BUNNY IN THE CITY: Savannah Tree Foundation Green Gala

Updated April 25, 2023 at 10:44 a.m.

Savannah Tree Foundation’s 2nd Annual Green Gala could not have picked a better location for their “sustainable soiree” than dining under a canopy of trees at Tiedeman Park on Saturday, April 22.

As a bona fide tree lover who continues to chase after our tall gentle giant friends, I am always delighted to get a call from STF’s Zoe Rinker with an invite to celebrate this year’s accomplishments. And what a year they have had! 

From adding 280 trees to our canopy in the past planting season in 13 different spots and hosting two major tree giveaways where 1200 trees were distributed to adding Bryan and Effingham counties to their coverage area, Zoe, her team and her board are adding life to a community that thrives in the shade.

How lucky am I that I get to show up early and hug the best chef in the land?! When Chef Nick and Traci Mueller are plating the event, you can expect world-class, cooked-onsite cuisine, and after two decades of dining on their food, not much has changed. Nick is walking towards Savannah Police Department Detective Jawaun Maxwell and Officer Rahim Frazier. 

After introducing the trio and snapping a manly pic of the new friends, I see Zoe greeting early arrivals like former City of Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach. Looking stylish in his clear glasses and silver hair, I ask for a pic of him with the fabulous Amy Gutting before saying hey to Otto and Comer Immel.

Once again touched to see the late great Gordon Varnado’s sister, I tell her, “I miss your brother but have his Batman tee shirt in my bathroom to dry my hair with. I know it sounds crazy but having his shirt is like having a little bit of him with me.” 

She nods and tells me she feels the same then poses for a pic while Amy and I admire her luxurious jacket from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s gift shop.

There she is! Zoe is stunning in a floral dress but seems unusually flustered. 

“Everything is great! We have 230 guests. The little sprinkle has passed, but I have a mystery guest named Ty Pennington. I’m not sure if it is the TV Ty, but I am hoping that it is the Ty that I asked to be my Valentine at a Home & Garden show when I was 12  years old.”

Guess what?! It is! Wearing a casual tan suit and round hat, the TV personality laughs out loud when I tell that our hostess had a childhood story involving him. Walking to shake up hands, Zoe relives her childhood crush, and I get a few pics of the two before getting called over to see Savannah’s queen of PR, Marjorie Young.

Always classy and making introductions, I turn the table on the 28-year public relations veteran and pose her with Councilman Nick Palumbo and Mayor DeLoach. Assuring Marjorie that I would be at the Historic Savannah Foundation Gala next week, I head over to say hey to perennial sponsor Steve Stephens and his always gorgeous wife Patricia. 

A montage of Savannah royalty is arriving at the same time so I  sprint over to greet Guerry Lumber matriarch Lynda Beam, her daughter Lindy and her grandson William Wheat with his wife Lydia.

Proud to see that tonight is a family affair for this iconic preservationist family, I managed to convince mom and daughter to pose for what will be a perfect black-and-white pic.

Another iconic photo I capture is of Dale Critz Sr. smiling at his grandson, Dale Critz III while clasping him on the shoulders. Moments like this are exactly why I love my job so much! Seated behind them, playing a Concert Series A812 Taylor guitar is Ridgeland, SC native Kent Woods. Hired to play eclectic Spanish-themed music, the musician is gracious in performing a mini music session for my WSAV “Where’s Bunny Ware” segment on The Bridge.

Out on the town for their first date without their newborn, Kyle and Melissa Redner wave me over for a hug while STF Board Member and Event Chair Patti King grabs a glass of spirits to gear up for her speech. Beside her, Nichelle Hoskins is glowing in a hot pink outfit, and Brandy and Corey Adams win my best-looking couple award of the night!

There are so many familiar faces that I get a bit overwhelmed with all the people and conversations! With Denise Grabowski talking about her love of ultimate frisbee, the Wetlands Project and Tide to Town and her husband Mike and his passion for fishing, I learn about his captain license and new business coming in June.

Walking in like she is on the catwalk is Catalina Garcia Quick.  Winning my best dressed lady of the night, I chat with Catalina and her husband Randy about representing Pratt Industries/Savannah as the 2023 Green/Recycling Sponsor before getting whisked away to hug the ruler of the airwaves at Cumulus MAGIC 103.9’s KMichelle Midday Diva aka Kimberly Dobson.

As it always happens, the last couple I meet is my most fascinating of the night. Meet Clemson University alumni, Lindsay and Phillip Zellner. At first, I was admiring how fabulous the former prom king’s hair is, but I got a little more amped when they showed me a video of them transplanting three, 100-year-old oak trees up the St. John River from Palatka to Jacksonville. 

After snapping a pic of the cool couple, I convince Charlie Ganem to pose with his beverage crew, admire Nichele Hoskins’ hot pink attire then make a beeline over to congratulate tonight’s honoree Dale Thorpe. Standing center of the 120-ft-long tent and sporting her signature oversized black glasses, Dale has been the backbone of Savannah  Tree Foundation for 30 years, sharing the mission to preserve Savannah’s green space. 

Following her and the three local ladies who made it their mission to save trees back in 1982, Zoe has not only stepped into their powerful footsteps but has forged her own path. With money raised tonight and in need of more to start their own native tree nursery that will support their tree giveaway efforts, Zoe continues to be the safe keeper of our life supporting, quiet giants, and we love her for it!

Published April 25, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

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