Spectacular ‘Summer Safari’

Photos by John McCaslin

Saturday evening could not have been more spectacular for “Summer Safari 2017, Celebrating Virginia’s Living Landscape” — benefitting the Piedmont Environmental Council, Shenandoah National Park Trust, and the host Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

This year, the sold-out gala honored the conservation efforts of John Birdsall III and his wife Mary Scott Birdsall, who driven by their love for the Virginia countryside are tireless advocates for land conservation in nearby Albemarle County. Due to the couple’s efforts, Albemarle ranks second for all counties in the Commonwealth for land in conservation easement.

Clockwise from top, Rappahannock County supervisor — and safari explorer — John Lesinski surveys a portion of the Smithsonian breeding and research facility’s 3,200 acres that protect 25 mostly-threatened species (the animal collection changes as the need arises), including cheetahs, leopards, onagers, red pandas, zebras, bison, kiwis, and this beautiful maned wolf seen here (actually not a wolf or a fox, but the only species in the genus Chrysocyon).

For the safari, Rappahannock artist Ruthie Windsor-Mann created a vibrant pen and ink with watercolor wash, showcased here on the safari program and also made into fashionable scarves. The actual painting sold in live auction for an impressive $5,500, thanks in part to enthusiastic auctioneering partners John Fox Sullivan (left), the mayor of Washington, and John Beardsley, director of garden and landscape studies at Dumbarton Oaks.

Gala-goers feasted on char-grilled sirloin, roasted striped bass, dijon dill smashed potatoes, grilled local vegetables, and spring pea and radish salad — and after dinner were treated to a breathtaking sunset that seemed to last forever.

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