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Galas: Sitting Pretty

For the designer's work at a couturier show, it's strictly look but don't touch. Not so at Atlanta's third annual fund-raiser for the Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS, held last summer. Fifty top designers created dining tables for guests not only to admire, but actually to enjoy.

Atlanta-based Legendary Events oversaw the event, which required almost a year of planning to coordinate the pressure-cooker logistics. The designers had only a 12-hour window for move-in of their elaborate tables-one of which included an 18-foot tree-at the event venue, the city's Woodruff Arts Center.

Further, to protect the costly glassware, flatware and china used by the designers, the event team switched out the tableware to standard rental tableware just be-fore the guests sat down to dine. Finally, the event team packed up every piece of the designers' tableware and shipped it back to them that very evening.

With impressive results in the face of the logistical challenges, Legendary Events nabbed a '99 Gala Award nomination for the event.

SUPERB SETTINGS As guests arrived at the center, greeting them were human hors d'oeuvre-models in elaborate foodie costumes that included hot-fudge sundae hats and artichoke codpieces. The 550 guests then enjoyed cocktails while viewing the tables.

The only requirement for the tables was that they include the color red, a nod to the event's sponsor, Mumm Cordon Rouge (Red Ribbon) champagne. The red ribbon is also a symbol of the fight against AIDS.

The table designers, including local interior designers and tony retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, each received a 10-by-10-foot space. Along with the 50 tables from the Atlanta area were five tables from similar DIFFA events in other cities.

The Legendary Events team coordinated the schedules and ordered the rental items for each designer. The team also assisted the designers in rigging ceiling fixtures, umbrellas and elaborate tents, some of which included mannequins.

RHAPSODY IN RED Designers from Legendary Events flexed their own creative muscles with an old Tuscany table, itself a Gala Award finalist in the Best Tabletop Design category.

Keying on the theme the Days of Wine and Roses, designers Teresa Day and Kay Davis capitalized on the allotted space to build a fanciful grape arbor. A custom lattice frame covered in grapes, hops vines, red roses and purple hydrangea formed a pergola over the table. A blue gel floodlight trickled through the lattice, simulating dreamy moonlight.

On the table, a gold-fringed green overlay embossed with dragonflies topped a sheer underlay lit from below. The backs of the chiavaris sported chair covers in the underlay fabric.

QUICK-CHANGE ARTISTS During the seating of the guests, the team orchestrated the change-out of more than 500 place settings, 1,500 pieces of crystal and more than 2,500 pieces of flatware. All other decor remained in place. Under the direction of executive chef Michael Bullard, the Legendary Events team catered the event, "which was tough because all the tables were configured differently," Day notes.

We Rent Atlanta provided the rental items; Davis Lighting supplied lighting and sound. Both firms are based in Atlanta.

More than 200 volunteers assisted with sorting and packing the designer elements including the Neiman Marcus table, worth more than $12,000. Because security was so good, "we lost a feather or two, but that was it," says Tony Conway, CMP, who with Day and Kendall Collier, CSEP, owns Legendary Events.

Along with the designer tables, the evening included a silent auction of designer champagne buckets. "The designer decor became the focal point of the evening, leaving little need for expensive additional entertainment, which can deplete fund-raising efforts," Conway says. The event was kind to guests with demanding work schedules: Held on a Monday night, "it was over by 11 p.m.," he says.

Also holding costs down was the cadre of more than 200 volunteers dedicated to the fight against AIDS. "We were able to create a $125,000 event for a budget under $50,000," Conway says. The event netted $175,000.

Chilled Red and Yellow Tomato Gazpacho with Basil and Cracked Black Pepper

Crisp Lavash

Grilled Free-Range Breast of Chicken with Mango-Peach Salsa and Mumm Champagne Sauce

Risotto Torte

Haricots Verts

Herbed Stone Rolls with Sun-Dried Tomato Butter

Leopard-Skin White Chocolate Box Filled with Seasonal Berries and Zabaglione

Legendary Events 422 Armour Circle, Atlanta, GA 30324 404/869-8858 Web site:

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