June 3, 2014 at 1:00 am

Society

Grand Prixmiere supports the Belle Isle Conservancy

Roger and Kathy Penske are major Grand Prix supporters. (Martin LeFlore / Special to The Detroit News)

An estimated 500 people attended the casual gathering that used to be the formal Grand Prix Ball when the race first made its debut in Detroit. The party Friday started with a cocktail reception in a massive tent on Belle Isle that opened up to a breathtaking view of the sparkling Scott Fountain. World-class race car drivers mingled with Metro Detroit civic and business leaders, including Gov. Rick Snyder and Mayor Mick Duggan.

Following the evening’s cocktail reception, top local executives, including Grand Prixmiere chair Mark Reuss, Penske Corporation Senior Vice President Bud Denker, FirstMerit Michigan CEO Sandy Pierce and Strategic Staffing Solutions CEO Cindy Pasky, teamed up with four world-class race drivers — Helio Castroneves, James Hinchliffe, Tony Kannan and Graham Rahal — to put their knowledge of each other to the test for Grand Pyramid, styled after the famous “$10,000 Pyramid” game show.

The game was a clever replacement for the driver Q&A segment that was done at Grand Prixmieres prior to this one. Next on the agenda was plated dinner (filet mignon) from Andiamo Catering.

Later in the evening, guests bid big for the Grand Prixmiere’s live auction. Three lucky winners walked away with exceptional prizes, including a trip to the 2014 Country Music Awards; a private high-performance driving lesson with legendary Corvette racing champion Ron Fellows; and an exclusive dinner at the General Motor Heritage Center accompanied by three-time Indy 500 winner and “Dancing With the Stars” champion Castronoves.

The evening’s proceeds will support the Belle Isle Conservancy in its mission to protect, preserve, restore and enhance Belle Isle Park. In support of the now state park, the event was held — for the first time — on Belle Isle. It was hosted by Kim and Mark Reuss, who is executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain at General Motors. The evening also was made possible with significant contributions from the Penske Corp.

The evening concluded with a private performance by nationally acclaimed musician Josh Kelley.

Sunset at the Zoo hosts benefactors

Sean and Nancy Cotton hosted a festive garden party at their elegant Grosse Pointe Farms home May 22 for the benefactors of this year’s Sunset at the Zoo. About 100 people congregated on the beautiful grounds, which were adorned with beds of pink tulips, topiary and an organic pond.

Guests were greeted with a glass of champagne before walking through the well-dressed home to the garden. There were two bars, a table laden with seafood and caviar, and a team of waiters passing an array of hors d’oeuvres.

Detroit Zoo Executive Director Ron Kagan addressed the crowd with information about the main event, themed this year “Howling at the Moon,” in support of the future wolf habitat. Co-chairs Ashley Crain and Kelle Ilitch were on hand echoing Kagan’s excitement.

“Kelle and I are very excited to come back for a second year as co-chairs of Sunset at the Zoo,” Crain said. “The Detroit Zoo is a true jewel in this town and Sunset has long been one of its best parties.”

Kagan expressed appreciation to the Cotton family — presenting Sean and Shery Cotton a crystal wolf as a token of appreciation for their generous gift of a half million dollars toward the construction of the new wolf habitat at the zoo, and a gift of wolf topiary to Nancy and Sean Cotton for hosting the benefactor’s party.

Stephen Polk was acknowledged for his extensive history of service to the Detroit Zoological Society, including a $10 million gift. Kagan presented Polk with the 2014 Nautilus Award.

The Benefactor’s Bash was for guests purchasing the $750 Benefactor ticket for Sunset at the zoo, which is June 13. General admission tickets to Sunset at the Zoo are $175.

chuckbennett@hotmail.com

Rod Alberts, left, DADA executive director, WJR's Paul W. Smith, the Grand ... (Martin LeFlore / Special to The Detroit News)
Nancy and Sean Cotton hosted the Benefactor's Bash for Sunset at the Zoo. (Martin LeFlore / Special to The Detroit News)