Photo by Alison Borrelli.
By Katrina Margolis
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Every year since 2004, the Needham Historical Society has hosted an annual Winter Gala. This year, the theme was Mardi Gras, and the celebration was as extravagant and lively as ever. With over 150 tickets sold (which is more or less the capacity of the Historical Society’s building), the party was an enormous success. This was the first year the Society had chosen the Mardi Gras theme, however, spicing things up for this iteration of the event.
“Originally it was chocolate and champagne. We got a little tired of that, believe it or not, and then we moved it to Town Hall and we did a country-western for two years,” Executive Director Gloria Greis said. “Then we decided we liked it better here, so we moved it back here and last year we did a speakeasy.”
The main focus of the evening was the party. “We have food, we have the bar, we have no-stakes gambling, we have some casino tables in there, we have a photo booth upstairs, we have music,” Greis explained. The bar even featured some classic New Orleans drinks such as a French 75 and a Mad Creole.
While the evening is mostly fun, the Society also focused on raising money for the conservation of a few textiles. One of five known in the world, the Society is in possession of a Washington handkerchief. “Made in 1775, Martha commissioned them. Georgie was having a bit of trouble being acknowledged as head of the army, so it was to bolster his image,” Greis explained. “It’s very cool, because it’s considered to be the first piece of American political propaganda. It’s printed, which at the time was illegal. It’s revolutionary as depicting him as commander and chief, but also in terms of not having it printed in England … the way the laws were all finished, textiles had to be finished through England, so printing it here was seen as a revolutionary act.” Due to the fragile nature of the fabric, as well as the composition of the red ink, the textile does need to be professionally conserved.
In addition to generous fundraising from patrons, each year, the Society has a silent auction. Kathy D’Addeso was in charge of this portion of the evening, introducing 37 items to be bid upon. “A lot of the local merchants have been extremely generous. They’re hit up by so many people, but they’ve been so generous to us, which is really fabulous,” she said. “We have a fabulous Nantucket basket that was hand-woven by someone on the board. We have a clam-bake for six. We have a round of golf that was donated by a member who likes to be anonymous.” They even had a football signed by Danny Amendola, an item particularly relevant since the Gala was held the night before the Super Bowl. Each year, they also have something to represent the pansy, Needham’s town flower. This year, it was a beautiful planting pot with all of the necessary materials to plant and grow the flower successfully.
Overall, the evening was jovial and festive. Guests were handed feathered Mardi Gras masks to wear, complementing their beautiful outfits.
Just like a fine wine, the fundraiser just keeps getting better with age.