Living in Michigan my entire life has forced me to take weather conditions in stride. You never know what a Michigan day is going to be like, but if you don’t like it, just wait an hour or two. I’ve seen ice storms, heavy snowfall, strong rains, wind storms that take out tops off of trees, and wet heat that chokes you when you walk outside. In all my time in Michigan, however, I’ve never experienced the remnants of a tropical storm. Kentucky was happy to oblige me.
Last week was humid. It wasn’t even that hot, but the humidity left a film of moisture on the whole body. People were talking about it. The weatherman had warned us. We were going to feel the aftereffects of Tropical Storm Cindy.
That wasn’t the scary part, though. The scary part was the the Lawn Party was on Saturday, and there was flooding expected that morning.
The Lawn Party is Ashland’s annual fundraiser. The who’s-who of Lexington society purchase tables, eat the goat-cheese-and-olive-tapanade crostinis, lubricate their checkbooks with drink tickets, and donate their money either through Honey-Do list items or the auction. Politicians, board members, faithful donors, and anyone else who has previously contributed to development receives an invitation in the spring to buy a table. It’s how Ashland fundraises most of their money for the year. It’s held under a tent on the back lawn (surprise), which means that if the weather is fickle, Ashland loses money.
Thankfully, Cindy came and left on Friday. There was some flash flooding and the rain was heavy and dense, but I survived from the comfort of my apartment couch with tea and old episodes of Below Deck Mediterranean. I was resting up for the Lawn Party.
I showed up in the early afternoon to help set up the auction tent. There was a silent auction and a live auction, and my job was to look inviting in case anyone had any questions. It was a successful night, and many thousands of dollars were raised for the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation. I helped clean up, got to take a hydrangea centerpiece home, and saw up close what large gifts look like to this size of an institution, and what stewardship involves in the first phases.
This experience was key to me for a few reasons, the largest being that I’m unsure what I want to do in the museum field. I chose this historic home because I wanted to be exposed to multiple spheres, and on Saturday I saw what development looks like. I’m not sure if I can definitively say from that experience, however, if what I want to do is interact with people on such a personal level as to ask them for their money personally. I think I’d be adept at grant writing and the business/publication mailing side of development, but not so much shmoozing at a fundraising event. Regardless, it was interesting to get out in the Lexington community and also see a small fraction of what it takes to pull together a high-scale fundraising event.