THREE OAKS — The 10th Annual Chikaming Open Lands Barn Benefit was, as advertised, “a fabulous party out on the ranch.”

COL Executive Director Ryan Postema noted that the organization’s mission of land conservation is made possible by its supporters — including the 225 who attended the Saturday, Sept. 21, fund-raiser held at Ken and Jean Schiffer’s Deer Creek Ranch.

“It’s the people in the community that make everything happen,” he said.

A lot happened inside the spacious barn as it’s full-time equine denizens watched from the pastures outside (those attending the Barn Benefit passed by a series of spotless horse stalls before entering the indoor riding area where the festivities took place).

Many made bids during live and silent auctions while enjoying cocktails and hors d’oeuvres from Froehlich’s.

Chikaming Open Lands Board President Linda Puvogel said longtime COL Board member and “great friend” Greg Kaiser had passed away the previous week following a motorcycle accident.

“Greg was a friend of so many people in this community ... Greg was also a great friend of Chikaming Open lands,” she said, adding that he was on the COL Board of Directors for 14 years starting in 2001.

“He absolutely believed that we should protect the open spaces and keep them beautiful,” she said. “He wanted those open spaces made available for all of us to walk on and enjoy.”

Postema talked about three properties COL acquired in the past year — the 49-acre Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve located between Warren Woods State Park and the Chikaming Township Park & Preserve; the 108-acre Edward & Elizabeth Leonard Wildlife Preserve located along Warren Woods and lakeside Roads; and the 25-acre Younger Preserve on Lakeside Road at I-94 which connects to the previously acquired Merritt Family Preserve.

The Edward & Elizabeth Leonard Wildlife Preserve currently does not have hiking trails, but the Gift for Growth Paddle-Raise Auction, done in increments ranging from $5,000 to $50 and led by Sheerer McCullough auctioneers David Meyers and Stacy Hirschy, came very close to raising $30,000 for stewardship such as trail development and public access at that site.

Postema also talked about the Mighty Acorns educational program that has been expanded to serve elementary students from the River Valley, New Buffalo and Bridgman districts.

“That gets the elementary kids out in our nature preserves and connects them with nature,” he said.

Postema thanked Benefit Committee members, Barn Benefit sponsors, the COL Board of Directors and staff members Jen Thompson and Casey Struecker for helping to make the event a success.

All told, the 2019 Barn Benefit raised approximately $102,000.

Meyers and Hirschy teamed up to work the room for bids on the following Live Auction packages (as described in the Barn Benefit program):

• Greenbush Beer Dinner — A personal five-course beer dinner at Greenbush Brewery. The fabulous chefs at Greenbush will show you what they are made of with creative takes on simple foods paired perfectly with five Greenbush beers. Courtesy of Greenbush Brewing Company.

• Guided Walking Tour of Chicago’s Public Art — Join art historian Diane Dillon, PhD, on a guided tour of public art and sculpture in northern Grant Park and Millenium Park in Chicago for up to 10 people. Highlights include the Art Institute’s South Garden and North Garden, Entrance to the Chicago Stock Exchange Building, Lurie Garden, BP Bridge, Jay Pritzker Pavillion, Cloudgate (“The Bean”), and much more! Courtesy of Mary Strahota (two of these packages were auctioned off).

• Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Tour of The Newberry Library — Go behind the scenes with curators at the Newberry in Chicago to view their extensive collection of rare books, maps, manuscripts, maps and other printed material spanning six centuries. A history buff’s dream come true! Courtesy of Newberry Library.

• Taste of Granor Dinner — Your group of up to 20 people will gather in Granor Farm’s renovated farmhouse on Saturday, November 23 for  a multi-course, family-style meal created by Chef Abra Berens. The meal features produce and grains grown by Granor as well as meats, cheeses, and fruits from other regional farms. Courtesy of Carmen and John Cordogan.

• Private Cooking Class and Dinner with Chef Joho at Granor Farm — Take your culinary skills to a whole new level! Join world-renowned Chef Joho (who spoke about the importance of land protection during the benefit) and Granor Farm Chef Abra Berens for a private cooking class at Granor Farm. Chef Joho will guide you through the preparation of one course that incorporates a bounty of Granor Farm’s freshly harvested organic vegetables. After your exclusive culinary session, your group will enjoy dinner featuring the course you have prepared. Joho is the chef and proprieter at Everest in Chicago. Known as one of the world’s premier dining rooms, Everest has won many accolades for its extraordinary French cuisine. Courtesy of Jean Joho.

• Added to the Live Auction after the brochure had been printed was A Cocktail Party for 30 at artist Thomas Allen Pauly’s A Drawing Room studio in Three Oaks (which captures the old-fashioned elegance of an English Polo Club and is filled with Pauly’s colorful race horse paintings) complete with a Journeyman Distillery mixology class.

• Raffled off during the evening (99 tickets were sold at $100 each) was A Private Dinner for 10 at the Terrace Room. Enjoy a special night at the lovely Terrace Room with a custom menu created just for your group of 10, including appetizers, salad, entree and dessert. A Terrace Room wine expert will pair fine Italian wine with dinner and discuss region, grape varieties, aroma and flavor profiles with diners. Courtesy of  the Terrace Room.

Random bidders also got to take home bottles of limited edition Rusty Bridge Vineyard wine that were named in tribute to the old Flynn Road bridge that now is part of the scenic drive in to Deer Creek Ranch.

Silent Auction offerings included: A Watercolor print of the St. Joseph lighthouse by Dick Carlson; Greenbush Brewer for a Day experience; Dinner at Mesa Luna for 8 with wine pairings; Dinner at Lake Street Eats in Bridgman; a Group Fitness package and swag bag from Equilibrium Fitness; Harbor Country Brewery Tour (gift cards from Beer Church, Haymarket and Ghost Isle); Consult and Tree planting from C&A Arborists; Walk of your property with Ecologist Jack Pizzo; Private Yoga Class for 10 with Elizabeth Nuti overlooking Lake Michigan; an Evening at the Chicago Symphony; a Full Year of Flowers from Fernwood; a Fly Fishing excursion on the Dowagiac River; and a Gift basket from Baroda Founders Wine Cellar.

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