farm sanctuary dinner

I enjoy a lot of things: really good margaritas, paid vacation time, that noise bubble wrap makes when it’s popped, but none of those compare to how much I love the annual Farm Sanctuary Gala. In case you’re late to the party, Farm Sanctuary was started in 1986 with the rescue of Hilda, a “downer” cow left for dead in a stockpile. Today they are considered to be the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization and work tirelessly to expose and stop cruel practices in the food animal industry. After over 20 successful years they now have 2 fully running sanctuaries in New York and California that are home to hundreds of animals, tons of staff and plenty of curious visitors.

Each year the organization holds a ritzy, celebrity-packed gala to help raise money for their many noble causes. Two yeas ago, before my Ecorazzi days, I volunteered at the event and was truly inspired by a room full of like-minded people all coming together to celebrate those that are so rarely even thought about. This year I got to attend with a full access, fancy-pancy press pass and pick the brains of those very famous VIP’s I once so fondly cooed over.

I arrived at 4:30, signed in and was told I had “full-access” to the event. Score! After getting my photographer Andrew Ford set up on the red carpet I headed inside for some investigative work (and perhaps a little appetizer munching). The space was pure elegance with beautifully decorated tables, a silent auction area and, of course, the second floor VIP loft. I started slowly and perused some of the items on the silent auction tables. There were signed photographs, paintings, jewelry and plenty of eager volunteers to help answer any questions I might have.

Next I headed upstairs to the VIP lounge where I had the chance to speak with Melissa Rivers (a regular Ecorazzi reader), Emily Deschanel, Rory Freedman, Dennis Kucinich, Swoosie Kurtz, Kevin Nealon, Victoria Moran, Ally Sheedy, Loretta Swit, Russell Simmons and Farm Sanctuary president and co-founder Gene Baur. The celebs were kind, well-spoken and all agreed on one thing: Farm Sanctuary is pretty damn incredible. FYI — throughout the week Ecorazzi will feature The Farm Sanctuary Gala Interviews, a series of exclusive one on ones with the many celebrity guests in attendance.

After celeb-time, the ceremony began with host Heather Mills admitting that she wanted to “convert all the meat-eaters in the house.” Awesome! The dinner came a bit later and was partially designed by Mills herself. Now even though I had “full-access”, I didn’t have “full-access” to dinner!! However, you better believe those years of waiting tables taught me a thing or two about getting on the good side of servers. I quickly befriended a waiter and made sure I got a plate of vegan lasagna with bechamel sauce. Sadly, I must admit that I was far from impressed. The plate appeared rather sloppy, adversely juxtaposing the elegance of the evening, and the overly sweet bechamel sauce left much to be desired. Luckily I filled up on delicious appetizers like fresh guacamole, vegan chicken and green tomato soup.

The ceremony continued with awards given to many, including Karen Dawn for her outstanding activism and the Jivamukti Yoga School for their leadership in compassionate living. As the evening began to wind down Susie Essman got on stage and auctioned off a few pretty incredible gifts — my favorite being a portrait sitting with world-renown painter Peter Max. The ceremony closed with a twilight reception and a musical performance by Grammy Award winner Shawn Colvin.

As I chowed down on my out of the this world vegan brownie cheesecake, care of Vegan Treats, I looked around the room at a group of people who were all spending their time and money on a cause they truly believed in and I felt so proud to be among them. It was getting late and my feet were tired so I headed for the exit and was offered a remarkably heavy gift-bag with enough vegan products to last me for the next month!

A big thanks to the folks at Farm Sanctuary for pulling off such a lovely event and for inviting your beloved Ecorazzi team to take part in the festivities. If you’d like to visit the farm or learn how you can get involved, visit FarmSanctuary.org. Also, don’t forget to check Ecorazzi all week long for the Farm Sanctuary Gala exclusive interviews!

Photo Credit: Andrew Ford

About Michael dEstries

Michael has been blogging since 2005 on issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, philanthropy, and healthy living. He regularly contributes to a slew of publications, as well as consulting with companies looking to make an impact using the web and social media. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his family on an apple farm.

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