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Guests Spend an Evening on the Wild Side for Santa Barbara Zoo’s Zoofari Ball

Benefit event goes for the exotic and extravagant with a Moroccan-inspired theme of 'Midnight at the Oasis'

The much-anticipated 26th Annual Zoofari Ball at the Santa Barbara Zoo attracted another sold-out crowd of 500 partygoers to a beautiful outdoor venue last Saturday evening.

A Moroccan-inspired theme of “Midnight at the Oasis” brought forth a throng of fashionable Zoofarians to the ever popular and extravagant fundraiser.

Visitors at the park gathered under a cloudless blue sky and welcomed the occasional cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean that stirred the foliage as they walked toward the party destination at the crest of the hill with a mystical Saharan Oasis set atop a grassy embankment.

Honorary chairs Bill and Sue Wagner, clad in traditional Moroccan attire, stood beside an elaborate maroon and purple canopy embedded with moons and stars and trimmed with gold tassels as waiters offered warm smiles and served Casablanca Coolers featuring Ketel One Citroen flavored vodka.

A festive crowd mingled on the lawn dressed in a celebration of rich and ethnically diverse Moroccan culture. Men donned tarbouche caps or turbans with long, loose-flowing hooded robes with full sleeves and leather slippers. Women dressed in colorful chiffon scarves and bright Saris, beautiful silk flowing dresses made of ornate patterns, with gold bangles and shimmering jewelry on bare arms and ankles. Other guests sported traditional safari wear or animal print attire.

The Kingdom of Morocco, spectacularly executed by Lisa Carter of Behind the Scenes Event Design, was visible everywhere, from wooden carts laden with exotic fruit to colorful spices in decorative clay pots and hookah water pipes. Life-sized replicas of camels, leopards and snakes were also positioned around the park.

Enchanting Morrocan music filled the air as guests lingered around tables draped in shimmering bronze, crimson and velvet covered in black or white netting, while drinking wine donated by the Santa Barbara Collection and Zaca Mesa Winery.

The festive crowd feasted on mouth-watering appetizers of spicy lentil dip, handmade Khuubz and Lavosh Bread, Moroccan vegetable Briouat with spicy apricot sauce and shrimp skewers drizzled with pomegranate sauce provided by Zoo Catering Services by Rincon.

Silent auction items were positioned on tables around the grounds and offered an array of “must-have items,” ranging from an 18-karat diamond elephant brooch from A.H.Gaspar Jeweler to a 40-inch flat-screen Sony HD television and a three-night stay and golf retreat at The Boulders Resort in Carefree, Ariz.

The live auction hosted by professional auctioneer Sean Kelly began promptly at 7:30 p.m. as Kelly livened up the group of onlookers, inspiring a rash of betting wars. Favorite items caught in the crossfire included a seven-night Classic Polar Bear Adventure in Churchill, Manitoba, and an Around the World tour at the Santa Barbara Zoo featuring a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo’s exotic animals with world-class cuisine for 24 people.

Dinner was in a romantic and luxurious outdoor setting at the top of the hill where diners sat on bamboo chairs draped in colorful wraps and silver jewelry. Large canopies fashioned with 100 naked bulbs by Bellavista Lighting Designs tastefully highlighted the rich navy and maroon tablecloths with gold plate settings, sparkling wine glasses and gleaming silverware.

The sublime gourmet menu, created by Zoo Catering Services by Rincon, included Moroccan watercress and butter salad, chilled root vegetable Tajine, couscous, traditional chicken Bastillas and Moroccan-style sea bass topped with strawberry relish.

The celebration continued into the night as guests let their hair and turbans down and danced to the sounds of Jana and The One under the stars of a warm Santa Barbara night.

Proceeds from the Zoofari Ball support the animals at the nonprofit Santa Barbara Zoo, which would like to thank the following sponsors for their generosity:

» Head Table Sponsors: The Crawford family and the Larsen, MacFarlane and McClure families

» Tail Table Sponsors: The Dreier family and Cyndee Howard

» Platinum Camel Sponsors: The Dreier Group, Lady Ridley-Tree, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, Sue and Terry Schwaratz, and the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation

» Gold Gazelle Sponsors: Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and the Robert K. and Barbara J. Straus Foundation

» Silver Fennec Fox Sponsors: Bellavista Lighting Designs, CKE Restaurants Inc., Deckers Outdoor Corp., Frank Schipper Construction, M. Barry Semler and family with Santa Barbara Investment Company, and Sue and Bill Wagner

» Bronze Leopard Sponsors: Event Rents Inc., Hub International Insurance Services, Kayne Anderson Rudnick Investment Management, Montecito Bank & Trust, TWIW Insurance Services, Wilson Printing and John Woodward

» Copper Cheetah Sponsors: Agilysys, Business First Bank, Patricia and Alan Griffin, Crowell, Weedon & Co., Jim and Kim Lisi, and Mary Stettner

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews, and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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