These cold Chicago winters make us long for foreign lands, but thanks to the hard work of Hinsdale’s Stacy Lorin, we don’t have to travel across the Atlantic to enjoy the luxuries of France. On June 9, you can step into the glamorous world of Versailles for a night of dining, dancing, auction items, visual treats, and more at the “Versailles en Scene” biennial gala at the Civic Opera House in Chicago.
The event is a benefit for the Alliance Francaise of Chicago and the programs it supports in Chicago schools. Lorin, known around town for her popular Yankee Peddler boutique and involvement in other community events, is chairing this year’s fête.
Prior to the gala, on May 10, is a pre-event that will take place at Chez in Chicago. “This is our pre-kickoff cocktail party for our sponsors who have purchased premium tickets or have made large donations,” says Lorin. “It will be an evening to give them a preview of live auction items. This is also a way to celebrate them as a thank you for their support.”
As a throwback to the days of Louis XIV’s era, on June 9, the Civic Opera House will be transformed into Versailles, an homage to the epic banquets and magnificent fêtes created by Francois Vatel at the court of the Prince de Conde.
When guests arrive, they will walk through gardens reminiscent of the ones at the famous Palace of Versailles. “There will be boxwood and beautiful gardens,” says Lorin.
Thanks to New Moon Entertainment, guests will be treated to numerous authentic Versailles experiences. Two footmen, with offered cocktails, will greet the guests and walk them through the gates to the reception area.
Once inside the reception area, table ladies will walk around the displays of the silent auction, offering appetizers to the guests. The ladies will literally be standing in the center of a 72-inch moveable table made to look like a Frenchwoman’s ballgown. On the ladies’ tables, at waist level, will be appetizer offerings that guests may pluck right off the gown to enjoy.
The guests will dine on authentic French cuisine once inside the Lyric Opera stage area. “It’s so incredible because how often can you say you dined on the stage of the Lyric Opera House in Chicago?” Says Lorin, who says the tables on the stage will reflect the days of the Sun King in his Hall of Mirrors.
The Stanley Paul Orchestra will entertain guests both during dinner and afterwards, when the dance floor opens.
Models on the stage will wear all-white paper wigs and dresses that will be cut out by New Moon Entertainment. The dresses and wigs are inspired by the French fashion of the era. “All of us women love fashion and we love this period,” says Lorin. “We wanted it a little outside the box of what we’ve done in the past as well.”
The gala afterparty will begin at 10 p.m. and continue until approximately 1 a.m.
Some silent auction items include exciting trips, dining opportunities, jewelry, French luxury items, and more.
Live auction items will include a one-of-a-kind international travel opportunity, unique luxury items, French wines, and exclusive experiences. Guests will also bid on a Behind-the-Scenes tour of French luxury designer Hermes in France. A beautiful ruby, sapphire, and diamond ring was donated by Anton and Mark Zubkovskis, owners of Karat Jewelry Group in Hinsdale.
A real treat for guests, and one of the most coveted live auction items, is a custom one-of-a-kind outfit created by high-end French fashion designer Anne Fontaine. “Her studio is in Paris and the highest bidder will have an outfit designed by Anne specifically for them,” says Lorin.
There will be a paddle raise as well. When the guests raise their paddles, they will automatically be entered into a raffle drawing for more fabulous prizes.
Organizing such a huge event is no easy feat, but Lorin is enjoying the experience particularly because of the support she receives. “As the chairperson, I have had great support from the rest of the Alliance Francaise de Chicago women’s board and especially from its president Mary Ellen Connellan,” says Lorin, who has been a board member since 2014. “She has been a great president and leader.”
Proceeds from the silent and live auction items will benefit many things. “It will help support overall operations of the Alliance Francaise for the next two years,” Stacy explains. The money raised will also support the Alliance’s Educational Outreach Program, an afterschool immersion that provides rich language and French cultural exchange for students with six area high schools. This program brings inner city students to the Alliance Française for after school French instruction, and grants scholarships for immersion trips to France and Concordia Language Villages. A successful gala will enable one of Chicago’s oldest institutions to fulfill its important mission of bringing French language, culture, and educational opportunities to Chicago.
All these programs are close to Lorin’s heart. At just 13 years old, Lorin, a self-proclaimed Francophile, visited France and instantly fell in love with its rich culture and heritage. Lorin eventually married a Frenchman and is currently raising her children to speak French and English in the home. “Our children are bilingual,” explains Lorin. “My children being half French, I wanted to get involved with an organization that would help enhance our family’s multicultural environment.”
Tickets for the “Versailles en Scene” are $700 or a table for $7,000. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit af-chicago.org. For sponsorship opportunities and auction donations, contact Development Manager Michelle Marvin at [email protected]