This year’s Nature at Night, the annual benefit for the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes sold out 525 tickets faster than any previous year. Tickets are at a premium for several reasons – a great party outdoors, signature cocktails, inspired dishes from small plates to dinner from talented local chefs, a Cleveland-centric silent auction, and of course the setting – 20 acres with eight distinct habitats, gardens, trails and more.
Outdoor events can be tricky with Northeast Ohio weather. Organizers mentioned that the event has been held in melting heat, rainstorms, and worse, but this year’s conditions were ideal. What Nature at Night lacks in consistent weather is made up abundantly with consistent support. For close to two decades the event has been a lovely way to gather with
friends old and new under the stars within the tranquil oasis that is the Nature Center. “This just gets better and better every year. It’s Shaker’s neighborhood block party,” says patron and past organizer Kate Stenson. “It’s so gratifying to see the young people making sure this great resource remains successful.”
Patrons enjoyed a gracious welcome at check-in with passed cocktails. Small bites were available from Doug Katz’s Zhug, Bridget Thibeault’s Luna, Spice, Zoma, On the Rise, and more local food partners, with cocktails invented by Gigi’s, beers from Sibling Revelry, and wines from The Wine Spot. It takes a village to feed and refresh over five hundred!
President and CEO Kay Carlson offered brief remarks and thanks to the thirty-plus sponsors. Carlson has announced her retirement from The Nature Center after fifteen years of leadership.
After additional remarks from board president Karen Kidwell, guests were welcome to roam the grounds, find their tables, bid on silent auction items, and enjoy the sound of the live band, Light Up the Moon.
Organizers of Nature at Night hoped to raise $100,000 for general operating expenses such as maintenance of the natural habitats throughout the center and ensuring that admission remains free for their 140,000 visitors each year. That number includes 13,000 students from the east side, the City of Cleveland, and beyond who take advantage of the trails, treehouse, and outdoor classroom. The Nature Center is a non-profit organization that receives no municipal, state, or federal tax dollars. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY RITA KUEBER