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A Festive Ferragosto

Childhelp USA Celebrates in Italian Spirit

August 17, 2000|ANN CONWAY

Looking for a great way to celebrate summer? You might take a cue from the Orange County Chapter of Childhelp USA: Go Italian. Better yet, go Ferragosto, the traditional midsummer festival celebrated in Italy.

Their formula: Dress up dining tables with crisp white linens and top them with bouquets arranged in Italian pottery. Serve cuisine--fresh fish, roast pig, antipasto, salads, fruit tarts--showcased alongside the colors of the Italian flag. To rev up the ambience, throw in clusters of grapes and a wine barrel or two.

And don't forget entertainment--preferably a live band. Or wine--preferably white.

It was in place for the 400 guests who attended the alfresco benefit on Saturday in the Neiman Marcus Courtyard at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. Proceeds of about $40,000 will go toward Childhelp's residential treatment facilities for abused children.

No sooner had guests arrived at the seventh annual event than they started swaying to the music of Blue Machine and digging into an array of Italian treats cooked up by chefs at Tutto Mare restaurant.

"In Italy, seafood is the most popular dish at a Ferragosto party," said Stefano Albano, general manager of Tutto Mare. "Italy has 20 regions and 18 of them are on the sea."

A classic Italian Ferragosto party features the music of a region's most popular band and a roast pig that is selected at a neighborhood farm, Albano said.

The dress code? In Italy, it's "summery--shorts and sandals," he said. "In Orange County, it's always chic."

Indeed. Christine Bren, gala co-chairwoman with Pam Arnett, wore a form-fitting black-and-red slip dress from the Betsey Johnson boutique at Fashion Island.

Along with her husband, residential developer Cary Bren--the son of Orange County billionaire Donald Bren--Christine will visit Italy this month. "We're off for a cruise to Capri and Positano," said Christine.

Also among guests at the Childhelp event: honorary gala chairwoman Patti Edwards and her husband, Jim. The couple had just returned from a leisurely trip to Bora Bora. "It's the most beautiful place on Earth," said Patti, who wore a sleek animal print sheath to the affair. "We designed the timing of our vacation around the Ferragosto party. We wouldn't miss it."

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