Celebrating Natural History On The East End

Honorees Don Church and Courtney Sale Ross, and SoFo founder Andy Sabin.

It’s been almost 30 years since the first South Fork Natural History Museum gala benefit, one of the markers of the Hamptons season. And the event this Saturday, July 14, promises to be as much fun and as grand as any that have gone before.

The Nature Clubhouse, founded in 1988 by a group of South Fork naturalists in Amagansett, eventually morphed into the South Fork Natural History Museum & Nature Center, which opened its permanent location in 2005 on the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike. It’s the only state-of-the-art natural history museum on the South Fork of Long Island.

Visitors are accompanied by the museum’s expert nature educators as they experience the museum’s scientifically accurate galleries, featuring live and recreated natural habitat exhibits; colorful floor-to-ceiling photo murals of forests, ponds, and ocean landscapes; a Marine Touch Tank where visitors can, in the water, hold sea stars, crabs, urchins, and whelks; and terrariums and aquariums featuring local wildlife, which engage the senses and bring the outdoors in.

The magic continues outside with SoFo’s Native Butterfly Garden, Native Wildflower Garden, Educational Pond, Purple Martin nesting gourd site, and more. Visitors can take nature walks through the 40-acre Vineyard Field Preserve bordering the museum and explore the six-mile trail system of the Long Pond Greenbelt, which features an expanse of interconnected ponds, woods, and wetlands abounding with rare plants, animals, and ecological communities.

The SoFo gala always recognizes some of the environmental and education visionaries who are aiming to transform the world. This year’s honorees, “caring and responsible stewards of our planet,” according to the press release, are Courtney Ross, founder of the Ross Institute and the Ross School, and Don Church and Russell Mittermeier, the president and the chief conservation officer, respectively, of Global Wildlife Conservation.

The gala is chaired by Sammi and Scott Seltzer and Jeff and Patsy Tarr, with co-hosts Leslie Clarke, Alex Guranaschelli, and Debra Halpert.

“SoFo is such an important institution for the education of our kids and everybody on the importance of our plants and animals and the ecosystem of the East End,” Halpert told The Independent. “The event will be a fun and entertaining evening filled with great food and inspiring people.”

How could it not be entertaining with music and dancing provided by the Nancy Atlas Project? And food catered by Elegant Affairs, with Amagansett Wines and Spirits and Channing Daughters Winery providing the adult beverages?

The event begins with a VIP cocktail reception from 6 to 7 PM, featuring a tasting menu by acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs like The Bell & Anchor, Calissa Hamptons, East Hampton Grill, Golden Pear, Grand Banks, Hayground School, Ketcham’s Seafarm, Mecox Bay Dairy, the Montauk Shellfish Company, Page at 63 Main, Saaz Restaurant, and the Southampton Social Club. Bridgehampton Florist is providing the flowers.

From 7 to 10 PM, the gala reception offers a buffet dinner, live and silent auctions, the honoree tribute, and surprise guests. Gerry Curatola, DDS of the Hamptons, and Ann Liguori, nationally-known sports radio and television personality, will host the live auction.

New sponsors this year include Bai Antioxidant Infusion Drinks, Buddha Berry, Danielle Hamptons, Hampton Coffee Company, the South Fork Country Club, and Summerhill Landscapes, who join the roster of recurring sponsors including the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, the Hampton Classic Horse Show, HSBC Bank, Marders, Long Island Shark Collaboration, and Rejuvenation Health.

Media sponsors are The Independent, Dan’s Hamptons Media, East Hampton Star, Hamptons Magazine, and the Sag Harbor Express.

“We are pleased to present again this year the following awards to two students studying environmental science: the 2018 SoFo Scholarship award made possible by BNB Bank, and the 2018 Mulvihill Family Environmental Scholarship made possible by Mary M. Mulvihill,” said development director Diane Aceti.

“We are very happy to celebrate our 29th year of nature education leadership, offering over 250 annual educational programs, including our new Shark Research and Education Program and our fourth Annual Climate Change Forum, which will take place in September of this year,” said SoFo’s Executive Director Frank Quevedo.

“Our gala benefit promises to be a very special one, as we are honoring acclaimed changemakers in education and conservation,” Aceti said. “We thank everyone for supporting SoFo, and we encourage everyone to reserve their tickets and tables very soon as we have limited availability.”

VIP tickets are $1300, and general admission (with limited availability) tickets are $450. Young Professionals (30 and under) tickets are $275. VIP tables are $5000, $10,000, and $25,000. The event will be held on the grounds of the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center.

For more information and tickets, visit www.sofo.org/summer-gala.

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