president of the Ashbury College Guild parent volunteer organization, and corporate director and consultant Lori O’Neill, chair of the school’s board of governors.
Jill Scheer, wife of Conservative Party leader and Official Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer, was there as a guest of Kathryn Tremblay, co-founder and CEO of excelHR recruitment and staffing company.
This year’s ball was organized by a large group of parent volunteers, coordinated by Tracy Rait-Parkes, vice-president of the Ashbury College Guild.
The evening’s patron was Jamilah Taib Murray.
Organizers say the evening raised net proceeds of roughly $250,000. The funds will help two causes: providing financial assistance to deserving and outstanding students who could not otherwise afford to attend Ashbury, and for the school’s $10-million project to upgrade its science facilities. More than one-third of the graduating students from Ashbury go on to post-secondary programs in science or engineering, according to the school's website.
The school’s head, Norman Southward, was on hand to welcome the room full of Ashburians and their friends. Attendees included current and past parents, alumni and faculty. He touched on La Belle Époque as an era of optimism, when arts and culture flourished and when new technology and scientific discoveries were made.
It was also during this period of history, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, that Ashbury College was founded “in a relatively quiet — and I know this room is not quiet — corner of the world,” Southward told the very chatty crowd.
The school was founded in 1891.
As Ashbury's Centre for Science & Innovation nears completion, he added, "we’re excited for how our students will develop their own self-confidence and spirit of optimism".
Ryan Watson from Raising the Bid sold off at least 13 items later that night, including a seven-day chartered sailing cruise on a 63-foot yacht through the Greek islands, for up to five people. It went for $18,000.
Watson also got the crowd bidding on a dinner for six hosted by Southward and his wife, Anna Rumin, at their home, along with embassy dinners, artwork, trips, furs, jewellery, a custom-created cheese table for up to 100 guests, from Jacobsons Gourmet Concepts on Beechwood Avenue, and a private five-course dinner for 10, with wine pairings, at DiVino Wine Studio on Preston Street.
As for the silent auction, guests could do all their bidding with their cell phones.