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December 07, 2015

Free Library raises six figures at Wonderland Ball

Whimsical gala celebrated 'Alice in Wonderland' anniversary

Events Fundraisers
FLP gala Aubrey Nagle/for PhillyVoice

The lobby of the Free Library of Philadelphia's Parkway branch was transformed into a kooky, colorful ballroom for the "Through the Looking Glass: A Wonderland Ball."

Supporters of the Free Library of Philadelphia came out in droves to the Parkway Central branch Saturday, Dec. 5 for "Through the Looking Glass, A Wonderland Ball." The Library's annual fundraising gala fell down the rabbit hole by celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

The famous Lewis Carroll novel allowed the Library's planning committee to let their kooky side shine. Guests were greeted upon the stone steps by the famous white rabbit, warning everyone not to be late for such a very important date. Once inside, the lobby was filled with long tables where the hundreds of guests would later sit for dinner, featuring bright multicolored lights and topsy-turvy decor. Anyone who frequents the Parkway Central building would have found it unrecognizable.

"We could let our imaginations go wild," said Susan Gould, the Assistant Vice President of Development for FLP. "That was what was such fun because we had no limits, we could transform the library." 

plates flp gala
Guests at the Free Library of Philadelphia's "Wonderland Ball: are taught to spin plates by Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. (Aubrey Nagle/PhillyVoice)

Various characters from Carroll's world floated around as guests made their way to the second floor where they found a pre-dinner cocktail reception among the stacks. The room quickly filled with well-heeled patrons of the FLP, some of whom Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum taught how to spin plates above the crowd (though, with many a drink in hand, it didn't always go well). The Queen of Hearts and one of her many pages joined in, too, lip-syncing a rousing version of "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" for the crowd. 

During the cocktail reception, a live auction took place to raise funds for the FLP's important mission. Attendees bid on dinners personally cooked by chefs like James Beard award-winner Jean-Marie Lacroix as well as trips to Namibia, the Caribbean and London, complete with an extra peek into Carroll's life. The bidding escalated quickly, with all of the selections going to attendees in a matter of minutes for thousands of dollars each.

"This year and in previous years we have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support library programs and activities," Alix Gerz, Assistant Vice President of External Affairs of the FLP Foundation, said. 

flp gala dance
The Queen of Hearts and her page got everyone dancing at the "Wonderland Ball" after party, the Jabberwocky Jam. (Aubrey Nagle/PhillyVoice)

"We’re very lucky, we have a wonderful group of supporters and a wonderful public and I think they understand that the library is something worth supporting, so that makes it worth it for us," Gould said of the bidders.

Soon after, the crowd shuffled down to the lobby for their whimsical dinner put together by chef Lacroix's Brulee Catering. 

When dinner ended, guests headed to the Skyline Room on the fourth floor for the Jabberwocky Jam, an after-party overlooking the Benjamin Franklin Parkway hosted by the Raven Society, FLP's group of young supporters. The Queen of Hearts and her page kicked things off with a spontaneous dance break while the crowd looked on before quickly filling the room. The party lasted well into the night, with many guests dancing their way down the Library's stone steps when it was all said and done.

Next year, the fundraiser will be a Borrowers' Ball, a favorite theme of FLP where renown authors join local attendees to support the library. Though details won't be announced for some time, you can be sure FLP is already hard at work planning next year's happening.