Fundraiser at Brookgreen Gardens to benefit new waterfowl exhibit

A group wants to help a planned exhibit spread its wings inside the Lowcountry Zoo.

The Friends of Brookgreen Gardens will go black tie and formal for “An Evening Under the Palmettos,” 5:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday (rain date: Sunday), to raise funds for a project to create “Waterfowl: Wings of Migration.”

After hours, patrons will experience the evening shade of the gardens with cocktails, Lowcountry tapas, entertainment, and a silent auction.

Bob Jewell, Brookgreen’s president and chief executive, said the Friends group remains “a very important part of our organization.”

“Without their support,” he said, “many of the accomplishments we’ve made would not have been possible.”

Susan Polack, the Friends’ president, said they will celebrate their 25th year in 2015, with hopes of reaching its goal of $2.5 million raised in that time. Those two figures, in year and amount accrued, both with a 2 and 5, “are just a coincidence,” she said.

Question | What do plans call for with “Wings of Migration” in the Lowcountry Zoo? Will the exhibit be near the otter house?

Answer | We are helping with funding it ... not with creating it. It will be where the raptors’ aviary is now. We’re going to transform that into a waterfowl exhibit with wood ducks and all sorts of beautiful, beautiful waterfowl.

Q. | What will become of the turkey vultures and other inhabitants inside that walk-through aviary?

A. | They will go to places such as The Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw. We will farm them out so that they have a nice home, as other zoos do, in proper wildlife sustenance.

Q. | How long have you frequented Brookgreen Gardens?

A. | Since I was a child with my family; we used to vacation here, and my mother loved Brookgreen Gardens. We used to go there where there wasn’t much there; it was still in its infancy. I’ve been going there since the 1950s.

Q. | What recent trends at Brookgreen have caught your eye, or what change have you appreciated the most through the decades?

A. | The staff and Bob Jewell are paying a great deal of attention not only to the acquisition of sculpture, but the idea that Brookgreen is a National Sculpture Society home for annual exhibits, which is very prestigious. They also are paying attention to all of the horticulture, of course, which is just incredible. They also are looking very hard at improving the Lowcountry Zoo, which is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums; that’s why we are funding this final push for the waterfowl exhibit.

Q. | How many people make up The Friends of Brookgreen Gardens?

A. | We have 100 members whose ages ranges from the mid-20s to the mid-80s, with men and women.

Q. | Year-round, how do the Friends stay active to help the gardens overall?

A. | We exist because our mission is to build membership in Brookgreen Gardens and to raise funds to get that word out about how wonderful Brookgreen Gardens is. Last year, we had three fundraising events, so we raised more than $90,000 last year, in a bad economy.

Q. | In everyday operations at Brookgreen, what part has left the greatest impression on you?

A. | The most interesting thing ... is seeing the various ways that Brookgreen Gardens staff get their individuals into the gardens by having things like Harvest Home Weekend every October, and the Eggstravaganza in Wonderland for members – that’s incredible, and it’s always sold out. Things like that, and the annual Plantacular Sale, and the “Diggin’ It” spring festival. It’s introducing people to Brookgreen Gardens in various ways.

Also, the Brookgreen Master Sculpture Program had a talk on April 6 with Jim Licaretz, a sculptor-in-residence who has worked for Mattel Toys and the U.S. Mint, and he created some of the designs of the quarter, the nickel and the dime. Where else can you hear that sort of thing? Now, every dime I pick up, I look and see if his initials are on it.