The annual Santa Barbara Montessori School Auction Extravaganza is well known for imaginative and innovative party themes with which parents, faculty and the community have an opportunity to dress up and celebrate to raise funds for a worthy cause.

This year’s theme was “Out of Africa,” and it did not disappoint as guests arrived Friday evening at Bacara Resort & Spa clad in safari attire, including jungle-themed clothing, hats, trousers, stylish dresses and even animal-print painted fingernails.

The evening began with a silent auction, but the atmosphere was festive as guests mingled, sipped champagne and moved about the spacious lower-level rooms of the resort, filled with an array of items up for bid including specialty gift baskets, jewelry and spa certificates.

Diners sat by campfires and under mosquito netting in Bacara’s ballroom, tastefully redecorated by Montessori-trained teachers and sisters Aran Klingensmith and Allwyn Fitzpatrick to coincide with the African-inspired theme.

Co-founder and Head of School Jim Fitzpatrick welcomed the guests and said the secret about Santa Barbara Montessori School is out.

“There are SBMS alumni attending or graduating from UC Berkeley, Brown, UC Santa Cruz, UCSB and dozens of other colleges and universities,” he said, “but there is a collective group of Montessori alumni around the world who are just now beginning to be recognized for their contributions to our contemporary culture.”

Notable Montessorians mentioned include Prince William, founder Jeff Bezos and the late Santa Barbara chef Julia Child.

During dinner, guests were treated to a charming video titled “The Secret Is Out,” directed by Colin Fitzpatrick, director of Santa Barbara Montessori School’s Coryat Media Center. The video featured Montessori students in character for the evening events with their faces painted as lions, zebras and leopards, dancing and playing on the school grounds.

Later, a live auction was hosted by grand master safari leader Bill Pintard, a longtime SBMS parent and manager of the Santa Barbara Foresters baseball team. The auction included items and special projects created by the students in each of the school’s classes, in addition to a custom “SBMS” Surfboard hand-shaped by Craig Angell.

Jose and Leah Sahagun’s 6-year old son, Emilio, who has been at Santa Barbara Montessori School since he was 18 months old, said the teachers and environment at SBMS helped the boy thrive by following his growth individually and helping inspire his love of learning and kindness toward others.

Funds raised from the event will assist in paying for half of Emilio’s tuition next year and provide other contributions to SBMS and students.

“We are so grateful for this gift so that Emilio can continue his amazing education at the best school in Santa Barbara,” Leah Sahagun said.

Santa Barbara Montessori School was founded in 1975 as the Montessori Children’s Home and is now celebrating its 36th year offering progressive educational programs for children ages 18 months to 12 years.

Sponsors of the event included Renaud’s Patisserie, Business First Bank, the Quinn Family, Melissa and Don Pritchett, McGowan Guntermann, Bacara Resort & Spa and Jensen AV.

— Noozhawk society correspondent Melissa Walker can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews, and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.