On Friday November 10th 2023, the Mahone Islands Conservation Association (MICA) hosted their 18th Gala Dinner and Auction at Oak Island Resort and Conference Centre. It was a joyful and celebratory coming together of MICA supporters. Many old friends were happy to be together again at a Gala event while many new friendly faces were welcomed as well. It was a very successful fund-raising event as two hundred and fifty MICA members and supporters attended to support the protection of the Mahone Bay Islands and its shorelines. The evening was truly a celebration of successful conservation as MICA commemorated 20 years of success.
The event began at 5:30 with the doors opening for the silent auction and reception. Upon arrival, supporters were greeted by MICA Chair John Meisner and Stewardship Chair Scott Robertson.
Recognition and appreciation was posted throughout the event to our more than 40 local corporate supporters who have shown outstanding support. In the convention area rooms, the display of silent and live auction items was impressive and indicative of the support and interest the local artist and business communities have for MICA and its projects. The atmosphere was a buzz with social fun as our volunteers sold raffle tickets and our friendly volunteer auctioneer Hubert Ryan returned to support us for the third time. At the membership table, supporters renewed annual memberships or purchased lifetime memberships. MICA hats were also sold and donations were collected to bring in $975 in revenue at the membership table.
At 6:50 the doors of the dining room were opened, and everyone was invited in for the three course dinner. Each table was labelled with an island name and supporters joined friends, family, neighbours, or found new acquaintances at their preassigned tables.
Syd Dumaresq, volunteer director and secretary for MICA led us through an action filled evening as our Master of Ceremonies. He gave opening remarks as we formally began the Gala Dinner and Auction. Syd spoke eloquently about the historical use of the Mahone Islands and our responsibilities as we conserve and protect these lands for future generations. John McGee led us in the singing of the national anthem, O Canada. The anthem was followed by a moment of silence in observance of Remembrance Day.
Members of the Gala organizing committee were thanked for their hard work and dedication in the organization of this year’s Gala. This year’s committee members are Marla Benton. Liz Brideau-Clark, Georg Ernst, Carla Heffler, Sidney Lang, Krista Longard, Jeannie McLean, Patti Robertson, and Dawn Smeaton. At the event, the volunteer list extended to include the MICA directors and family members as well as many local residents who have annually helped make this event a success. In all there were 40 supporters volunteering throughout the night to facilitate a smooth and enjoyable program.
Syd then introduced and thanked John Meisner, the Chair of the Mahone Islands Conservation Association.
John began by noting the significance of the evening’s event as MICA celebrated 20 years of conservation success in 2023. John welcomed all attendees and supporters to the 18th Gala. ‘To put things in perspective, according to Dr Ian Spooner, a distinguished scientist with Acadia University, these islands and bay are unique in the world. That reinforces the responsibilities we have in stewarding this special little part of the world for current and future generations.
Also, since our beginnings in 2002, there has been significantly increased activity on the bay and on our islands. It is great to see this increased use, as the goal of MICA is to preserve Mahone Bay islands for conservation and traditional public use. The above reinforces the need for us all to steward this wonderful resource responsibly for now and for future generations.’
John then introduced our special guests:
- Retired Sen. Wilfred Moore
- MLA for Lunenburg, Susan Corkum – Greek –regrets, sends best wishes for a successful evening.
- MLA for Chester, Danielle Barkhouse – regrets, sends best wishes for a successful evening.
- From MODL: Carolyn Bolivar Getson, Sandra Statton, Wendy Oickle, Kacy Delong, Martin Bell, Tom Delong, Kim Bezanson, Tom MacEwan.
- Municipality of Chester Councilor Sharon Church
- Town of Lunenburg Mayor Jamie Myra.
- NS DNRR Exec Dir, Land Services Branch Leslie Hickman.
- Dr Ian Spooner, distinguished scientist with Acadia University and Mitch Maracle of DNRR.
- And others with us this evening that have been supportive from day one.
- Hubert Ryan – Auctioneer
John then thanked the Gala organizing committee, recognizing the huge amount of work to put on such an event and stated that they were motivated and rewarded by the success of this event.
He then noted since we last met in Nov 2019, MICA has had some very significant accomplishments, none of which would have been possible without the past financial successes of these GALAs, as follows:
- Acquisition of the Oakland Conservation Area with MODL, Fall 2020
- Acquisition of Birch Island with PNS and support from MOC, Spring 2022
- Donation of Little Duck to PNS, Summer 2023
- Establishment of Public Mooring program with MODL and PNS. Fall 2022, Spring 2023
- Establishment of our Island Stewardship Champion program in Sept 2020 and asked our attending Champs to stand for a thank you.
- Since 2002, MICA has raised over $2,000,000 and acquired 21 island, island and mainland properties in partnership which includes the islands and island properties that were so generously donated.
- He referred to our new Map/Chart showing MICA properties and MICA Corporate Supporters.
He then looked ahead: ‘Always have some acquisition projects in the works – Stay tuned! These projects are always complicated and take time.’
Regarding membership, John said that our strength is in our numbers, especially when we solicit various levels of government for partnerships on acquisitions and other projects and encourages attendees to see Deb Hawkes at our Membership Table here this evening. He then finished his update with thank you. A special thank you to all our artists and donors for sharing such a wonderful array of art and services again this year, their generosity is overwhelming and always appreciated as many are faithful long time donors.to our Corporate Supporters, both past and new, totaling 42 this year noting that all are very prominent companies with a presence on the south shore and showing appreciation for their endorsement of our Mission. He asked attendees to please support these companies who have chosen to support us. He next recognized and thanked our government partners. In Summary, we have brought 21 islands or island properties, two shoreline properties plus three NCC islands off Chester back into public ownership for conservation and traditional public use. We recognize and say thank you to our primary partner, the Province of Nova Scotia, and the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg, the Municipality of the District of Chester, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
And lastly, he thanked ‘your Board of Directors’ asking them to stand, and their families, for their tremendous work, commitment, and passion for the organization. He passed on regrets from Bryan who was travelling, read the very nice message from Michael and Nikki, and introduced and welcomed Craig, our new Treasurer.
In conclusion, he graciously thanked everyone for their overwhelming support and wished all the supporters a great evening.
Then Syd Dumaresq, MC, led us into the first live auction segment. The live auction was woven into the evening to provide entertainment.
A lovely three course meal was served, and each one of the three courses was followed with the auctioning off of some live auction items. Our volunteer auctioneer, Hubert Ryan, engaged the audience with his humour and energy as he warmed up the crowd and clearly communicated our purpose in coming together. We would go home with some treasures while purchasing islands and shorelines for conservation.
Each live auction segment opened with a door prize draw to make sure everyone had their bidding cards ready. The crowd applauded and cheered for our successful bidders and their support. The staff of the Oak Island Resort was efficient and friendly and kept everything going smoothly as we enjoyed our meal and the live auction segments.
Meanwhile, silent auction rooms closed on schedule and people occasionally slipped over to up their bids. There were 115 items open to bids in the silent auction room which included a diverse selection of items and gift certificates from artists, businesses, and supporters.
The winner of our raffle draw was announced, and lucky winner Ruth Roberts won $250 cash and two tickets to next year’s MICA Gala dinner and Auction.
There were twenty diverse live auction items including original paintings, prints, ceramics, jewelry, photography, a folk art carving, golf green fees, a brewery tour and party bike ride, summer art classes, a cottage getaway, 12 yards of mulch, landscaping services and a beautifully built wooden sea kayak.
And for the first time, the Directors donned their aprons and offered up their finest foods!
During each of the three live auction segments, Hubert energetically engaged the audience and brought a spirit of generosity forward as many items went for values higher than their estimated values!
The evening was once again a great financial success with a total of approximately $58 000 being raised through corporate sponsorship and the fund-raising successes of the Gala event! As a reminder, these funds will be used to support island and property acquisitions for conservation and traditional public use.
We hope everyone in attendance enjoyed the meal, friends, and a treasure or two!
Thank you for your support and we hope to see you next year!
Krista Longard, Co-Chair Gala Dinner & Art Auction
Mahone Islands Conservation Association
and a special thank you to our volunteer event photographer Miriam Meisner!