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Memphis in May International Gala

Viva Colombia

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger | Photos by Don Perry

The Skyway at the Peabody Hotel took on an international flavor as Memphis in May (MIM) hosted its annual gala. This year marks the 41st celebration of the Memphis in May International Festival. As a tribute to this year’s honored country, The Republic of Colombia, libations and food were Colombian-themed. Dozens of red roses, a large export from Colombia to the United States, added to the colorful displays.

Dancers from the Colombian Forkloric Ballet in Houston, TX, wearing authentic Colombian costumes, greeted guests as they entered the gala. Cocktails were served as the bidding began on silent auction items. As attendees were seated for dinner, they dined on a first course of shrimp and octopus ceviche with avocado and plantain chips. The main course coupled filet mignon and pork belly with white yam puree, arepa, hogao salsa, merlot cumin jus, glazed baby carrots and asparagus. Dessert was flan de coca, a coconut flan served with caramel and fresh berries. A specialty coffee bar, provided by Dr. Bean’s Coffee &Tea Emporium, added a fitting Colombian finish to the meal.

Jim Holt, MIM president and CEO, welcomed the crowd and introduced the evening’s honored guest His Excellency Andrés González Díaz, Ambassador of Colombia to the Organization of American States. Ambassador Gonzáles Díaz gave a heart-felt speech highlighting many similarities between Memphis and Colombia. Additionally, he expressed his country’s gratitude for being selected as the 2017 Memphis in May honored country.

Next Bobbi Gillis, 2017 Chairman of the MIM Board of Directors, told of her travels to Colombia with a group of leaders from the Memphis in May International Festival. In addition to economic development and diplomatic duties, the group explored the country’s cultural amenities and sourced program elements for the 2017 salute to The Republic of Colombia. Gillis highlighted the large number of local teachers and students who benefit from the annual MIM curriculum guide that is developed and distributed throughout Shelby County Schools. She encouraged attendees to visit Colombian-related exhibits on display until the end of May at venues around the city.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and City of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland both acknowledged the international spirit that is fostered by Memphis in May and thanked Jim Holt, the MIM team and Bobbi Gillis for leading the 2017 efforts. Before leaving the stage, Ambassador Gonzáles Díaz and his wife, Ines, were presented with a commemorative wall plaque made by local artist Stephen Hudson. 2017 International Gala chairwoman Leigh Shockey introduced the evening’s emcee, weekend anchor Rudy Williams of TV Channel Local 24. Internationally renowned performer, songwriter and producer Richard Marx provided music for after-dinner dancing.


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