Whitney gala is back on for 'breakfast'
After a one-year hiatus, annual Saratoga event to return to Canfield Casino
By LEIGH HORNBECK, Staff writer
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First published: Friday, March 19, 2010
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Break out your diamonds and black Ray-Bans, the Whitney Gala will return in August with a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" theme.
Marylou Whitney, well known in the city as a philanthropist and socialite, canceled her annual party last year because she and husband John Hendrickson felt it would be tacky to throw a lavish party while so many people were out of work. Hendrickson said although people are still struggling, he and Whitney feel it is important to maintain Saratoga's traditions.
The party will be held inside the Canfield Casino at Congress Park Aug. 6, the night before the running of the Whitney Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course. The couple also canceled the party in 2006 after Whitney suffered a stroke, but at 83 years-old she is doing well, Hendrickson said.
Whitney's arrival each year, accompanied by her famous friends, always draws a crowd. She's made her appearance on dog sled, amphibious car, rickshaw, horse-drawn carriage and hot-air balloon. Inside the casino, designer Michael Panza creates ornate scenery inside the match the theme. There are constants every year, a hot dog station for the guests, a fortune teller and the trinkets Whitney and Hendrickson throw to the crowd.
Hendrickson said although the purses may be higher in New Jersey this year, "Saratoga's social whirl during the season is unmatched."
Unlike many of Whitney and Hendrickson's other summer activities, the gala is not fundraiser for charity, but Hendrickson said he hopes there is some trickle-down effect from the party. All the vendors will be local companies, he said.
Hendrickson said his wife chose "Breakfast at Tiffany's" because she has always loved the movie -- and because she was a single woman living in New York City when it was made and Audrey Hepburn's character, Holly Golightly is a composite of Whitney and three other women. Whitney and Hepburn were friends, Hendrickson said.
"She missed having the party last year," Hendrickson said. "And I want to do whatever keeps Marylou happy."
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