Friday, January 23, 2015

Palm Beach Social Diary

The Breakers staff complete finishing touches at The Circle, the setting for the annual Humane Society of the United States benefit co-chaired by James Berwind and Therese Mersentes.
Winter Equestrian Festival @ Wellington opens + Humane Society's To the Rescue! Gala @ The Breakers
By Augustus Mayhew

On March 7, during the FEI World Cup competition at the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) will host the 3rd Annual Equine Protection benefit at the Wellington Club, recognizing the HSUS lifesaving equine programs. Where better to celebrate the importance of treating animals humanely than the equestrian festival where participants treat their horses like members of their own family. At almost any hour during the winter season you can drive by stables in Wellington and see owners, trainers, and groomsmen making sure their horses have expert care.
Wellington's Winter Equestrian Festival is underway. Lower right, Deborah Stephens aboard FYI awaits her turn in the stadium arena.
2015 Winter Equestrian Festival

What less than a decade ago was a low profile horse show seemingly more interested in camaraderie, blue ribbons and silver cups than big bucks has become the world's largest and longest running equestrian competition. Since Wellington Equestrian Partners (WEP) turned its Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) into an international destination hosting as many as 5,000 horses and 2,800 riders from 50 states and 31 countries in the jumper, hunter, and equitation classes, the organization has similar facilities now underway in North Carolina and Colorado as well as a summer event in NYC’s Central Park.

The Winter Equestrian Festival extends from January 7 to March 29.
WEP’s latest expansion may be partly due to billionaire Jeremy Jacobs, owner of the nearby 200-acre Deeridge Farm, evidently leading a successful “Keep Swellington Wellington” campaign that thwarted WEP’s managing member Mark Bellissimo’s attempts to enhance their Wellington facilities with permanent commercial venues. Of course in the often opaque and controlled universe of billionaires, Jerry and Peggy Jacobs have in the past opened their own treasured grass field at Deeridge Farm for Grand Prix competition events.

Nonetheless, WEP will content themselves with their 18 competition arenas located at the 140-acre main showgrounds at Pierson Road, and the dressage stadium located at the corner of Pierson Road and South Shore Boulevard where they operate The Adequan Global Dressage Festival (GDF). The new North Carolina venue is run by the Tryon Equestrian Partners — Mark and Katherine Bellissimo, Roger and Jennifer Smith, Gwen and Howard Dvorkin, Lisa Lourie, Diana and Jenji Mercer and Joe and Cindy Mitchell — several of the same shareholders from Wellington Equestrian Partners.  In 2012, show jumper Georgina Bloomberg joined Wellington Equestrian Partners. About the North Carolina operation, Bellissimo said in a recent interview, “I think this equestrian destination can be much more accessible and attractive, both geographically and financially, to a broader base who are passionate about horses and want to pursue that passion in a more cost-effective manner. While I believe there will be some crossover from Wellington, I believe we will be offering a more diverse product, so I would expect a more diverse clientele.” A few gallops away from the show rings, Wellington Dreams LLC, Katherine and John Gallagher as managing directors, paid $10.9 million to UNEX Group USA, a UK group, for their 3.4 acre facility with stables and training rings at 3410 Olde Hampton Drive, making for the largest recorded sale during the past month.

Here are a few snaps from my afternoon visit to the season’s first afternoon competition.
Right, Yann Candele riding Brooklyn Blues.
The twelve rings have ongoing competitions at every level. The press, once cordially welcomed at the Wellington Club, are now accommodated on the east side of the arena in what was a gallery tent next to Tito's Taco's.
Parking is never a problem for Mark Bellissimo and Georgina Bloomberg, both directors of Wellington Equestrian Partners. A few days later, I confessed to Georgina who was attending the Humane Society benefit at The Breakers, "I photographed your parking space …" We both laughed.
A view to the west of the stadium arena.
The Wellington Look
Riding boots from Der Dau, New York.
Charles Ancona, New York.
Among the hunters and jumpers.
Martha Louise goes thru her paces in a practice ring. Martha Louise place tenth on Sunday.
Cian O'Connor aboard Lordiana. O'Connor finished 25th in the field.
Beezie Madden takes Vanilla over a practice hurdle.
Combina awaits her ride with Candice King in saddle.
Next up in the stadium arena …
Stadium Arena – 11 January 2015 - 2PM
Class 101- WEF $30,000 Grand Prix
The riders walk the course.
The competition begins in the stadium arena.
In the stadium arena, LaGran clears the rails with Mark Bluman who finished 22nd in the afternoon competition.
Ramiro Quintana clears the first of a triple jump.
Mark Bluman rides LaGran.
Wellington Club members and their guests enjoy a crystal chandelier in their VIP seating area.
Gold Medal Olympian McLain Ward, riding Zander.
In Sunday afternoon's competition, McLain Ward finished third riding HH Ashley and 42nd riding Zander, pictured above.
Zander takes a turn.
McLain Ward and Zander.
McLain Ward takes the final triple hurdle.
McLain Ward.
Sloane Coles leads Baloucat over a jump.
Candice King, riding Combina.
Marie Hecart finished 7th with Quatour De B Neville.
Marie Hecart.
Sloane Coles and Baloucat.
Mark Bluman and LaGran.
Clearing the final hurdle.
Mark Bluman and LaGran.
To the Rescue! From Cruelty to Kindness!
The Humane Society of the United States @ The Breakers

Despite a downpour on Thursday night, the Humane Society of the United States' annual gala at The Breakers attracted more than 200 animal rights enthusiasts, advocates and defenders, joined by co-chairs James Berwind and Therese Mersentes, honorary chair Paige Rense Noland, honoree Amanda Hearst, and special guest Jill Rappaport. This year the event To the Rescue! From Cruelty to Kindness! focused on the organization's "Stop Puppy Mills Campaign." HSUS has initiated policy reforms, conducted high-profile investigations, and litigated cases to crack down on the puppy mill industry. During the past five years, HSUS has partnered with law enforcement to help rescue 10,000 dogs and shut down 50 mills.
The Leadership Committee for the Palm Beach event included Jeffrey Arciniaco, Arthur Benjamin, Kevin Clark, Anthony Cummings, Caryn Goldberg, Lance Goodwin, Frances Hayward, Jan and Chip Malley, Ross Meltzer and Victor Figueredo, Emily Pantelides, Deborah Robinson, Ardath Rosengarden, Richard Schechter, Jolene and Larry Shapiro. The event's major sponsors were Wellness National Food for Pets and Table 26.
James Berwind, co-chair of the Palm Beach event. Therese Mersentes, co-chair of the Humane Society of America's 2015 Palm Beach Gala.
Maurice Amiel and Paige Rense Noland, honorary chairperson for the event.
As impressive as the 200-foot lobby at The Breakers appears, several years ago I met with the hotel's engineer in his office beneath the hotel, a fascinating underground network where hundreds of uniformed staff move about the hotel unnoticed by guests.
The North Loggia connects the lobby area with the Magnolia Room where the cocktail hour was moved from the courtyard because of the weather.
This year's honoree Amanda Hearst is the founder and chair of Friends of Finn, a group of next-generation leaders dedicated to helping HSUS stop the inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills. Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.
Regine Traulsen and Bill Diamond.
Keith Williams and Laverne Morris. Laura Wright and Hugh Davis.
Ross Meltzer and Victor Figueredo.
Deborah and Ed Robinson.
Georgina Bloomberg & Hassan Pierre. Toni Condon, deputy director of philanthropy for the Humane Society of the United States.
Trey and Lizzie Sned with Rebecca Miller, right.
Victoria Woodhull. Sasha Jozefczyk and Lola Thelin navigate the stairs.
Shani and Britton Core.
Because of a late afternoon downpour, the cocktail hour was moved to the Magnolia Room.
The Breakers staff at the ready as guests arrive at the Magnolia Room.
Magnolia Room
The Breakers
Guests gathered in the Magnolia Room before dinner.
The Magnolia Room.
The Magnolia Room.
Kevin Clarke.
Bridgid Strain and Congressman Patrick Murphy.
Susan Stautberg.
Circle Dining Room
The Breakers

An afterthought to Schultze and Weaver's design of the main hotel, the Circle Dining Room at The Breakers was added in 1928, modeled after a hotel in Scotland, according to Henry Ellsworth Bemis, a vice-president of Flagler's FEC who ran the Flagler estate properties. The Circle is believed to be the only room in the world where the concrete walls and ceiling were poured as a unit.
The Circle Dining Room.
Chandelier at The Circle.
Skylight and chandelier.
The Circle.
Co-chairs James Berwind and Therese Mersentes emceed the program during dinner.
During dinner there were several mindful videos about the plague of puppy mills.
Animal advocate and TODAY show television personality Jill Rappaport was a special guest.
Euphoria provided the evening's entertainment.
Angela Vecellio.
A history making dinner — The Breakers serves its first Vegan menu to 200 guests. Above, duo appetizers: Hearts of Palm Cake and Baby Kale and Spinach Salad.
The entrée: Lasagna with portobello, squash, spinach, roasted peppers, cashew ricotta fire-roasted tomato, basil fondue, kale pesto cream, balsamic red onions, and white and green asparagus; Eggplant and tomato herb tower; and Olive, palomino and yucca rolls.
The finale was a Chocolate almond mousse bombe with a date almond crust and silken tofu chocolate mousse with Grand Marnier berries and ganache drizzle.
The Circle Dining Room.
Russell and Sarah Singson. The Singsons were my fellow diners at Table 18. Russell is from the Philippines; Sarah is from Alabama. I introduced her to the sounds of Alabama Shakes after she told me she had never of them. I told her they are best.
Bryan Walsh and Matthew Holland, also dining at Table 18. Bryan is the director of DTR Modern Galleries on South County Road at Worth Avenue.
Inside The Circle.
HMF, a casual lounge-eatery located between the North Loggia and The Circle, appeared hectic as I was leaving the event.
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Lost in Wonderland – Reflections on Palm Beach.