PHOTOS: Casita Maria Fiesta 2017 with Carolina Herrera, Sissi Fleitas, Mary McFadden at The Plaza

Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Carolina Herrera, Jackie Weld Drake, Reinaldo Herrera (Photo – Aurora Rose/PMC)

Designer Carolina Herrera and her husband Reinaldo were co-chairs for Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education’s Fiesta 2017 on Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 at New York’s Plaza Hotel. Each year Jackie Weld Drake  hosts Fiesta and awards the Casita Maria Gold Medal of Honor to outstanding individuals in recognition of their contribution to the worlds of arts, education, and philanthropy.

This year, Casita Maria honored three exceptional women: Rosaura Henkel, the Mexican philanthropist extraordinaire for her work with “Duerme Tranquilo” and service to numerous hospitals; New York’s own Elizabeth T. Peabody for her dedication to mental health and compassionate leadership to The Maria Droste Counseling Services, and Julia Salvi, the co-founder and visionary behind the renowned Cartagena International Music Festival.

The evening’s host was FOX TV’s Audrey Puente, the daughter of the great Latin percussionist Tito Puente, himself a Casita alumnus and former honoree. The Dinner Chairmen were Jackie Weld Drake and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia. Casita Maria’s annual benefit was an elegant, festive evening that commenced with cocktails, followed by seated dinner, music and dancing to The Bob Hardwick Sound.

Guests included Veronica Anner, Tina Beriro & Simon Beriro, Geoffrey Bradfield, Craig Dix, Sissi Fleitas, Joanna Fisher & Bryan Fisher, Dr. and Mrs. Duane Hampton, William Haseltine, Julie Juarez, Roy Kean, Margo Langenberg, Ed Lavano, Mary McFadden, Haydee Morales (Executive Director of Casita Maria), Mary McFadden, Jose Parla, Ann Rapp, Ben Rodriguez Cubenas, Christine Schwarzman, Pepita Serrano, Martin & Jean Shafiroff, Hunt Slonem, Barbara & Donald Tober, and Barbara & Bruce Winston.

Dinner Chairman Jacqueline Weld Drake exclaimed, “Another celebration of Latino life in New York with its spontaneity, its enthusiasm, and its boundless ability to support the arts and the community.” Haydee Morales, Executive Director of Casita Maria, declared, “Casita Maria stands as a beacon of light and a place for individuals and families to find support.” “I am the daughter of Latin jazz great Tito Puente,” explained Program Host Audrey Puente, a meteorologist on FOX 5 news WNYW-TV. “My father was a Casita kid and so it’s really meaningful to come here and join you to celebrate tonight.”

Ms. Weld Drake proceeded to award Elizabeth Peabody with the Gold Medal. “I thank you all at Casita Maria for this wonderful honor. I am very touched,” said Ms. Peabody. “By bringing children and families together in the community, Casita Maria helps them follow their dreams, increase their self-esteem, and aspire to attend college and work careers.” Ms. Weld Drake then bestowed the Gold Medal to Julia Salvi. “Today, we can build a better world, more compassionate, more inclusive, for future generations. Thank you,” Ms. Salvi remarked. Pepita Serrano of Hola said, “I thank you. It means a lot to Mexico. It means a lot to the world.” She then presented the Gold Medal to Rosaura Henkel, who thanked everyone in Spanish.

The Fiesta journal included letters from New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo; Senator Charles E. Schumer; Mayor Bill de Blasio; Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.; 85th District Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo; New York City Councilmember Rafael Salamanca, Jr., and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. The Honorary Chairs were Violaine and John Bernbach and Pepita Serrano. Fiesta Vice Chairs included Daniel and Estrellita Brodsky, Catholic Charities of New York, Rebecca and Miguel Fuentes, Jr., Michèle Gerber Klein, Pierre Levai, Marcia Levine, and Annabelle & Alberto Mariaca. Fiesta Co-Chairmen were Tony Bechara, Marifé Hernández and Joel Bell, Ann B. Remos, Benigno Rodriguez-Cubenás, Yolanda Santos De Garza, and Adrienne and Gigi Vittadini. Pachanga Chairs included Carolina Alverez – Mathies, Peter Levin, Alexandre Leviant and Gabriel Rivera-Barraza.

Guests enjoyed Fresh and Smoked Salmon Tartar as an hors d’oeuvres. The main course was Grilled Filet Mignon served alongside Dancing Ewe’s blue cheese potato gratin, asparagus, English pea and morel ragout with caramelized onions. Dessert included a choice of Blackout Cake Redux or a Dulce de Leche Molten Cheesecake. Drinks included Mia, Macabeo Buscat Blanc A Petits Grains, Parellada Penedes, Tempranillo and Castilla La Mancha.

Auction items included: Harry Benson Coffee table books; Armarium stylist/clothing; Marco Palli artwork; a Marianella Soap gift box; a Chus Burés silver brooch; a Molyneux handbag; a La Borinqueña giclee print; a Stubbs and Wootton weekend bag; American Ballet Rehearsal tickets; a Silvia Tcherassi clutch; Peggy Guggenheim Screening; signed dog paintings book; a Scenterprise Fragrance Kit, and embroidered bags from Mexico

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