An important element of the ball as a fund-raising strategy is the corporate wealth endemic to the American way of life in the 2020s. Palm Beach is a much-favored destination for business conventions, and "serious croquet" is high on the menu for incoming travelers.
An elegant venue like the National Croquet Center in West Palm Beach is a natural; "serious croquet" will be a memorable adventure for most of the out-of-town attendees. It doesn't matter whether there are croquet lawns in the cities they come from, and whether those lawns are in public parks or in private clubs: The SPORT of croquet will still be a novelty, and the game they learn will be Golf Croquet--which is quick and easy, even with a mallet in one hand and a cocktail in the other.
The pandemic has come at a fortunate time for the hospitality industry in South Florida, at the end of the Palm Beach "high season," when summer spectaculars are few and far between, even in normal times. By March, many of the calls to the National Croquet Center were to cancel (or postpone) their huge events in the spring, but also in the fall of 2020. Few of them made even tentative plans for alternate dates. (Now the phones are ringing again, for Christmas events and conventions in 2021, as Florida's movie theaters and libraries are re-opening.)
"It's like having a party in your own private mansion"
The National Croquet Center has long established itself as a popular destination for incoming corporate groups, and can handle up to 600 people in its downstairs social spaces alone. The upstairs ballroom can seat more than 200 and is sometimes used for dinners and parties with music and dancing, but most clients much prefer the many downstairs social spaces. The Center's main building is designed and arranged ideally as a site for a great party in elegant--but surprisingly intimate--settings.
Those spaces include not just the dining room and the club room, and the main hall, and the veranda, but also the broad lawn apron around the veranda, which can be tented to ensure dry outside dining, and sometimes the lawns themselves, where party goers can learn Golf Croquet within minutes--under lights after the sun goes down.
Weddings and birthday parties are done mostly during daylight hours, and a "main event" may last until late at night.
The elegant parties can be sit-down dinners, or they can feature a more casual style of dining, with "food stations" at strategic points around the party spaces. And of course, there's likely to be a dance floor and a band of fine musicians.
Other ways to raise cash at the gala
(The author at one such event wrote down a bid for a Roman head early on, expecting to be quickly outbid. It turns out, however, that a friend much later in the evening saw the bid, and thinking I wanted it, made the winning bid on his/my behalf! The head sits on a stand in my front hall, now used as a reminder of everything to be done "next" and wearing a mask, with other masks hanging from his ears and perhaps a book on his head, or tapes to be returned to the library.)
Besides the indoor activity, members of the National Croquet Club are often recruited as volunteers to teach these corporate elites to play Golf Croquet--quickly and easily done, even when you're holding a cocktail in one hand and a heavy mallet in the other.
The clubhouse is perfectly scaled for events both huge and small, with a series of intimate spaces into which one may easily retreat, in normal times. Weddings and birthday parties are done mostly during daylight hours, and "main event" may last until late at night.
When will there be normal times again? No one knows. You might want to wait until 2021 to schedule your incoming corporate group of 600. But you don't have to wait for "normal times" to enjoy the National Croquet Center for yourself, for a small dining group, a family wedding or a birthday party.
The National Croquet Center is again accepting reservations for groups at the Center, and organizations are making inquiries again about parties. Callers are told they can reserve for outside only--including the veranda. Phone-ins have begun again for mostly local groups, for holiday parties at the National Croquet Center. No one knows when commercial flying will again be deemed "safe" by most corporate inbound travelers. Dining for members only on the veranda has worked well for the members and the staff, ever since the lawns reopened for members only in mid-summer. Non-members may reserve luncheon parties on the veranda by phone for the days when Cafe Croquet is open--usually Tuesday through Saturday.
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