The Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum recently held its 1st annual Jack Hayes Prime Rib Dinner Museum Fundraiser. Easily planned was the dinner and venue, and once we decided on the setting the program around the 1930’s magic lantern slides that have been housed in our archive, the time period and theme was decided. So the task that lay before me was how to plan and decorate for a 1930’s theme that didn’t leave attendees in a great depression, and how to turn a plain, small hall
that’s décor is already pretty retro (think laminate floors with carpet on the wall) in to a speakeasy/art deco lounge with little to no budget. After hours of strenuous research via the internet, I realized, I was pretty much on my own.My first thoughts went to the tables. To me round over rectangle was a clear choice. Sure you can fit more in a room with banquet style seating, but I was looking for elegance. Needing to save money, we needed to use our stock of tablecloths, which meant I had to work with a burgundy color scheme, which actually worked out quite well. I chose to hunt down peacock feathers which were reasonably easy to find and ostrich feathers, much harder doing so within a meager budget, but I eventually found a source that was within an acceptable realm of indulgence. I paired these plumes with a few white Calle Lilies, some pearls, votives and round mirrors for a simple, classy centerpiece that enhanced the table, but wasn’t so tall it took away from the conversation of the guests.
The building has 8 windows that look out upon a beautiful park, which would never do for a ‘speakeasy’ so I needed to pull the eyes away from the lovely brown carpet and frame the room and windows accordingly. Looking on-line for backdrops, I found that they are pretty pricey, so that was out of the equation. My first thought was to bring out a pen and cover the windows in art deco cityscape and silhouette designs. After realizing that my artistic ability would greatly prevent me from accomplishing much more then rectangles and stick people, I needed to come up with something else. So instead of looking out at an art deco scene, I decided to brick wall all of the windows. Using clip art and over 100 11×17 pieces of paper, I copied, cut and taped together enough brick walls (complete with bullet holes) to cover the windows. The lovely silver drapery is nothing more than plastic table covering by the roll. I completed the room with posters of movies, art deco art and magazine covers from the 1930’s, many great conversation pieces (ever heard of ‘Reefer Madness’? The poster alone is worth checking out!).
Keeping with the theme, using a cardboard beer flat, I made some chocolate cigars and added a little ambiance by having a cigar girl walk around offering “Cigars, Cigarettes”. After weeks of planning
and crafting, my venue was ready for the party. So, did I do all of this within a reasonable budget and was all the work worth it? For a party of 75, the final cost of decorations was just under $3 per person, the event which included a fantastic Live Auction was a huge success and attendees raved about it for days, and this is for sure the museum’s newest annual event. This event is barely to rest and now my mind is spinning with plans for next year.