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ANN CONWAY

Everything but the Ants for Picnics

July 27, 1998|ANN CONWAY

Time to ditch that old notion of a summer picnic-- something that begins with chicken and ends with pests.

Try supper packed in a vintage trunk, martinis for two and concert tickets. Or a Christmas-in-July tea. How about an alfresco lunch, astronaut-style, featuring dehydrated pizza and ice cream?

Invited by the Corner Bakery to create fantasy picnics for the store's grand opening at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, representatives of 10 local charities--including Child Help USA, Children's Hospital and the Discovery Science Museum--are creating eye-catching, goody-filled packages for an auction to benefit their organizations.

"We wanted to kick off our new location with the people who have been supporting us [at the first Orange County location]," said Dirk Smith, regional director of the Corner Bakery, which opened last year next to Maggiano's restaurant in Costa Mesa.

Here's the way it will work: Supporters of each charity will be invited to the bakery's grand opening bash on Friday, where the baskets will be on display. Party guests will get the first crack at bidding on the baskets, which will remain on view and up for additional bidding through Aug. 3.

Meanwhile, some of the charity-set's artistic volunteers are putting finishing touches on such creations as a "Seas the Moment"-themed package dreamed up by a team from Child Help USA.

For volunteers who annually plan luncheon and dinner galas for hundreds of people, the fantasy picnic auction provides them with a simple way to raise funds and heighten awareness of their organizations.

Perhaps some of the ideas will help fuel your own dream picnic.

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Forget the traditional basket. Never mind the ice chest. A vintage travel trunk from the '20s will house the Child Help USA picnic, which will include four tickets to Celine Dion's Oct. 22 concert at the Pond in Anaheim. The winner will sip cocktails from a vintage silver shaker and dine by the light of candles glowing in an stylish candelabrum.

"The idea was to create a movable feast that was upbeat, playful, but with the cultured, elegant style of an old cruise line," said Katherine Meredith, a volunteer for Child Help.

Flossie Thwing, a volunteer for Children's Hospital of Orange County, decided on a "Christmas in July" theme for the CHOC basket. Director of the hospital's Kids' Card program, Thwing jumped at the chance to promote the sale of holiday missives designed by CHOC patients. A whimsically decorated park bench, set with a twinkling pine tree hung with Kids' Cards, will serve as a basket for the CHOC entry, said Thwing, a member of the hospital's Littlest Angel Guild.

Floral designer Allen Beck of Newport Beach will have the art of the dance in mind when he creates the lidded picnic basket to represent the Orange County Performing Arts Center at the bakery opening. Titled "Romance of the Dance," the basket will be a floral tribute to the New York City Ballet's 50th anniversary tour, which will make an October stop at Segerstrom Hall. (Four tickets to the Oct. 13 performance also will be included.) Beck says he'll create a freshly woven rectangular basket, using reeds, passion vines and greenery from his backyard. He plans to line the basket with scarlet roses and accent it with wine and passion fruit.

Beck loves the idea of picnickers lifting the lid to discover a bed of roses. "The important part of a picnic should be what happens when you open the basket," he said. "It should excite the senses."

Packets of dehydrated food such as the type used by astronauts in flight will be the culinary offerings available in the basket from the Discovery Science Museum. Pizza, French fries, ice cream and apple wedges will be among the museum's picnic treats, said Catherine Thyen, who will chair the Santa Ana museum's opening gala on Oct. 10. ("The gala is sold out--and we haven't sent out invitations," Thyen said.)

South Coast Repertory will plug its 1998-99 season when it presents "Feast on Theatre," a basket containing tickets for two to each new play. The menu will be dictated by the food mentioned in each production. For example: Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness" features a lobster bake. "So we'll have lobster bisque," said Elizabeth Hart, director of group sales for SCR. Another item: A lemon polenta cake inspired by "Dinner with Friends," a play by Donald Margulies.

Tickets valued at $500 each will be part of the picnic package being developed by the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana. The museum will launch the premiere of the national tour of "The Royal Tombs of Ur," on Oct. 3 at a black-tie gala, said Susan Bowers, the museum's vice president of development. "Winners will be our guests and they'll enjoy a gala picnic served up in our courtyard."

Also participating in the fantasy picnic event: the Orange County Museum of Art, the National Charity League, the March of Dimes and the Hoag Hospital Foundation.

Information: (562) 491-1000.

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