Overlooking dramatic views of Chicago's skyline, the John G. Shedd Aquarium's Auxiliary Board hosted BLU, an annual fundraiser that attracted nearly 800 guests to its lakefront home on July 26. This year, the Brazilian-themed "festa" celebrated Shedd's Amazon Rising, an 8,600-square-foot exhibit that takes visitors through a recreation of the Amazon River floodplain.
The underwater world beckoned immediately upon entering as partygoers experienced Stingray Touch, an interactive exhibit that allows guests to pet sociable cownose and yellow stingrays. During cocktail hour, attendees visited the Hydration Station to learn about the aquarium's Great Lakes programs. Research biologists and aquarists were also on hand to share Shedd's mission of "connecting people to the living world."
Dolphins, beluga whales and a rescue dog named Bruce delighted the audience with their performances during the One World show in the Rice Amphitheater. Emceed by Ken Ramirez, Shedd's executive vice president of Animal Care and Training, the production included a video spotlighting the aquarium's conservation efforts and student outreach programs. A paddle raise followed to support community access initiatives for schoolchildren, military personnel, veterans and teachers.
Traditional Brazilian music filled the air as Chicago Samba performers beckoned guests to the galleries, where they sampled tastings from more than 30 of Chicago's top restaurants including jumbo lump crab cakes from McCormick and Schmick's, braised pork belly from Sunda and BBQ pork sliders from Theory. A VIP Samba Lounge offered hors d'ouevres approved by the aquarium's Right Bite Program that promotes sustainable seafood choices.
As guests danced the night away on the Sick Family Lakeside Terrace, Navy Pier fireworks provided a dramatic backdrop. Sweet treats from More Cupcakes, Garrett Popcorn Shops, Vanille Patisserie and Seasons 52 were served in the late-night lounge. An after-party followed at Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago.
Co-chaired by Julie Canna, Laura Micheli and Jon Pfeffer, BLU raised more than $318,000 for Shedd Aquarium's education and conservation initiatives and to support the 32,000 animals who call it home.
Freelance writer Candace Jordan is involved with many local organizations, including some whose events she covers.
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