Every year one of the Eastern Shore’s primary arts groups, Arts Enter Cape Charles, holds a major dinner-dance-auction benefit to raise funds to pay the mortgage on the Palace Theatre for another year and float many of its other expenses. It’s the major fundraiser for this important community arts group and a lot of time and effort goes into planning this event so it will be not only fun for guests but profitable for the organization. This year’s benefit was a Street Festival, a Strawberry Street in Cape Charles, VA festival to be exact. And festivals in general are so fun and colorful, the hum of voices and music blending, rising, floating above the street, surely they are the perfect occasions to get together with family and friends to hang out, let the vibes flow, just have a merry old time.
Guests entered through the front doors of the theatre, which was all decked out for the evening with fragrant floral arrangements placed in eye-catching corners, then slipped out the side doors, down a long red carpet and into the street. Voila’, overnight a magnificent transformation of the first block of Strawberry Street from the usual blacktop pavement and concrete sidewalks busy with cars and pedestrians into a gorgeous plaza ! Decorated with leafy trees in huge, beautiful pots bedecked with strands of tiny burnished gold lights, flower arrangements sporting a thousand brilliant blossoms, gurgling fountains and dozens upon dozens of circular tables covered with eye-catching deep rose and teal cloths, the street had become a virtual fairyland of colors, shapes, sounds, textures.
We arrived about 7 pm, the sun already throwing long shadows and deliciously cool evening breezes were gently blowing off the Chesapeake Bay just 3 blocks away. Before stepping through to the street, we took a quick whirl through the Silent Auction site set up in the Stage Gallery, just checking on the donated artwork there, lots of promising items to review in-depth later in the evening. But now, time to visit with friends over a glass of chilled Chardonnay and sample from the appetizer table. I had to check out some of my favorites more than once, including the ice-cold jumbo shrimp served with a very tangy red cocktail sauce. The cheese tray was also very popular with wine drinkers and beer fans alike, being well stocked with a variety of both soft and hard cheeses and plenty of crunchy multigrain crackers. Dinner was served buffet style on the southern end of the plaza, with a number of grazing stations set up, offering a variety wide enough to satisfy even picky eaters.
My husband headed for the cold salmon station, the fish prepared by talented local chef Tim Brown, beautifully decorated with wafer thin slices of cucumber, served with a dill creme’ fraiche, and accompanied by a colorful cold pasta salad and skewers of antipasto anchored by chilled asparagus, all very, very nice. I, on the other hand, elected to head first to the Land & Sea station and the savory plump grilled chicken breasts and succulent crabcakes awaiting there. One thing about grilled chicken– it’s so easy to end up with something dry and tough ! But this was really excellent, very tender, great flavor and texture, done about as perfectly as any BBQ chicken I’ve had, with plenty of spicy sauce on the side. Tossed green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, roasted potatoes and an elaborate fruit tray were offered as sides, all in all, a tasty summery meal. For those looking for local seafood, a raw bar station offered fresh tender little clams and salty oysters from the Broadwater Oyster Co. of Willis Wharf, both served on the half shell atop deep beds of ice. Raw seafood is not my thing but this was a very popular station, keeping several servers busy just popping open the clam and oyster shells. for the ever-present line of aficionados.
As twilight morphed into darkness, we headed inside for another view of the Silent Auction items in the Stage Door Gallery. Lots of good stuff to bid on– several original paintings including a dramatic oil by Clalia Sheppard, lots of original jewelry, some great autographed items, a number of very collectible records, some dramatic framed photography including a very striking photo of a blue heron. ( And as it turned out, for which we were the successful bidder.) As I had an early meeting the following day, it was about time for us to call it a night. Too bad, as we were leaving the band was starting to really get into its groove and the dance floor was filling up. Another year, another great Benefit By The Bay. Keep ’em coming Arts Enter, time soon to start planning Benefit 2014 !
Tags: Arts Enter Cape Charles, Benefit By The Bay, Cape Charles Virginia, Eastern Shore of Virginia, Events in Cape Charles, life on Virginia's Eastern Shore, Palace Theatre Cape Charles Virginia, Stage Door Art Gallery