Brandywine in Black: food, fun, frivolity

The beauty of the Brandywine bedazzled the crowd on multiple levels at the Brandywine in Black (BIB) event on Saturday, April 2.

These shoes fit the bill for black attire with a pop of yellow.

These shoes fit the bill for Brandywine in Black's jet attire with a pop of yellow.

Held at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, the gala filled all three levels of the museum core in the early evening hours. Then, the floor-to-ceiling windows reflected the party lights as the festivities continued.

Inspired by the popular "Diners en Blanc" in France, BIB guests packed elaborate picnic hampers and table settings before heading to the museum – a location disclosed just a few days before the event. Since the beneficiary of this year’s BIB was the Brandywine Conservancy, the Young Friends of the Brandywine pitched in with the planning and execution. Their rubber ducky-inspired table décor, the brainchild of Brian Cawley, was whimsically elegant.

With dinner behind them, attendees at Brandywine in Black enjoy the dance floor.

With dinner behind them, attendees at Brandywine in Black enjoy the dance floor.

The color theme this year was “black with a touch of yellow” – easy to execute with so many yellow flowers currently in bloom. Sunshine-hued tulips and forsythia popped up everywhere – in centerpieces, on lapels and even in hair decorations.

Most adhered to the admonition of “a touch of yellow,” but some really rocked it. Yellow shoes were the color challenge of choice, both for men and women. Unfortunately for the women, the fancy shoes were hard to walk in, and many brought more comfortable footwear as backups.

Uncomfortable shoes might have qualified as the only negative for Brandywine in Black, a model of detailed planning. All that organizers and guests had to do was have a good time, which they did.

A table of four enjoys dinner at Brandywine in Black at the Brandywine River Museum of Art.

A table of four enjoys dinner at Brandywine in Black at the Brandywine River Museum of Art.

There were several options for the 158 participants to plan their party within a party. Some couples shared a table for two; Mary Calloway of Philadelphia preferred to share dinner with her date, Jamil Jackson. She sewed a table runner and included African elements to complement the color scheme and theme.

Some reserved a long table with friends. Jodi Eppler was the coordinator who encouraged her neighbors from East Marlborough Township to attend. Several tables of women friends took advantage of the “night out on the town” to decorate their table, talk and share lots of laughs. The theme of one “ladies” table was Cuba, complete with cigar boxes at each table setting and flan for dessert.

Doug Eppler sports sunshine yellow shoes at Brandywine in Black.

David Eppler sports sunshine yellow shoes at Brandywine in Black.

According to Jan Geddes of Kennett Square, Wilmington attorney Diane Bartels was the “creative genius” behind their table decor, which won first prize for the third year in a row. Bartels’ Roaring Twenties theme included an elegant handmade chandelier lamp and hand-painted wine glasses. Lots of dangling pearls, long, cigarette holders and feathers appeared in the women’s hair.

Some people brought a dish to share and joined the community table. No one sat silent for long at the community table. The evening’s friendly and casual atmosphere encouraged people to share food, wine and stories. Business cards were exchanged and hugs were shared at evening’s end.

Mary Calloway, a “table leader” for Philadelphia’s Diner en Blanc, loves attending the Brandywine version. She explained that her job as a table leader in Philly entails guiding a group of 25 people through the city on public transportation to the surprise location of the event. People bring their own tables and chairs, linens, tableware and food.

The Young Friends of the Brandywine display rubber ducky-inspired table décor.

The Young Friends of the Brandywine display rubber ducky-inspired table décor.

“It’s crazy,” Calloway said. “It’s like a combination of ‘The Great Race’ and a dinner party. Brandywine in Black is much calmer.”

Brandywine in Black originated when organizer Vince Moro couldn’t get a ticket to Philly’s Diner en Blanc several years ago. So he decided to throw his own party, “Brandywine in White,” on his property in Chadds Ford. The group that attended was enthusiastic about doing it again, but moving forward, they decided to make the event a fundraiser.

Since then, the Brandywine in White/Black dinners have raised money for such nonprofits as Friends of Wilmington Parks, Sunday Breakfast Mission, and the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.

and Vince Moro

Brandywine in Black founder Vince Moro (right) takes a break from last-minute preparations with Elizabeth Roche. Photo by Magdalena Bel

As people finished eating, the mood became subdued, but not for long. At 9 p.m., Moro and his partner, real-estate agent Elizabeth Roche, officially opened the dance floor, and the party revved up to a new level. DJ Mark Rogers knew exactly what kind of music to play for the crowd and kept them dancing beyond the dance floor to all three floors of the museum.

Reflecting on the quirkiness of Brandywine in Black, Cawley mused about keeping the location of the gala a secret until just before the event date. “Since we know there is no Santa Claus, there are few surprises left at this age,” he said. “It’s fun to try and figure out where the party’s going to be.”

Geddes said she looks forward to the event each year. “It’s like a pop-up picnic for folks from age 30 to 80,” she said. What can be more fun than that?





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About Lora B. Englehart

Lora has a passion for art, gardening, yoga, music and dancing. She continues to research the life of locally born abolitionist and 1998 National Women's Hall of Fame inductee Mary Ann Shadd Cary. She is a dedicated community volunteer, working with the American Association of University Women, Wilmington, DE branch (programs chair), Chadds Ford Historical Society (former board member) and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. Lora lives in Birmingham Township with her husband Bill and son Brad. Daughter Erika lives in Pittsburgh with husband Bob and baby Wilhelmina. She is a former French, Spanish and ESL teacher, bilingual life insurance underwriter and public relations coordinator for Delaware Art Museum and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.



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