South Park Magazine

The season for support

Jockey Tom Foley, center, leads the pack over the first jump in the Maiden Claiming Hurdle race, during the ninth annual Queen's Cup Steeplechase, Saturday afternoon, April 24, 2004, in Mineral Springs, N.C.
Jockey Tom Foley, center, leads the pack over the first jump in the Maiden Claiming Hurdle race, during the ninth annual Queen's Cup Steeplechase, Saturday afternoon, April 24, 2004, in Mineral Springs, N.C. Associated Press

Every year, nonprofits of the Queen City hold some of the biggest and best events of the season. And this year brings a special treat with biannual Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend. If you're wondering what might pique your philanthropic interest, take a look at our list of the most popular benefits happening this spring.

Taste of the Nation

Charlotteans love to eat good food. The city is known for its variety of restaurants, ranging from high-rolling fine dining to eclectic dives and barbecue joints. For this city, there’s no better way to raise money to end childhood hunger than through Taste of the Nation, a much beloved Charlotte tradition that benefits local nonprofits who support this goal.

Nearly 17 million children in America are going hungry. Share our Strength, a national nonprofit, is working tirelessly to reduce these numbers by reaching out to communities in nearly 40 cities through tasting events. Through its No Kid Hungry campaign, children across the country and in Charlotte are able to receive breakfast, after-school snacks and meals and food stamps for their families. The goal is to end childhood hunger by 2015.

This year, the Charlotte-based event will donate 100 percent of its profits to two organizations. Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina provides children and adults with the nutrition they need in 16 counties of North and South Carolina with its food bank. It also provides programs such as Kids Cafe, feeding children who come to school hungry every day, the BackPack Program, which provides backpacks full of food for children at risk of hunger on the weekends, and the Mobile Pantry Program, which delivers truckloads of food directly to rural areas of our region. The second beneficiary is the Community Culinary School of Charlotte, which trains the unemployed and underemployed in the food service industry to better enable them during the job hunt.Local culinary geniuses, mixologists and those in training will participate in this one-night-only event, creating delectable dishes and mixing drinks that will go down all too easily. Over 25 restaurants and culinary schools will participate this year, including Mert’s Heart and Soul, Johnson and Wales University and Zink American Kitchen.

Event Details: Date: April 11, 2012Time: 6 p.m. Preview VIP hour; 7 p.m. main event.Location: Two Wells Fargo Center Atrium, 301 South Tryon Street.Cost: General admission $85, Preview VIP tickets $100.Contact: www.strength.org/charlotte

Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend

Only Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend could turn the traditional two-day weekend into five days of eating, drinking and general merriment. Designed for those who take wine and food seriously, the event is hosted in some of Charlotte’s finest restaurants paired with wineries from across the country, tailoring the mealtime experience into a masterpiece.

The event begins Wednesday with a golf tournament at the prestigious Golf Club at Ballantyne, formatted in captains choice or best ball, followed by a luncheon and awards, including a new Lincoln automobile for a hole-in-one. The event continues through Sunday with dinners, tastings and two major events: Big Bottles and Blues on Friday night and the Grand Gala on Saturday night. Big Bottles and Blues is the largest and most casual night of the weekend, held at the newly renovated Urban Garden at the Ritz-Carlton, complete with live and silent auctions, live music and local cuisine. The Grand Gala on Saturday night is a formal affair and includes a sit-down dinner and an upscale live wine auction.

Chuck Richards, Executive Director of the Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend, says he wants the event to be not only the biggest, but the best event in Charlotte. What began in 1989 as a one-night dinner and wine auction has blossomed into one of the largest and most anticipated events of the season. It’s only held every other year, so tickets sell quickly as those who know food and wine can’t wait to participate.

“We are not a street fest,” Richards says. “Our general structure has not changed; This is an event for those who take food and wine as seriously as we do.”

Richards also takes the purpose behind the event seriously. The Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend raises money to help local children in need. To be considered as a beneficiary, nonprofits apply for a grant with the Wine and Food Weekend board and are then chosen by its members. Since 1989, it has raised over $3.2 million dollars for local charities benefiting children.

“Our commitment is to nurture the entire child, in mind, body and spirit,” Richards says. “This is what drove us to choose children’s related nonprofits in our community.”

Each nonprofit chosen uses the grant money to benefit children in unique ways. The Council for Children’s Rights, chosen this year, will use the funds for their Individual Advocacy Program, which assists abused and neglected children. Also chosen this year, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina will use the grant to help fund their Backpack for Kids project, providing underprivileged children with food over the weekends. The grant money awarded to Charlotte Community Health Clinic will help pay for medical supplies and basic expenses in its new pediatric clinic, and Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center will use the funds to aid in its Family Advocates Program, which helps children involved in sexual abuse allegations.

“In 2010, we raised $265,000 for our nonprofits,” Richards says. “We are encouraged by the economy and feel that this year will be ever better.”

Event Details:Date: April 18-22, 2012Time: Times vary with events. Detailed schedule available online.Location: The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte and restaurants throughout Charlotte.Cost: Tickets vary with events. $35-$250.Contact: 704-338-9463, : www.charlottewineandfoood.org.

Center City Vision Awards

Over the past 20 years, uptown Charlotte has transformed into a Mecca of art, music, theater, food and nightlife. In the daylight, families can be seen strolling the streets, children excitedly running toward Discovery Place or splashing in the oversized fish fountain at The Green. Friends walk from museum to museum, each one vibrant in its own unique way, stopping to have lunch at a chic café or eatery. Visitors of the Queen City gaze upwards in amazement at the grandeur of the skyscrapers.

When the sun sets, upscale restaurants buzz with patrons hoping to get a table. House music of modern clubs can be heard on the street and crowds gather outside the Time Warner Cable Arena during Bobcats basketball games. Both men and women dress to impress, sipping martinis on the balcony of Mez or having a beer at Whiskey River.

At the center of the growth is Center City Partners, an organization which promotes the development of center city, including the areas surrounding uptown Charlotte, to create a safe, diverse and cultural urban core. The honor those who have aided in the development and had an innovative impact of the community, the organization created the Center City Vision Awards in 2006. This year the award goes to Jim Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy, for his contributions in bringing the Democratic National Convention to Charlotte, for his leadership in the Arts and Education campaign which raised $82 million, for moving Duke Energy’s headquarters to the LEED Certified tower on Tryon Street and for the creation of Envision Charlotte. The ceremony itself will honor Rogers and also give the organization a chance to present development and innovations in Charlotte to stakeholders and supporters.

Event Details:Date: April 19, 2012Time: 5:30 p.m.Location: Charlotte Convention Center Crown Ballroom, 550 Caldwell Street.Cost: $125 for an individual. Table prices vary.Contact: 704-332-2227 or mwilliams@charlottecentercity.org.

Passport for Fashion

Charlotte knows how to dress, and do it well. From our high-end department stores to independent chic boutiques, the city carries well-known labels and one-of-a-kind pieces only found in the Queen City. As both an urban and suburban metropolitan, men and women alike can be seen wearing Marc Jacobs to the grocery store or Manolo Blahniks to the post office. Charlotte’s best dressed look forward to nothing more than Charlotte Fashion Week, held in the fall, and Passport for Fashion, held every spring.

This year’s New York runways were doused in elegance and fabrics fresh with flora and fauna with splashes of geometric color blocking. This spring, Passport for Fashion will be as edgy as the looks that inspire the event; In fact, there’s so much fabulousness to display, there will be nine fashion shows in one night. The evening will also feature cuisine from some of the city’s best chefs, mixologists serving dangerously delicious drinks, a vendor bazaar, award ceremony and after party. Come mingle with over 100 models and 36 designers on one of the area’s hottest nights.

What would a Charlotte event be without supporting a local cause? After all, if nothing else, we are a city of people who care. Passport for Fashion will donate funds to Project HALO, which gives unwanted or stray dogs a second chance by giving them the medical treatment they need and finding them foster and permanent homes. They also spay and neuter all their dogs and provide the un-adoptable dogs a safe home to spend the remainder of their time.

Event Details:Date: April 21, 2012Time: VIP hour begins at 6 p.m., general admission at 7 p.m.Location: NC Music Factory – Reelworks Studios, 817 Hamilton Street.Cost: $25-$250.Contact: www.passportforfashion.com.

Room to Bloom Celebration

In the spring, the Mint Museum Auxiliary produces and hosts a season-long fundraiser, Room to Bloom, to raise money for the museum’s educational programs and to purchase acquisitions for collections. What began in 1956 as a home and garden tour has evolved into a calendar of events, including a decorative arts symposium with famed designers, cocktail parties and a gala.

This year, the celebrated interior designer honored will be Celerie Kemble, who is based out of New York but calls Palm Beach, Fl. home. Kemble is the author of two design books, “Celerie Kemble: To Your Taste” and “Black and White: And a Bit in Between.” As partner of Kemble Interiors with her mother, Mimi McMakin, who started the business in 1982, Kemble’s design aesthetic is a unique blend of Palm Beach textures and modern elegance. Kemble has 15 years of design experience and has collaborated with businesses such as Benjamin Moore, J. Crew and Valley Forge.

Following the lead of Kemble’s stomping grounds, the events will have a Palm Beach theme, complete with Lilly Pulitzer dresses, fruity cocktails and bold, glamorous color schemes. The largest event will be the Evening Under the Palms gala, an outdoor event featuring a seated dinner and dancing.

Event Details:Date: April 25-May 18Time: Times vary depending on event. More details online.Location: Locations vary depending on event. More details online. Cost: Ticket costs vary. Contact: 704-574-0787 or www.mintmuseumauxilary.org.

Queen’s Cup Steelechase

As one of Charlotte’s most prestigious events, the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase brings the Kentucky Derby to the Carolinas with equal parts glam and sophistication. This is the who’s-who event of the city, and some of the area’s most well-known citizens turn out in their best bow ties and oversized brimmed hats. In fact, the bigger, the better! Jockeys, lighter than air, gracefully top thoroughbreds racing at speeds of up to 30 mph and clearing four-and-a-half-foot jumps.

Social etiquette rules at the Queens’s Cup as it is one of the highlighted social events of the season. Jeans are tolerated – although not suggested – at the racecourse, but guests on the Members Hill and the Paddock are forbidden to wear them. The event will continue rain or shine, but umbrellas and tents are not permitted for viewing purposes and courtesy to other guests.

This year, the Queen’s Cup will offer something new to its patrons. Personal Space Licenses will be sold, giving Lawn Boxes or Tailgating areas to families to last generations. Children are welcomed at the event and there will be attractions specifically for them. Pony rides and birds of prey from the Carolina Raptor Center will be available on site.The winning horse and owner is awarded $90,000 in purse money and a moment to bask in the winner’s circle. Not only does the winner receive money, but a chosen charity does as well. As a recognized 501(c)(3), the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase donates money to one nonprofit annually and has contributed over $500,000 to local nonprofits since 1995. The recipient of the 2012 donation will be the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and Western Carolina, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illness.

Event Details:Date: April 28, 2012Time: Gates open at 10 a.m., first race at 1:30 p.m.Location: Brooklandwood Racecourse, Mineral Springs. Detailed directions online.Cost: Prices vary. General admission is $40, kids 12 and under free. Contact: 704-843-7070, www.queenscup.org.

Pet Palooza

The Humane Society of Charlotte is well known in the community for going above and beyond to save the lives of dogs and cats in Mecklenburg County. As a no-kill shelter, the organization works diligently to take in as many animals as they can hold, even taking animals from Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control when they have available space. But the shelter located on Toomey Avenue has become outdated for the society’s needs.

As part of its five year plan, the society is using money raised from its annual events to help fund a new facility. The first event the society has in 2012 is the Pet Palooza, held annually in May at Independence Park in Charlotte. As the society’s largest fundraiser, it attracted over 2,000 people in 2011 and raised $110,000. The day in the park is a chance for pets and their ‘parents’ to mingle with one another, enjoying a 1-mile pet walk, 5K run, entertainment and a Fido Fashion Show.

Funds from the Pet Palooza will also go toward programs provided by the society, including spay and neutering and medical treatment for animals.

Event details:Date: May 5, 2012Time: 8 a.m.-1 p.m.Where: Independence Park, 300 Hawthorne Lane Contact: www.humanesocietyofcharlotte.org.

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