Josephine Guren, 3, and her father Zachary Guren get a close look at Mark, a panther chameleon native to Madagascar.

Robert and Nancy Bostwick, Holden supporters, with Lynn Shiverick, Holden Forests and Gardens board member.

A steady downpour pattered on the tarp overhead, adding a layer of percussion to the mellow strains of “Box of Rain.” The Grateful Dead classic covered by the optimistically named Sunshine Daydream band proved an apt soundtrack for the 2023 Twilight at the Holden Arboretum.
But organizers of the annual fundraiser for Holden Forests and Gardens were well prepared for the drenching elements. The Corning Visitor Center bustled with patrons toting brown paper bags to family-style table settings in the building and under an array of tents outside. Each compostable sack held a delectable dinner complete with a monogrammed kit of reusable cutlery.
Known for bringing fine dining to the outdoors with seasonal and local ingredients, Spice Catering Co. prepared exceptional picnic fare of

Joel Alpert, co-interim CEO of Holden Forests and Gardens, with his wife Kati Alpert.

marinated chicken breast with a honey mustard  crema; carrot salad with raisins, tahini and agave; Caesar pasta salad; pickled cucumbers and coriander potato chips. A summery berry oat crisp added a sweet finale. Vegans could opt for crispy tofu tenders, while children enjoyed chicken tenders with ketchup, chips, veggies and chocolate chip cookies.
Bright spots on a gray day included the brilliantly hued Mark, a panther chameleon native to Madagascar and now residing at the Cleveland Botanical Garden with animal specialist Matt Edwards. Reveling in the rain was Butterfly Ally Russell and the creepy clingy Majestic Vines Kaye Vander, both of Pickup-Stix Stilt Walking.
To further support the Holden mission programs, a silent auction offered such familiar outdoor activities as garden consultations, a family campout, and lunch at the Leach Research Station during peak bloom. One item unique to this year’s selection: a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a 360° view of the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, from atop the Holden Emergent Tower. Next time that comes up for bids will be in 2099, rain or shine. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY PEGGY TURBETT