A St. Patrick's Day theme marked the Chapter Two guild of the Orange County Performing Arts Center's annual "Day at the Races" benefit on Saturday.
As guests poured into the Courthouse Restaurant in Santa Ana, an Irish band played bagpipes and the flag of Ireland waved overhead. Prize drawings were dubbed the "Irish Sweepstakes" and shamrocks dotted the programs.
St. Patrick's Day may be just around the corner, but event chairman Teri Green admitted that she chose the theme with her name in mind. While other race goers celebrated the day with the "wearing o' the green," Green topped a black ensemble with a red hat.
"I tried on green, and it looked awful," she said.
Raffle chairman Ginnie Adlesh also sported a red chapeau. Adlesh, who had gathered jewelry, weekend trips, dinners and other prizes from local merchants for the benefit, sold raffle tickets during the pre-race festivities.
More than 200 guests watched horse-racing films and wolfed down breakfast and champagne before being whisked to Santa Anita by bus.
They sipped champagne en route, indulged in a buffet at the race track and sampled hors d'oeuvres while traveling home. Guild member Julie Campbell explained that the event had been a tradition since Chapter Two was founded seven years ago.
Husband Glen recalled: "The first year, we were just 35 or 40 people going to Santa Anita in an old school bus."
Tom Dugan had already handicapped horses before boarding the bus. He said he intended to win the Pick 9 by guessing the winners of all nine races. He estimated proceeds at $400,000 and added that if he won even half that, he would treat the group to dinner after returning home.
Dugan made several correct predictions but was out of the Pick 9 competition by the second race.
Gus Lekas got off to a profitable start by winning a $52 daily double with a $2 bet.
Bob Stillwagon, Ray Hardy and Alex Brishka formed a betting syndicate and spent the afternoon with eyes glued to racing forms.
Less devoted Dayne Stiles, Ed Vail, Pris Kastner and Jan Pierce placed bets between hands of bridge. Said Stiles' wife, Anne: "I go to collect the money." Her last "collection" netted Dayne a $1.50 return on his $5 bet, she said.
The "Chapter Two" race, so named by Santa Anita in honor of the group, brought luck to Harry Stahl. He reported a $142 return for his $5 exacta bet.
In drawings between races, event chairman Green's brother-in-law Terry won weekends at the Doryman's Inn and Four Seasons Hotel, both in Newport Beach. Committee member Laurie Bouchard and her husband Mike won the "Irish Sweepstakes" grand prize weekend in San Francisco. And Ginnie Adlesh walked away with a $500 ladies' watch from Jewels by Joseph.
Committee members, who estimated nearly $9,000 in proceeds, also included Pat Salceda, Barbara McCullough, Mary Sullivan, Diana Pope, Susan Stahl, Dusty Burgmans, Marilyn Raven, Carol Speliopoulos, Neli Stascausky, Trudy Cooney and Beverly Smetko. Julie Ball is chapter president.
Mingling as they sampled delicacies such as ginger chicken salad, Sonoma goat cheese and buffalo stew, 450 supporters of the Orange County Philharmonic Society enjoyed Sunday's "Cuisine Fantasy." It was a gourmet dream. No fewer than 17 restaurants and five wineries dished out specialties in South Coast Plaza's Jewel Court.
In keeping with the "Hats off to the Philharmonic!" theme, black velvet hats, circled with ribbons, had been created by committee member Mitzi Tonai. "We wanted an elegant, black velvet look to salute the Philharmonic Society and South Coast Plaza, which is in its 20th year," she said of the centerpieces.
The event was staged by two Philharmonic Society committees: the Irvine Philharmonic and Las Canciones of Placentia and Brea. At $35 per person, an estimated $15,000 was raised for the society's musical enrichment programs.
Sipping Cafe Diablo, Irvine Philharmonic committee member Sherri Lawrence said that before the annual event was launched three years ago, none of the society's 31 women's committees had ever worked together. "This year other committees are getting together for benefits, too."
Sarah Malarky, vice chairman of the society's youth programs, explained that the programs introduce music to county children in second through twelfth grades. "In second grade, we start with the Disneyland Band. Then we have a full 60-piece professional orchestra for high school students."
Malarky said the society's fund-raising efforts are necessary if county children are to be exposed to the arts: "When they cut school budgets in California, the first thing they cut is music."
Said Erich Vollmer, executive director of the Orange County Philharmonic Society: "This event is helping the society sponsor 24 concerts for youth at the Performing Arts Center. We will reach 72,000 children this year with programs ranging from jazz bands to a full symphonic orchestra."