Blandwood Ball banks on green

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — As Sesame Street character Kermit the Frog suggested, it’s not easy being green.

But the two volunteers planning this year’s Blandwood Ball to benefit Preservation Greensboro aim to show that being green, while challenging, can be both fun and an effective way to raise operating support and awareness for an organization dedicated to preserving Greensboro’s past.

A Greensboro tradition for over 30 years, the ball this year will have a green theme.

Set for Jan. 26 at the Proximity Hotel and co-chaired by community volunteer Mary Hagan and Randy McManus, owner of Randy McManus Designs, the event aims to attract 300 guests and equal or exceed the $190,000 in net contributions it generated last year.

For the event, which is held every other year and supports the two-year operating budget of Preservation Greensboro, Hagan and McManus are integrating environmental sustainability into every aspect of their planning.

“Everything we do, we ask ourselves, ‘Is it sustainable and a green approach?’” says McManus.

For example:

* The 147-room hotel is one of the few “green” hotels in the state designed and build according to guidelines of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating Systems, he says.

* The printed program for the gala event is being printed on non-bleached, recyclable paper, and is embedded with wildflower seeds that guests can take home and plant.

* Roughly 1,000 recycled water bottles containing underwater lights will be refilled with water from a creek behind the hotel and will serve as votives in the hotel parking lots and on window sills.

* Vases for the event will be made of recycled glass.

* Each guest will receive as a gift a wine glass cut from reclaimed wine bottles by Green Glass in New York City and packaged in recycled boxes.

* Flowers used at the event will be donated to Friends With Flowers, a foundation formed by McManus that recycles flowers from local events and distributes them each week to 55 patients of Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro.

That attention to detail to make sure the gala practices what it preaches can be tough, McManus says.

“It makes it more challenging,” he says. “It kind of raises the bar, and then it gets to be fun. You don’t realize how much fun it can be when you start putting these restrictions on yourself.”

The Proximity Hotel, which serves as partnership sponsor for the event, has agreed to donate a portion of room revenue from overnight guests attending the ball.

The week before the event, roughly 40 people had reserved rooms.

For the event, the hotel will subdivide its restaurant into four dining area.

When guests arrive in the parking lot, six volunteer “paparazzi” from sponsor Aesthetic Images Photography will take their photos, which will be projected onto the walls of the hotel.

Sixteen members of the orchestra at UNC-Greensboro will entertain guest during a one-hour cocktail reception, which will end with a Lucille Ball impersonator announcing dinner.

The orchestra members will break into four groups, each of which will perform in each of the dining areas.

And after dinner, Big Swing and the Ballroom Blaster, a 16-piece Atlanta band, will perform dance music, while a Frank Sinatra impersonator will perform at a martini bar lounge.

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