Patrons of the Prado gala to raise funds for museums, theater

Designed to surpass any of its past events, the 2009 Patrons of the Prado black-tie gala, themed “Intrigue on the Orient Express,” will be held July 18 in the Granada Courtyard of the historic Casa del Prado in Balboa Park.

The decor, the food, the entertainment and the auction items were selected by event organizers, headed up by co-chairs Elisabeth Bergan and Anita Crider, for their decadence and superlative quality in their quest to create an irresistible fundraiser that would draw philanthropists.

“In December, when the economy was seeming to tank, we considered not having the event,” Bergan said. “Instead of scaling back, we decided to ratchet it up. We’re bringing in the best.”

The evening’s entertainment will feature Grammy winner Steve Tyrell. Designer Rene van Rems is doing the decor.

“He’s going to do something that’s going to be very dramatic and very creative, and will create a romantic, kind of Art Deco, train in the 1920s kind of experience,” Bergan said.

Before dancing under the stars, guests will enjoy the innovative cuisine of Pamplemousse Grill’s chef Jeffrey Strauss paired with wines he has personally selected.

The gala auction features several noteworthy items, including a journey on the Venice Simplon Orient Express complete with stays at the Hotel Cipriani and a Parisian hotel, a one-week trip aboard The World residential cruise ship, a one week stay at one of three Capella Hotel locations, a Washington Insider Trip hosted by Congressman Bob Filner, four suites for four at the Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Holistic Retreat, an African adventure for two, an opportunity to meet Tyrell and more.

Guests also have a chance to win a collection of 32 wines, each with a value of more than $100 and most with a Parker rating of 95-plus.

Bergan said nonprofits have had to work harder to create new and exciting fundraisers, and Patrons of the Prado has responded to that challenge wholeheartedly this year.

“We’ve focused much more on our product, which is our gala,” Bergan said.

Organizers hope ticket sales and the auction will bring in at least $225,000, allowing them to donate $75,000 to three of the 11 museums along the Prado in Balboa Park.

These year’s beneficiaries include the San Diego Junior Theatre, the San Diego Natural History Museum and the Timken Museum of Art.

“This year, especially, the funds are extremely tight,” said Dr. John Wilson, executive director of the Timken Museum of Art, the only Balboa Park museum, which does not charge admission. “The fact that the Patrons are giving us a healthy sum of money means that we can continue to provide services to the public that we might not otherwise be able to. For the Patrons of the Prado to put us on their list this year is absolutely crucial for us.”

Founded in 1997, the Patrons of the Prado has raised more than $1.5 million.

“People still like to have a good time and like to donate money, so we are targeting (those) in San Diego who want to make the art community grow,” said Dottie Stanley, president of the nonprofit. “These museums are the jewel of San Diego and people recognize that. We’re there to help with that growth and offer that cultural experience to children and to all people.”

‘Intrigue on the Orient Express’ gala

  • 6 p.m. to midnight July 18
  • Granada Courtyard of Casa del Prado, Balboa Park
  • Tickets: $500, $1,000 and $1,500
  • Tables of 10: $5,000, $10,000 and $15,000
  • Reservations: (858) 759-9484 or