Throwing a guy’s party is tricky. Flowers and frou-frou are not gonna cut it for most guys. So, how do you make the party reflect the man? Carole Simons pulled it off with style to spare when she threw a surprise 60th birthday bash for her husband, Dr. Dave Simons.
Dave Simons – respected anesthesiologist, triathlete and father to three daughters. A fun guy with a great sense of personal style, his friends would say. No pink posies and fluffy icing for this one.
Carole found the perfect place for Dave’s celebration in one of downtown Lancaster’s newest venues – Excelsior. While the newly renovated Victorian-era space offers a sweeping staircase and soaring ceilings in its elegant Grande Salon, owner Kelly Dantinne and Carole saw a more appropriate space for the 150 friends and family who would gather on a spring evening: the rugged catacombs of the property’s former Sprenger Brewery building.
Built in 1853, the stone-lined walls and low, arched ceilings of the catacombs provided an intimate, yet industrial feel, setting the masculine tone for the party. Insets and alcoves within the space were smartly used to hold a wine and beer bar, a luxe champagne bar and a full-service bar for cocktails, all of which were curated to include the host’s favorites.
The steel gray of the stones was a neutral background that Carole saw as an opportunity to inject a pop of energizing color. Vibrant red accents in uplighting and glowing cube tables flanked the white leather couches that provided a luxe lounge area.
While awaiting the guest of honor’s arrival, guests reminisced over a slideshow of photos from the Simons’ 32 years of growing a family and forging many friendships in Lancaster. Life-sized photos of the many facets of Dave, from competitive athlete to sophisticated metro-male, posed against the 19th century cellar walls for photo ops and whimsical props. A photo booth also captured guests’ imaginative poses with a life-sized Dave cut-out.
Surprise! Dave entered to a sea of faces of himself, as guests held up his photograph in front of their faces. Excelsior’s exclusive caterer, Jimmy Duffy, butlered finger-food hors d’oeuvres, leaving guests unencumbered by the usual party juggling act of holding drink and plate while offering greetings.
In keeping with Carole’s intention of “I didn’t want anything to feel traditional,” the high-top tables’ centerpieces were contemporary sculptures in stainless steel, with red anemones and candles also in metallic vessels, and all anchored atop rough-cut pieces of black granite. The rentable works of art are a new addition to Lancaster’s party resources. They are created by Lori Betts, who uses re-purposed and salvaged materials to create her sustainable art. A recent collaborative relationship was forged between Lori and Lancaster’s long-standing linens resource, Special Occasions.
Claudia Himes, president of Special Occasions and Queen Street Linens, complemented the dynamic sculptures and the industrial feel of the catacombs with neutral-toned linens dressed up with touches of metallic sparkle. Silver woven sheers over sparkling burlap gave the high-top cocktail tables a rustic yet modern look, while the low tabletops were dressed in a masculine plaid of black, taupe, gray and cream. “Like a well-dressed man with a twinkle in his eye, the party linen was tailored and neutral but with a touch of sparkle and whimsy,” Claudia describes. She added a third texture in a lively, gray, petalled fabric, which was strategically placed on a cheese buffet table. A flamboyant red linen drew much-deserved attention to the dessert table’s amazing cake.
House of Clarendon’s owner and talented cake designer, Martine Cajas, created a two-tiered original work of edible art. “The cake design was inspired by Dave’s personal style, as we wanted to capture his essence,” Martine explains, taking a cue from Dave’s signature fashion statement, the sport coat and open-collared shirt. “In keeping with the event’s theme colors, we utilized black, silver and white in the decorative fondant,” all of which was completely edible. Cake pops and petit fours were butlered among the guests immediately before the cake-cutting, during toasts and greetings from the Simons’ family members.
“I wanted people to walk in and feel the nostalgia and the energy of the relationships that Dave has created over the years,” Carole reflected after the party. “Parties are all about emotion and connection, and this rekindled the fact that they are special to us.”
Said the guest of honor, “I loved every aspect of it.” Mission accomplished.