Fairy lights twinkle, reflecting the blooms that fill the green space as you enter the venue. Guests, donned in black and white, with a splash of red, are greeted with a flute of sparkling prosecco and a bid card.
The mingling and perusing begins, as a variety of art propped up on easels entices closer inspection, while music is played in the background.
The call for dinner sees everyone take a seat at the linen draped tables lined in rows. Strangers soon become acquainted as bread is broken and conversation flows as easily as the wine is poured.
The aromas of rosemary and garlic fill the air as the Italian dinner is served under the stars, finished off with dessert and a digestif of Okanagan Spirits’ own grappa, distilled from Gray Monk winery grapes.
This is just a splash of what guests can expect when the fourth annual Italian evening and art fundraiser, A Splash of Red, takes place at the Caetani Cultural Centre gardens Thursday.
“The proceeds of the Caetani Splash of Red will go towards the goal and long-term project of opening up the house for more community access,” said the centre’s manager and artist-in-residence coordinator Susan Brandoli.
The former home of Italian prince Leone Caetani, his wife Ofelia, and their artistic daughter Sveva, the house was bequeathed to the city of Vernon for artistic pursuits after Sveva died in 1994. It is now run by a society, which adheres to Sveva’s vision by hosting programs and artist residencies and opening the house to residential suites and artist studios.
Many locals know the story of the Caetanis and will likely feel their spirits at the event.
“The Splash has become part of the cultural fabric of Vernon,” said Caetani board chair Angelika “AJ” Jaeger, who organized the original Splash along with singer Judy Rose and fellow artist Michelle Loughery.
“A lot of the people involved are connected to the house. This is the first year the Caetani Centre is organizing the event. The last two Splashes were organized by artistic friends of the Caetani Centre. It still runs with volunteers. We couldn’t do this without them,” she said.
With the gardens lovingly tended by volunteer landscapers Gail and Cal Setter, preparations for the Splash have been underway for some time.
Organizers have already collected a variety of artworks – paintings, sculpture, glass, pottery – donated to the cause by 20 local artists to go on the block during the live auction.
Guests will be able to meet and mingle with new artists to the event, including painters Diana Gritten, Kara Barkved, Melissa Dinwoodie (who lives at the house) and former Caetani Centre student Robyn Soderberg, along with other established artists. (Some of the work is currently on display in downtown Vernon businesses before it goes to auction.)
Also new to the event is auctioneer Paul Bielby, of Benefit Auctions Inc., who has worked on cruise lines.
Returning to cater the event is Basket Case Picnics, who will make sure everyone is well satiated, while Betty Selin, of Sun FM, is returning to emcee the event.
Splash co-founder Judy Rose will be at the event as a special guest, with the hopes she will be enticed to sing for her supper, while harpist Holly Smith will perform during the reception.
“We will also have tents set up on the property for shade and just in case of weather,” added Brandoli.
At press time, 80 per cent of the 100 tickets for A Splash of Red had been sold. Contact the Ticket Seller at 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca or visit the Caetani Centre, 3401 Pleasant Valley Rd., to purchase, or visit the Splash of Red event page on Facebook for more information.