By Lynn Wille Fichman

It had been empty and abandoned for many years, but once the Village of Pinecrest made the commitment to refurbish it, Pinecrest Gardens’ Banyan Bowl has presented performances by artists whose work has run the gambit from drama, to jazz to classical music. On Friday, February 24th, the Bowl promises to come alive as never before when the Community Garden Charitable Fund will host it sixth annual Soiree in the Gardens, featuring “An Intimate Evening With Stephen Marley”, one of this year’s Grammy Award nominees.

Marley, a member of the venerable family that bears the name of their late legendary patriarch Bob, has enjoyed a degree of success that comes second only to his father’s. He plays to sold out crowds around the world, and his latest recording has been nominated for 2012 Reggae album of the year. The Garden Fund’s Board of Directors is honored that he has agreed to perform for the benefit of beautiful Pinecrest Gardens, the Fund’s sole purpose for being.

The Garden Fund was formed in 2007 by Karen Mashburn, a community activist and master gardener who wanted to do something about the poor condition of the then recently purchased piece of property that had been known as the Parrot Jungle. It had fallen into disrepair before it was sold to the Village of Pinecrest and renamed Pinecrest Gardens, and it was further damaged by hurricanes that tore through the property soon after. Budgetary constraints enabled the Village government to only do so much, but Mashburn believed that the property held the potential to become one of the most magnificent public gardens around, and that a group of citizens working together could do much to help make that a reality. And she was correct.

Since that time, many tens of thousands of dollars have been raised by the Fund, and those monies have been used to make significant botanical improvements to the Gardens. There are hundreds of orchids in the tree canopy, a cleaned and refreshed colonnade section, a beautiful hidden garden, pathway and seating area into the historic hardwood hammock, royal Poinciana trees growing near the Community Center, a replanted large tract adjacent to the Gardens’ terrace, a lush rainforest grotto flourishing in the lower garden, a re-landscape of the outer western perimeter of the Banyan Bowl, continuing maintenance of the above, and in addition, a decorative mosaic pathway will soon be installed in the Hidden Garden as a result of the Garden Fund’s work. Now, as February 24th approaches, the Fund’s volunteers and Board of Directors are working to ensure that their most profitable and anticipated fundraiser is once again a sold out event, enabling them to underwrite further improvement projects in the Gardens.

On February 24th Soiree guests will be treated to an open bar courtesy of Bacardi USA and Whole Foods Market of Pinecrest, lavish appetizers and dinner will be served by Creative Tastes, a catering company whose chef was a recent contestant on the highly rated “Top Chef” television show, a silent auction will offer high end baubles by Maurice’s Jewelers, artwork, and much more, a four day cruise, courtesy of NCL Cruise Line, will be raffled off, a mountainous dessert bar will entice all, and finally, a concert in the Banyan Bowl by Stephen Marley will be the pinnacle of the evening, all with an admission price that is far lower than what most fundraising events garner.

The full package with open bar, appetizers, dinner, desserts, silent auction, and concert is $125 per person, tables of ten are offered for $1125, and concert only guest passes are $40 each. The festivities will begin at 7:00 PM, and the concert at 9:30 PM.

The Garden Fund is grateful to their generous sponsors, who include the Village of Pinecrest, Bacardi USA, Whole Foods Market of Pinecrest, NCL Cruise Line, Maurice’s Jewelers, and the Corradino Group. Their support enables the Fund to provide a top notch evening for an extremely reasonable price.

By day, Pinecrest Gardens is a compilation of winding pathways that lead to various hubbubs of activity interspersed between lush and exotic flora. By night it comes alive from a whole new perspective as trees answer to the evening breezes, sounds travel from far distances, and lights beckon. There are few nighttime events there, and the Garden Fund’s soiree is an opportunity not only to enjoy an unforgettable evening in this rare place of beauty, but to contribute to a noble endeavor to preserve and enhance this living jewel for many generations to come.

Seating is limited, and tickets are selling briskly. For further information, to purchase tickets, or to make a donation, call the Garden Fund’s office at 305-669-1028. The Garden Fund is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization, and all contributions are tax-deductable.

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