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Garfield Park Conservatory's fashion show blooms for charity

Fleurotica, a floral fashion show created by the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, made its Chicago Flower & Garden Show debut March 17 during the opening night gala, "Evening in Bloom." Spotlighting the talents of local floral designers, landscape artists and fashion designers, the event benefited several charities and offered over 1,200 guests a "first look" at the Navy Pier garden show.

Attendees entered through a tribute garden celebrating the centennial of Navy Pier with mini replicas of Chicago landmarks that included the Water Tower, Willis Tower, the Picasso sculpture at Daley Plaza and the Hancock building, all surrounded by flowers and shrubs.

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Guests mingled among the exhibits and enjoyed specialty cocktails, performance artists and tastings from noted chefs of the Illinois Restaurant Association.

Tony Abruscato, president and director of CFGS, welcomed guests and announced the formation of a new program called Cultivate Kids that will sponsor students from 10 schools who can attend the show courtesy of Peoples Gas. He also spoke about the creation of a new nonprofit, the Get Growing Foundation, which will be dedicated to advancing educational programming and outreach.

Event chair Erika Summers said a portion of the over $100,000 raised will fund the Garfield Park Conservatory's weekend program, Fiddleheads, where families learn about nature through creative activities. Other beneficiaries included Pilot Light, a nonprofit that provides food education to elementary school students and educators, and the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

The 40-minute fashion show featured garments created entirely from flowers, plants and natural materials. The Department of Floristry presented a colorful gown accented with roses and orchids and lit with LED lights. Designer Laura Daluga said the creation took "hundreds and hundreds of hours to make" and was dedicated to Bobbi Ecker-Blatchford, a popular floral designer and feminist who recently passed away.

A dramatic moment in the show occurred when Sagegreenlife's model appeared onstage wearing a short dress inspired by the Botanic Garden's famed corpse flower. When she released the "leaves," flower petals spilled onto the runway and the dress was transformed into a floor-length evening gown. Other participants included Robert James Events, Vitruvian Fine Art Studio, Flowers for Dreams, the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, Flower Child and event sponsor Mariano's.

NBC-Ch. 5's LeeAnn Trotter served as emcee and introduced a special segment of the show that featured fashions from M2057, Maria Pinto's ready-to-wear line. Local notables, who wore the designs with accessories created by floral designers, included Desiree Rogers, Deirdre Koldyke, Kendall Miles (who was escorted by her father, Jim Reynolds), Trish Rooney with her daughters Suzanne and Ellie, Diana Palomar, Alpana Singh and Ceta Walters.

Abruscato said, "This year's theme, Chicago's Blooming, expresses the vitality and the strength of this city and raises awareness about the good things that happen here."

Freelance writer Candace Jordan is involved with many local organizations, including some whose events she covers.

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Find more photos and events at www.chicagotribune.com/candidcandace. Visit Candid Candace's website at www.candidcandace.com, or follow her on Twitter @CandidCandace.

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