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U.S. Paralympians Rebecca Hart And Angela Peavy Enjoy The Ride To Rio

U.S. Paralympians Rebecca Hart And Angela Peavy Enjoy The Ride To Rio

By Annan Hepner

Before Rebecca Hart and Angela “Annie” Peavy trotted down centerline in Rio de Janeiro, their journey leading up to the Paralympic Games required years of commitment, training and determination.

Hart was born with familial spastic paraplegia, and Peavy suffered a stroke prior to birth that left her paralyzed on her left side. Both began riding horses at a young age, and they became determined to join the growing sport of para-equestrian dressage. While they worked to achieve near perfection in their eight minutes in the spotlight at the Deodoro Olympic Equestrian Centre, their support network played a vital role in their success leading up to the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

“2016 has been a special year, and the games in Rio have been the main highlight,” explained Hart, a three-time Paralympian. “A lot of time and effort was spent to qualify, and to have everything come to fruition and to reach our goals was very exciting for me.”

Hart and her horse Schroeter’s Romani, owned by Hart in conjunction with Margaret Duprey, Cherry Knoll Farm, Barbara Summer, and William and Sandy Kimmel, have had an exciting career together over the past two years with top finishes around the world. In January, at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Hart was the Grade II individual champion and team gold medalist at the CPEDI3*. The pair also traveled to Europe to gain more experience, and they placed first in the Grade II Individual Test at the CPEDI3* in Deauville, France.

Hart has had a standout career as a para-equestrian for the United States. She is a seven-time national champion and has represented the U.S. in two World Equestrian Games and three Paralympics. As an international competitor, Hart attributes her success to the strong support team made up of Cherry Knoll Farm’s Margaret Duprey and her trainer, Todd Flettrich, who are with her every step of the way.

“I have really developed as a rider working with Todd over the past two years, and he has been paramount in creating a training program for me,” Hart said. “Margaret has been to all of my qualifiers in Florida and was cheering me on at the games as well. It was so important for me to have them both in Rio, and I am forever grateful for their belief in me. It would not have been possible without them.”

Young rider Peavy has also enjoyed a successful year leading up to the Paralympic Games on her 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding Lancelot Warrior. She was the Grade III individual champion at the CPEDI3* in Wellington and earned top placings in France over the summer. She splits her time between Connecticut and Wellington, training for the past four years with Heather Blitz.

“Wellington has competitive shows and a large international-level atmosphere, which really helped us prepare for Rio,” Peavy explained. “When you live in Wellington, you have the opportunity to watch and meet top riders from around the world.”

Hart also enjoys being a Wellington resident after moving here more than a year ago. She spends her days working as a Starbucks barista before heading to the barn to train. She has focused on creating a solid partnership with her Danish Warmblood mare, as well as raising their expectations in the show ring.

As Team USA’s anchor rider and the team member with the most experience, Hart had significant pressure on her to lead the way. She began her Rio Paralympic Games with a fifth-place finish in the Grade ll Team Test with a score of 69.914 percent, and went on to place ninth in the individual championships with a score of 67.714 percent. Her combined score qualified her as the only U.S. para-equestrian to move on to the final freestyle day of competition. In the very contested Grade II division, Hart and Romani finished their freestyle in seventh place with a score of 67.650 percent.

“Though it was unfortunate that we didn’t leave Rio with the gold medal results we had dreamed of, I am very proud of Rebecca and Romani,” said Flettrich, a London Olympic U.S. dressage alternate and Hart’s trainer. “I wake up every day feeling honored that I have this team in my life. You have to love the journey together.”

Duprey has enjoyed her eight-year friendship with Hart, and she is inspired by Hart’s grit, drive to win and her tenacity to not let her disability hold her back.

“To watch Rebecca go down the centerline in Rio — it gave me chills,” Duprey said. “It was what we have all been working toward, and to watch her compete all three days was very exciting. Todd and I are part of the village that makes it successful. It’s always thrilling to represent your country, whether you are a rider, trainer or owner. It is an honor, even though it’s a lot of hard work to get there.”

Peavy enjoyed her Paralympic debut, and she rode Lancelot Warrior to a sixth-place finish with a 68.974 percent in the Grade III team test. In the individual championship, she earned an eighth-place finish on a score of 68.585 percent.

“It was a great first games for me, and it is an honor to represent my country,” Peavy said. “Becca [Hart] has competed in multiple Paralympics, and she was so supportive showing me the ropes. I felt confident going into the competition ring in Rio because we knew our job, and Lancelot is always focused on me. I had excitement nerves being there!”

After settling back into their routine in the United States, Hart and Peavy have been busy traveling across the country. They enjoyed touring the White House with their U.S. Paralympic teammates, meeting President Barack Obama and reminiscing on their experiences in Brazil with other Team USA Olympians. Hart has also visited college campuses and the Women’s Sports Foundation to give motivational speeches and promote her sport.

“The Paralympics in Rio was a wonderful experience with everyone on my team,” Hart said. “I am so thankful for the United States Equestrian Team Foundation, the United States Equestrian Federation and my groom Fernando Ortega for their dedication and hard work behind-the-scenes. They are an invaluable part of this sport!”

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Returns To The Wellington Amphitheater On Dec. 3

Chamber, Village Team Up As Winterfest

Returns To The Wellington Amphitheater On Dec. 3

Story and Photos by Julie Unger

Wellington’s Winterfest celebration will return to its roots this year. Staged by the Wellington Chamber of Commerce and the Village of Wellington, the event will be hosted back where it all began, at the Wellington Amphitheater on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 7 to 10 p.m.

seniors. Our performances will reflect that,” Green said. “There’s a lineup of performers from every genre of music you can think of.”

Michaela Paige from The Voice, Nicky

“We’re doing this at the amphithe- ater to celebrate the village and the chamber turning 20 years old,” said Mi- chela Green, executive director of the chamber.

Rob Van Winkle —  better  known by his stage name Vanilla Ice  — will  be headlining Winterfest once again, along with Wes Kain from the Vanilla Ice Project, who will be returning as the emcee.

Green thanked Van Winkle for his support.   “His   commitment   and  his

philanthropic outreach to Wellington astounds me every year,” she said. “With such a busy schedule, and with him be- ing a national celebrity, and of course a rock icon, I’m absolutely honored that he does this event with us every year.”

As the chamber and village gear up for another amazing Winterfest, Green is excited about the community involve- ment. “I think it’s spectacular. It’s a  true community holiday event. There’s something for everyone, from little children  to  millennials  to  parents to

Greed, the Wellington High School chamber chorus, the Wellington High School dance team, Sarah Spiritual, Alyssa Coon, the Palm Beach Opera, Precision Dance Conservatory, Vell P, Latillia Jackson, Aliyah Pike and others will take to the stage.

“This year, aside from the holiday theme, people are performing some original songs,” Green said. “We have some rhythm and blues, we have some Palm Beach Opera, we have a dance troupe.”

More than a dozen food trucks will be available starting at 5 p.m. before the performances start at 7 p.m. The entire municipal campus will be uti- lized for Winterfest, including the new Wellington Community Center.

Wellington Cultural Programs & Fa- cilities Manager Joe Piconcelli is look- ing forward to showing off the new community center, as well as the amphi- theater, Scott’s Place playground, the Great Lawn and more.

“I’m extremely excited about it re- turning,” he said. “It’s a great event for our venue. I’m excited to have Vanilla Ice back again.”

Founded at the Wellington Amphi- theater, the event has been staged in recent years at the Palm Beach Interna- tional Equestrian Center.

Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig, who first met Vanilla Ice during the in- augural Winterfest as a newly elected council member, is excited to take part in her first Winterfest as mayor.

“It feels like it’s back where it started. I think it’s a homegrown community event, so I’m glad to have it back,” she said, explaining that the facilities at the amphitheater and the community cen- ter are perfect for the event.

A mayoral tradition, Gerwig will be reading ’Twas The Night Before Christmas to youngsters at the event.

Winterfest will feature Blizzard Beach, a family-themed area with snow, zip lining, an obstacle course, kid-friend- ly activities and kid-friendly vendors. The Potions in Motion VIP Lounge will be open, Green said, featuring light ap- petizers, a cash bar and beverages.

Winterfest is a free community event. Green suggests that attendees arrive early to find somewhere to park, and if they live nearby, to walk or ride over on a bicycle. A shuttle will also depart from the original Wellington Mall for over- flow parking.

In 2010, at the first official Winter- fest featuring Vanilla Ice, almost  4,000

people attended. In 2015, that number nearly doubled. This year, anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 attendees are ex- pected.

“Although I’ve attended several Win- terfest events, I know this one will be the biggest and best ever,” Wellington Chamber President Debbie Crompton said. “We are anticipating record-break- ing crowds. We have a whole lineup of brand new performers and vendors, and, of course, the grand finale with Vanilla Ice is second to none.”

For top sponsors, there will be a pri- vate VIP reception. Photo booths will also add to the fun. Vendor and spon- sor opportunities are still available. Pre- senting sponsors include the Santama- ria family, the original Wellington Mall, the Royal Inn, Grand Champions Polo Club and ChukkerTV, as well as Eques- trian Sport Productions.

For more information about Winterfest, visit www.wellingtonchamber.com or call (561) 792-6200.

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U.S. Equestrian Team Secures Multiple Medals At Rio Olympics

U.S. Equestrian Team Secures Multiple Medals At Rio Olympics

By Rebecca Walton/Phelps Media Group

Following the 2012 London Olympic Games, the United States Equestrian Team refocused and revaluated with the goal of bringing home medals during the 2016 Olympics Games held this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With all of the athletes focused on accomplishing their personal goals and the goals of the United States, all three disciplines of show jumping, dressage and eventing made the podium.

“It worked out pretty well,” smiled U.S. show jumping Chef d’Équipe Robert Ridland after the team earned its silver medal. “All of our scores had to count; we knew that. They were all unbelievable. Unbelievably focused, they knew what their job was and they got it done. It was tremendous.”

SHOW JUMPING

The show jumping team final was filled with excitement from start to finish. After the team qualifier on Aug. 16, four nations advanced with scores of zero, but a technical track with a tight time allowed and three teams with only three riders shook things up quickly.

The United States, the Netherlands, Germany and Brazil all qualified for the team final with no faults. Kent Farrington, Lucy Davis and McLain Ward were all faultless over the track for the U.S. during the first team qualifier, while Beezie Madden brought home an eight-fault showing to be the drop score.

The next day, the Netherlands and Brazil each lost a rider due to disqualification, and the United States lost anchor rider Madden, when Abigail Wexner’s Cortes C sustained a tendon injury. Thus, all of the rounds for the three teams counted, and the loss of a drop score left no room for error.

Farrington was up next with Amalaya Investments’ Voyeur. They incurred just one time fault, while Davis and Old Oak Farm’s Barron had B of the triple combination down, adding four faults to the U.S. total and putting all of the pressure on anchor rider Ward. He was aboard Double H Farm and François Mathy’s HH Azur and crossed the finish line as one of only five clear rounds on the day.

“Azur has a big stride, so I did the options that were leave-outs, and that helped with the time allowed a little bit,” Ward explained. “I really thought she jumped as good as ever, if not better than the rest of the week. It was a round I’m proud of, and I’m proud of this team.”

There was still room for an upset, and when the Netherlands, Brazil and Germany each had rails from their third rider in the rotation, it sealed the silver medal finish for the U.S. team.

DRESSAGE

Allison Brock, Laura Graves, Kasey Perry-Glass and Steffen Peters represented the United States at the 2016 Olympic Games, and the all-star team did not disappoint. The dressage team earned a place on the Olympic podium with a bronze medal finish, which was the first medal for U.S. dressage since the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Team USA ended the first day of Grand Prix competition in third place, with riders earning personal bests across the board. The top six teams, which included the U.S., advanced to the Grand Prix Special — the phase that determined the team medals.

Accurate riding by Brock and a steady, willing effort on Fritz and Claudine Kundrin’s 14-year-old Hanoverian stallion Rosevelt, with highlights in the extensions across all three gaits, earned the pair a 73.824 percent score as the first down centerline in the afternoon team rotation.

Next up for the U.S., Perry-Glass and Dublet, her 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding, had trouble early on with a costly break to canter in the first extended trot. They rebounded from there with their top-notch passage and excellent tempi changes boosting their score, and finished on a score of 73.235 percent.

Team veterans Peters and Four Winds Farm’s Legolas 92 also had uncharacteristic bobbles, however a fantastic final centerline helped them complete the test with a score of 74.622 percent, just above the average that the team needed.

As anchor rider Graves prepared to head down centerline, nerves were running high among U.S. dressage supporters and fans.

The team was sitting just fractions of a percent behind the Netherlands, and Graves’ ride would determine whether the U.S. could break its 12-year medal drought. The pressure only gave Graves added motivation. She asked Verdades to give her his all, and the pair’s nearly 13-year partnership paid off, as they turned in the best Grand Prix Special score of their career on the world’s biggest stage. Their mark of 80.644 percent secured the bronze medal for the U.S.

“The elusive 80 percent! We captured it… it exists!” Graves said. “I knew it was going well. You just always hope that your reflections match up with the judges. To see my teammates so happy and to have a personal best with a score I’ve been reaching for — it was the icing on our cake.”

When Wellington resident Robert Dover accepted the position as technical advisor and chef d’équipe for the U.S. dressage team, he created a road map back to the podium.

“I could not be more proud of our team, and it has been a real honor for me to be able to be their chef d’équipe over the last years,” Dover said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen in the years to come, because the depth of great up-and-coming Grand Prix horses that are just starting out right now will triple. I believe that in the next two years, you will see America take another higher podium finish. In the next four years, I think they will give any country in the world a very strong fight for the gold.”

EVENTING

It was a roller coaster weekend for the U.S. eventing team at the 2016 Olympic Games. Hopes were high with a strong team heading into the competition, but mediocre dressage scores left fans wondering if the U.S. would reach the podium. Then, two eliminations during the cross-country phase dashed hopes for a team medal, and the view looked even bleaker. However, Phillip Dutton continued to fight on, and after two rounds of show jumping, he found his way onto the podium for a bronze medal finish aboard Mighty Nice.

The team included Dutton with the HND Group’s Mighty Nice; Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery, owned by the Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate; Lauren Kieffer and Team Rebecca LLC’s Veronica; and Clark Montgomery with Loughan Glen, owned by Holly and William Becker, Kathryn Kraft and Jessica Montgomery. The team was led by Chef d’Équipe David O’Connor.

After Keiffer suffered a fall during the difficult cross country phase and Montgomery was eliminated for three refusals, the U.S. was out of the running for a team medal. Heading into the final day of competition, Dutton and Martin had both added only 3.2 time penalties to their dressage scores after cross-country, and made a huge jump in the standings. Athletes had to jump in the team jumping final to qualify for the individual final — the final goal for both Dutton and Martin.

Martin and the 12-year-old Thoroughbred Blackfoot Mystery were not quite up to the challenge on the final day, after multiple rails, and all of Team USA’s hopes fell on Dutton.

Dutton and Mighty Nice, a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse, left all of the fences intact during the first round, but the pair crossed the finish line just over the time allowed, picking up one time fault. Dutton and Mighty Nice advanced to the individual final in fourth place, within shouting distance of the podium.

The pair was not as lucky the second time around, lowering the height of a single fence, yet even with the four faults tacked on, Dutton remained in fourth place. Luck was on Dutton’s side when Australia’s Christopher Burton took his turn and lowered the height of two fences, subsequently boosting Dutton to the bronze medal position.

The individual bronze medal finish marked the first individual medal for the six-time Olympian, who won two team medals when he competed with Australia. It also marks the biggest career finish for Mighty Nice, a special horse for Dutton, who was formerly owned by the late Bruce Duchossois.

“It has been a great weekend for the horse,” Dutton said after the final. “He got a little knocked around yesterday, so I was just grateful to get here. It has been a great achievement for him. Bruce would be really proud of him. I was happy with fourth, and now I am quite ecstatic with third!”

With the 2016 Olympic Games completed, athletes now look ahead to the 2018 World Equestrian Games and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Working closely with the support of the United States Equestrian Team Foundation and the United States Equestrian Federation, the team will be focused on once again bringing home medals.

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Get Ready For Your Big Day With Tips From An Expert

Get Ready For Your Big Day With Tips From An Expert

By Deborah Welky

Having conceptualized their wedding day ever since seeing Disney’s Cinderella, many soon-to-be brides have everything already planned, down to the glass slippers. So why hire a wedding planner? The reasons are many but, most importantly, a wedding planner knows about everything that’s new and exciting, and can save you money. To get the inside track, we spoke with professional wedding planner Jennifer Hardiman, chief event officer (CEO) at Fabuluxe Events.

Q: When’s the best time for couples to announce their engagement?

A: After they have told immediate family. Then it’s OK to announce it on social media.

You don’t want family members to find out about your engagement via Facebook.

 

Q: How should you choose your wedding date, and when?

A: The couple should examine their calendars, decide what time of year they want to get married, then think about how long they’ll have to plan. While holiday weekends sound like a great idea for out-of-town guests, sometimes travel expenses are higher and could cost a premium at your venue. It’s ideal to have at least six months to plan a wedding. However, we have planned entire weddings in less than six weeks.

 

Q: When setting their wedding budget, what should couples keep in mind?

A: Everyone has a budget. Most vendors will work with you as long as you are honest with them as to what you can afford. If they can’t do what you want within your budget, they will tell you. It is important to remember little things like postage, alterations, accessories, printing and frames for signage, favors, gifts for the wedding party, cute things that you see when browsing Etsy — all those things add up, and suddenly your budget is busted. Be very specific when putting together your budget. From the beginning, talk with both families and confirm who’s paying. There is nothing worse than a miscommunication regarding money during wedding planning.

 

Q: Why should couples consider hiring a planner?

A: There are so many reasons. A planner can help guide you through the process, help you stay on budget, recommend vendors, review contracts, keep the design on track, help guide where to splurge and where to save money, prioritize costs and navigate the emotional stresses. In addition, on the actual wedding day, planners keep vendors organized and the day flowing. We allow the couple and their families to be guests at the wedding. These are once-in-a-lifetime moments, and we don’t want any of them to be missed. There are so many unseen things that planners do at every wedding… we sew on buttons and repair ripped seams, make sure everyone eats and stays hydrated. In our experiences, we have re-curled bridesmaids’ hair, gone to McDonald’s to get food for the littlest guests and so much more. The key is that a planner takes care of any hiccups before the couple ever finds out they’ve happened.

 

Q: What’s the best way to compile a guest list?

A: First find out how many people your venue holds and figure the cost per person. Then you know how many guest you can afford to have at your wedding. Start with immediate family and friends, then progress to those who may be work associates, etc. Don’t invite more people than you can afford. Especially in South Florida, you could be surprised at how many out-of-town guests whom you don’t expect will come to the wedding.

 

Q: How should you choose and when should you reserve the venue for your reception?

A: The venue should be one the first things you reserve. But do your homework before setting appointments to see venues. Make sure it is in a location you want and is the style you want (country club, hotel, beach, barn). Then look at their web sites and Facebook/Instagram pages. Then you can narrow it down to the top three that you want to visit.

 

Q: How soon should you choose your bridal attendants?

A: It’s not a requirement to choose attendants right after you get engaged. Take some time; think about any siblings from both sides who need to be included, then think about friends to be included. Within a month of getting engaged, you should ask those people to be part of the bridal party.

 

Q: When is the best time for a bride to start shopping for her wedding gown?

A: A bride should start shopping for her wedding gown at least eight to 10 months prior to the wedding. Some designers can take up to six months for the dress to be made to the bride’s measurements and shipped. It is important to leave enough time for alterations and fittings. It’s also important not to bring too many people dress shopping. There will be too many opinions, and it can cause stress for the bride. Bring the people who are closest to you.

 

Q: When should the bride select her attendants’ gowns, and who should be involved in that decision?

A: The bride should be involved and should have the attendants try on different fits and styles. Not everyone has the same body type. It’s OK to let the bridesmaids wear different styles of the same color dress. It is more important for them to feel comfortable and confident.

 

Q: How should the couple choose a theme for the wedding and reception?

A: I always tell our couples to be true to who they are when choosing anything related to their wedding, and that goes for theme or colors. There is a lot of pressure these days to create a Pinterest-worthy wedding. And themes tend to go along with your venue’s decor. It is all tied together. If there is not a theme (Tuscany inspired, Paris inspired, vintage, modern chic, etc.) that fits your personalities, don’t force it. Go with the colors you like and little touches of yourselves throughout the décor.

 

Q: How important is the selection of food and entertainment?

A: Two things people remember are, “Was the food good?” and “Did we have fun?” Food and beverages are key to creating the right atmosphere and tone for the entire reception.

 

Q: What is the best way for couples to research photographers, videographers, florists and cake-bakers? When should contracts with them be signed?

A: The internet is a great place to start. Look at Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to get a sense of the style of the vendor. But word-of-mouth and recommendations by other people in the industry are invaluable. This is where a wedding planner can help tremendously. Planners know the personalities of the vendors and their price points, and can help you find the right fit. It is always good to interview at least one or two people in each category. You want to like the people you are working with. In some cases, such as photography and videography, the couple will be with them for up to 12 hours on the wedding day.

 

Q: When should honeymoon planning start?

A: Though traditionally this was left up to the groom, now it is more a joint project between the bride and the groom. Planning should start approximately six months ahead of the wedding, if possible. This way the couple can choose a destination and save money to pay for the honeymoon.

 

Q: What are the latest trends in wedding rings, and when should rings be purchased?

A: For grooms, there are many more choices than expected. Grooms can get a ring made of silicone, wood and metal, tungsten, stainless steel, gold or platinum. For the ladies, the ring should complement the engagement ring. Stacked wedding bands, conflict-free diamonds, colored stones, mixed metals… all are great options. Rings should be purchased with plenty of time for appropriate sizing and engraving — at least two or three months prior to the wedding day.

 

Q: When should the couple select wedding invitations? When should they be sent?

A: It is nice to send a save-the-date announcement to everyone on the guest list as soon as you have the date, location and guest list finalized. But make sure everyone who gets the announcement is getting an invitation! Then, about six months prior to the wedding, start working on invitations. Custom invitations take longer to produce than invitations from some of the popular web sites, and if you want hand calligraphy on the envelopes, factor in the time that takes. Invitations should be mailed eight to 12 weeks prior to the wedding, with an RSVP due 30 days prior to the wedding.

 

Q: How far in advance of the wedding should couples register for gifts?

A: The couple should register three to six months prior to the wedding and before any wedding showers. Couples today are registering for everything from housewares to funds for their honeymoon. Registries can be combined on sites like www.myregistry.com.

 

Q: What about the bride’s hair and makeup? Should the bride do a dry run before her big day?

A: Absolutely, yes. Bridal makeup is much different than everyday makeup. The bride should try it out with the makeup artist. It is a great way to get to know the artist. The bride shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a different shade of lipstick or less dramatic eyes during the trial. It may feel like the bride has on a lot more makeup than normal, but in pictures, she’ll look perfect.

 

Q: Is it better for the couple to select all their own music or to leave it up to the band or DJ?

A: The couple should choose some of pieces of music, then trust their band or DJ for the rest. For example, the couple should pick their processional, recessional, first dance and parent dances. But it can be OK to let the band or DJ pick the songs for things that may not be as important to the couple. Give the band/DJ the types of music that the couple wants played and their favorite artists. Then the band/DJ can see what is working with the crowd, keep the dance floor full and ensure a good time.

 

Q: What is your advice for couples who want to select readings and write their own wedding vows?

A: Start early and practice. When writing your own vows, you want them to truly explain how you feel about your fiancé. They should be heartfelt, but not too long. And not too many inside jokes… no one else will understand them. For readings, it is important to review them with your officiant to make sure they are appropriate for the ceremony.

 

Q: How soon should the groom’s family plan the rehearsal dinner and make reservations?

A: Tradition suggests that all members of the wedding party, their spouses and significant others, and out-of-town guests should be invited to the rehearsal dinner. But the trend recently has been toward smaller dinners and then meeting up with out-of-town guests for a welcome party or cocktails at a local hotspot. This is also tied to budget. If the budget allows for a larger gathering, then great. If a smaller, more intimate gathering is what the couple wants, that’s fine, too. But at least two or three months prior to the wedding, this should be finalized.

 

Q: Do you recommend securing a limousine, antique car, horse and carriage or other wedding-day transportation? Are there pitfalls? And what about transportation for the parents?

A: I definitely recommend transportation for the wedding couple, wedding party and parents at a minimum. This way everyone arrives on time and at the same time. I also recommend transportation for guests via a trolley or bus. This helps reduce drinking and driving. For the wedding couple, an antique car as they are leaving the church or at the end of the reception is fantastic. It also gives the couple a few moments alone to just enjoy each other. We have also worked with Uber and created wedding discount codes and provided that information to the guests so they can easily get from place to place.

 

Q: When it comes to gifts for the attendants, do you suggest traditional or lighthearted gifts?

A: This is all about personality — the personalities of the attendants, the wedding couple and their relationship with the attendants. No matter what the type of gift, it should be meaningful and not just because it’s the trendy thing to do.

 

Q: When does the couple need to get their marriage license?

A: A marriage license in Florida is good for 60 days after it is issued. I recommend going to get the license a few weeks prior to the wedding. If the couple is coming from out-of-state, they can get the license as soon as they arrive in Florida. There is no waiting period for out-of-state residents.

 

Q: Traditionally, the night before the wedding is when bachelor and bachelorette parties are held. Today, a combined party is often hosted. What are your recommendations on this?

A: Definitely not the night before the wedding! The night before the wedding, everyone should get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. I recommend planning a night out about a month before. Combined parties can be a lot of fun, or the couple can start the night separately and then have everyone end up at the same location later.

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The Perfect Dress For Your Perfect Day!

The Perfect Dress For Your Perfect Day!

Many women dream of their wedding from a young age, and it usually begins the first time they swing a white sheet over their shoulders and pretend it is their wedding dress. From that moment forward, the fun and excitement about their wedding gown takes shape. Choosing a wedding gown is one of the most important decisions any bride can make — after choosing the perfect partner, of course. No matter how extravagant or streamlined the rest of the wedding day is, it really is all about the dress.

We recommend that brides begin their journey of finding the perfect dress as soon as they set a date, since it will likely take some time to find the perfect one, order it and often wait for delivery. Some brides may try on more than a hundred dresses, while for a lucky few, they know the moment they slip the first one on that it is the perfect dress.

Before you go out and visit bridal shops, you should browse online, thumb through magazines, get to know what styles are out there and consider what style suits you best. Are you more traditional, perhaps modern or maybe a rebel? Do you prefer something other than white or ivory, opting for a pop of color?

Doing some research will help you when you walk into to your first appointment. It will set the tone and help the shop or designer know what type of dresses to show you.

Whether it is your first wedding, second wedding or renewing your vows — there is a perfect dress out there for your perfect day!

 

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Meet The Directors Of Catering

Meet The Directors Of Catering

By Julie Unger

Weddings call for special attention to the details — those little things that make or break an event and keep guests talking for years to come.

Some of the most exclusive, but not elusive, venues in the area have amazing teams that help put these events together at their gorgeous locations. A crucial member of these teams, the director of catering, quite literally caters to the needs of the client while also ensuring delicious food in a spectacular atmosphere.

Three of the beautiful locations we visited recently changed ownership and, with that change, have seen renovations and updates to make them better than ever.

At the Wanderers Club, we checked in with Whitney Garcia, who works to make each event unique. At the International Polo Club Palm Beach, Nelson Tamargo applies a multicultural approach to catering. At the new Wellington National Golf Club, Aaron Menitoff creates a dazzling delight for the eyes that is an experience in and of itself, as well as delicious, creative food. At Breakers West, Trinity Clark enjoys guiding brides and grooms through an affordable, yet still luxurious, version of the best of what the Breakers Palm Beach has to offer.

Each of these venues has an attentive, detail-oriented staff that is passionate about making your day something special, with laughter, joy and memories to last a lifetime. Join us as we meet the directors of catering behind these special locations and learn what makes each place outstanding.

 

Whitney Garcia

The Wanderers Club

At the Wanderers Club, Whitney Garcia serves as your guide through weddings and other special events.

“I have a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management with a concentration in conventions and special events from East Carolina University,” Garcia said. “I began my career with a private event planning company in North Carolina, working mainly with brides on all aspects of their wedding. After relocating to Florida, I broadened my expertise by handling corporate events at the PGA National Resort & Spa. I quickly missed the social and wedding aspect of event planning and made the change to country clubs.”

Garcia began her catering career by working with restaurants throughout college, which led to becoming a banquet server at a private country club in North Carolina, where she fell in love with weddings.

“I then worked for a private event planning company, learning every aspect of weddings, and there was no going back,” she said.

Garcia joined the team at the Wanderers Club three years ago, working to create dream events for members and nonmembers alike. She orchestrates special events at the Wanderers Club with its multiple dining experiences, golfing opportunities, an Olympic-size pool, and even the option for fireworks and ice sculptures.

At the Wanderers Club, Garcia has the opportunity to take part in the ever-changing, fast-paced wedding environment, and see couples enjoy the big day they worked long and hard to plan.

“I have the opportunity to first meet the couple and their families and show off our beautiful clubhouse,” Garcia said. “I then work closely with the bride to either fully understand her vision or help to create it. From there, I work with our executive chef and food and beverage director to bring their dream wedding to life.”

The catering services available at the Wanderers Club is extremely unique.

“From the stunning new ballroom to the phenomenal talents of our executive chef, to our personalized service, the Wanderers Club is unparalleled,” Garcia said. “We strive to ensure that each wedding is exactly what the couple wants and not a ‘cookie-cutter’ wedding. Our newly renovated ballroom is the perfect blend of elegant and rustic, allowing brides to play on either style. Every culinary experience at the Wanderers Club is created custom, due to the creativity and flexibility of our culinary team. Each wedding is unique to the bride’s taste, style and culinary preference.”

To learn more about booking an event at the Wanderers Club, located at 1900 Aero Club Drive in Wellington, call Garcia at (561) 795-3501 or visit www.wanderersclubwellington.com.

 

Nelson Tamargo

International Polo Club

At the International Polo Club Palm Beach, Nelson Tamargo will guide you through your special occasion.

“I have previously been a director of catering for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and in addition, I have been both a director of outlets for Sheraton and Luxury Collection properties,” he said. “In a nutshell, if food or beverage was involved, my hand was in it. I have also been a corporate trainer for the Le Méridien hotel brand of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts family.

Tamargo has worked in virtually every position possible in the restaurant and catering business, making him the ideal director of catering/food and beverage at IPC.

“I have the knowhow to share with the team, and sometimes directly myself, to make sure all who come to IPC have a memorable and meaningful visit,” he said.

Tamargo was born in Cuba to Spanish parents, and food was an important part of their lives. A career in catering came naturally to Tamargo, whose father was a chef and set the tone for Tamargo’s future.

“We traveled between Florida and Lake Placid as a child, winter in Florida and summer in Lake Placid,” he recalled. “I started working in the restaurants in Lake Placid when we were there, and the rest is history.”

Tamargo utilizes his unique skills to work with his team and create consistently elegant events for clients.

“I am honored to have the unique responsibility to be able to speak to a client from the very first inquiry on the phone, and carry that client’s vision to reality, evident in the production of a calculated, unique and elegant event each and every time,” he said.

When planning an event, such as a wedding, IPC’s 250 acres of polo fields, barns, paddocks, lakes, the private member club and large event space are sure to provide the perfect backdrop.

“IPC is a modern-day facility that believes in and knows its roots, polo, the sport of kings,” he said. “The rustic (barns and horses) and elegant (floppy hats and designer dresses) dichotomy that is polo, gives us a venue that can accommodate any style of event, from the most traditional of Argentine asados, to a high-level government affair or A-lister’s wedding. IPC has a sort of rustic charm, never overstated, never under.”

To learn more about booking an event at the International Polo Club, located at 3667 120th Avenue South in Wellington, call Tamargo at (561) 282-5343 or visit www.internationalpoloclub.com.

 

Aaron Menitoff

Wellington National Golf Club

At the new Wellington National Golf Club, Aaron Menitoff makes the impossible possible.

Menitoff, of Wellington Hospitality Group, studied at the University of Michigan. He double-majored in psychology and communications while working at restaurants to pay his way through school before attending graduate school in New York City, continuing to work in restaurants before attending the Florida Culinary Institute.

Menitoff continued in the restaurant business before opening up a gourmet catering company with concessions at local horse shows. He also did catering at the Winter Equestrian Festival prior to being recruited by the International Polo Club Palm Beach, where for 10 years he provided catering for special events, and led the Sunday brunch program.

“I recently joined Wellington National to open up the hospitality program here for the wine bar that we’re opening; the Champion’s Bistro, which is a full-service restaurant; and the banquet facility, which is the largest one in the western communities,” he said.

Additionally, Menitoff’s catering business works out of nine different Palm Beach County venues.

At Wellington National, Menitoff and his team bring their passion to your party.

Being the director of catering means taking care of guests’ needs, making their visions reality, keeping within their budget and creating a seamless event with as little stress as possible, Menitoff explained. “One of the end goals is to exceed their expectations and their guests’ expectations, where the host feels proud that their vision has been realized,” he said.

Part of what makes this possible is Menitoff’s seasoned team.

“We have extensive experience in everything from intimate dinner parties to massive large-scale event productions involving everything from valet, security, tenting, portable restrooms, mobile kitchens, food service, staffing and ticketing,” he said. “We have a well-trained team that can pull off literally any scale of event seamlessly, coming in at budget.”

Menitoff has a unique approach to the director of catering position.

“One of the things that we really believe is that people eat with their eyes first,” he said. “One of the cornerstones of our business has been that we want people, when they walk into any event, or see a food station for the first time, or a table scape, that they’re impressed by that. It’s almost a conversation piece, it’s something that’s almost to the level of entertainment itself. We’re going to add to that by adding food to it. So, it’s almost enough to have all of that without the food. Adding the food is like the icing on the cake.”

The Wellington National Golf Club is located at 400 Binks Forest Drive in Wellington. To learn more about booking an event with Menitoff, call (561) 792-9292.

 

Trinity Clark

Breakers West

At Breakers West, Trinity Clark approaches each wedding or special event as though it’s her own. Breakers West is owned by the Breakers Palm Beach, which provides a great deal of support.

“You have the ability to be creative, which I think is my favorite part of having the job here; actually having the flexibility to customize menus, really get to know the bride and groom, and really be able to bring their personalities out for their special day,” said Clark, who has been with the company for eight years.

She started as a psychology major at Florida State University before switching to an event management degree. As an intern at SunFest, Clark learned more about planning events, worked at the Breakers, worked with a wedding planner, and has been able to utilize her detail-oriented personality and creativity to help others make their day special.

“It’s nice to make people happy, because we’re in the service industry of hospitality,” Clark said. “It’s really, really rewarding when you can actually bring their ideas to life.”

Breakers West, a popular area country club, recently underwent some renovations. Marble floors were installed, and other changes were made, making Breakers West brighter and lighter.

Throughout the entire wedding process, Clark and her assistant are the coordinators, effectively eliminating the need for a wedding planner. They are the individuals receiving inquiries, setting up meetings and working with the brides to plan their fairytale wedding experience.

“The person who promised you the dream is actually the person here that day delivering it,” she said.

Working with clients, Clark said, makes them feel more comfortable and experience less stress for their big day.

“The care and the absolute effort that our team puts in to every single client, I think, is what makes us different. Of course, we have the spectacular food from the Breakers. We have the exact same piece of fish, or cut of filet, that the hotel does, just at an approachable price,” she said. “I think it’s that we’re pretty much on-site planning. You don’t have to spend the money on a wedding planner when you work with us.”

Breakers West also offers bridal shower and engagement packages. The venue is able to work with a wide variety of budgets, always treating clients like family.

“I like to think that I get married every weekend,” Clark said.

To learn more about booking an event at Breakers West, located at 1550 Flagler Parkway in West Palm Beach, call Clark at (877) 724-2045 or visit www.breakerswestclub.com.

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Colors & Trends

Colors & Trends

The color and style of a room set the tone for the entire event. A wedding is no different. Couples have to make the decision early on which color scheme and décor they will use to accent their big day.

Stylish and sophisticated, bold and modern, or contemporary with bling? These are some of the big color choices trending this wedding season. Some designers have been inspired by the contrast of urban design and lush vegetation, which can lead to unexpected color combinations that both thrill and sooth guests as they enter the venue. Other trends, meanwhile, stay true to the classic whites and clean lines throughout the décor.

Whichever colors you choose to create the vibe for your wedding day, just keep in mind some of effects that colors can have. If you are going for “drama,” this can be accomplished with dark and jewel tones, like reds and black or emeralds and golden tones. Soft and subtle palettes, such as light pastels or earth tones, add a touch of “elegance.”

No matter what color choices you select, keep in mind that not every detail has to match down to the socks your groomsmen are wearing — leave some room to spice it up and add those few elements of surprise.

Some other new and returning trends include hashtags, the first look, bridal party flash mob dances and many other fun, interactive wedding entertainment. Like the Electric Slide, some of these trends will be around for a long time, while others will come and go.

For coffee addicts out there, the new trend in wedding “coffee bars” will be a favorite for many years to come. How did we not think about this years ago? Just like we expect bar service at receptions, the trend to walk up and order your favorite caffeine drink will make many guests happy.

This season’s hair accessory trend sees the return of the classic hair clip or pin-in headpiece. This traditional style of hair has come and gone before, and it is likely this trend will move on in a season or two as well.

So whether you opt for the traditional white iced cake, or adorn the top of yours with whole oranges or apples, create your own hashtag or use a hashtag generator, make your color and trend choices stand out by making them your very own.

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Start Your Wedded Bliss With The Perfect Trip For All Budgets

Start Your Wedded Bliss With The Perfect Trip For All Budgets

By Joe Nasuti

A honeymoon is not only the traditional holiday taken by newlyweds to celebrate their marriage in secluded intimacy as they start their life together, but also should be a welcome relief from all the planning and stress that led up to the wedding day.

However, to make the honeymoon fulfill its promise as that much-needed break for bonding at the beginning of a marriage — and an event to be remembered forever — it also requires some serious planning. Choosing the best possible location depends on couples considering the most important factors: budget, time off and agreement as to where to spend this most enjoyable time. Close-by getaways are available, from affordable to extravagant, to make that easier.

An affordable ($200-$300/night) stay-near-home option is the Hilton Hotel at CityPlace (600 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach). This all-new facility has beautiful rooms, al fresco dining options, a relaxing fire pit cocktail area and plenty of amenities. This 400-room, modern hotel is conveniently located, connected to the convention center and across from CityPlace. Recognized as an AAA four-diamond hotel, it’s also a marvelous place to have your wedding!

If time is your only restriction, however, you might want to consider the honeymoon package, priced at $4,900. Couples at the Hilton West Palm Beach will receive a Kama Sutra book to kick off their honeymoon, a customized picnic basket plus goodies emblazoned with their married name for a day at the beach, a private in-room sommelier class followed by dinner prepared and served by a private chef in the Honeymoon Suite, a couples massage at the Anushka Spa, champagne upon arrival, a poolside cabana for two days, a one-night stay in the Honeymoon Suite and five nights in a guest room.

Another affordable ($149-$479) near-home honeymoon suggestion that smooths over time and budget constraints is a two-day cruise on the Bahamas Paradise cruise line, which sails from the Port of Palm Beach every other day and sails overnight to Freeport in Grand Bahama. If you can afford more time, you can extend your trip by two, four or six days, staying at one of the island’s luxurious hotels and returning to West Palm Beach on the ship. The rooms are nice, the food is very good and the entertainment is highly enjoyable.

Key West is another favorite destination for nearby honeymoons. It is one of the most beautiful five-hour drives you could ever take to this unique and historic location. There are a wide variety of hotels, inns and cottages from which to choose. They include the Casa Marina ($229-$459/night), a Waldorf Astoria resort that offers direct air service from West Palm Beach to a seaplane landing at the property and back. This includes a VIP package with two pairs of Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses. This one-of-a-kind honeymoon to remember, through a VIP summer promotion, starts at only $6,250.

Another suggestion is a seven-day or 14-day cruise through the eastern and western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale or Miami, and with 50 ships sailing weekly, your options are unlimited. One that’s easy to recommend from experience is Celebrity Silhouette ($646-$2,429), a newer ship that is ultra-modern, with some of the best food, rooms, activities, amenities, entertainment and ports of call throughout the Caribbean and along the Mexican coast. You will love the formal night to show off your spouse and the wonderful professional photography available on board.

If you are looking for a destination, a favorite place on the globe is Venice, Italy, and you can’t go wrong booking your honeymoon at the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice ($245-$469/night). This 379-room, century-old abandoned flour mill has been beautifully restored to become one of Italy’s most luxurious hotels. Located on the Grand Canal, with a panoramic rooftop pool, it offers spectacular views of Venice. With its gondola rides, picturesque lagoon islands, world-famous St. Mark’s Square, Murano glass and Burano lace, there is no place more romantic than Venice for your dream honeymoon.

The perfect add-on is a seven-night Mediterranean cruise leaving from Venice. Try a Costa Cruises Deliziosa ($1,047-$1,797) following your honeymoon, with a $200-$400 on-board cabin credit. You can book an itinerary starting in Venice and traveling to Bari, Italy; Corfu, Santorini; Athens, Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and returning to Venice.

Finally, if money is no option, how about an around-the-world, 180-day cruise on the Oceania Insignia? This is a cruise that retails for $194,807 per person available now starting at $39,999 per person, sailing from Miami on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 and returning to Miami on Thursday, July 6, 2017. You will be in the lap of luxury on one of the most prestigious ships available to cruise the seven seas. On this trip, you and your spouse will pass through the Panama Canal and visit Mexico, Hawaii, Bora Bora, Pago Pago, Fiji, Wellington (New Zealand), Sidney, Bali, Hong Kong, Singapore, Israel, Egypt, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland, New York City, Bermuda and Miami. This is truly around the world with more than 100 ports of call, the trip of a lifetime and the most exotic honeymoon conceivable.

Whatever destination you choose for your honeymoon, from the most affordable local escapes to the most exotic adventures, we sincerely wish that you both have the time of your life and a long, healthy, prosperous and loving life together — in other words, an endless honeymoon!

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Event Helps Petals With Purpose Give Flowers New Life

Event Helps Petals With Purpose Give Flowers New Life

Story and Photos by Julie Unger

Beautiful flowers, sweet treats and an expansive buffet recently took over the Wellington National Golf & Equestrian Club during Bubbles & Bouquets, a special fundraiser for Petals With Purpose.

The local nonprofit was created by Brittany Agro in 2012 with her husband, Stephen Halbrook. Agro noticed that after special events, such as weddings, flowers were going to waste, when they could be repurposed. She created Petals With Purpose to share these flowers with youth organizations, hospitals, nursing homes, shelters and hospice facilities.

“Petals With Purpose recycles more than just flowers, it recycles happiness and promotes love for one another,” Agro explained. “That is what this organization is all about, and that is why it is special to me.”

Bubbles & Bouquets is an annual competition where five philanthropist couples from the community compete against each other to see who can create the most beautiful floral arrangement.

Bubbles & Bouquets Chair Jay Zeager became involved through his friendship with Agro. “The thing that I like about Petals With Purpose is it’s a charity that’s really about putting smiles on people’s faces,” he said.

Zeager helps deliver the flowers and explained what an amazing experience it can be. For example, Zeager once brought an arrangement to a VA hospital and got to spend time with a veteran, who told Zeager his story about Vietnam.

“I’m just sitting here, listening to this, thinking, ‘Wow, this guy’s gone through so much in life,’” Zeager recalled. “When I got up to leave, he shook my hand and said ‘Thank you very much for coming by to see me. I love my flowers.’ I thought, OK, that’s why we do this.”

Bubbles & Bouquets is one of the fundraisers that makes it all possible. It’s a fun event for everyone involved.

“It’s something different than what has been done before,” Zeager explained. “We wanted to come up with something unique — something that the couples would have fun doing.”

After the inaugural event in 2015, couples were already asking to participate in 2016. “My goal is to get it to where it is an event that people look forward to every year,” Zeager said.

This year’s couples — Camryn Del Rio Linton and Omari Linton, Karyn and Evan Turk, Christie and Bettina Gannon, Ryan Beckett and Brittany Miller, and Shay and John Discepolo — worked hard to arrange flowers donated by Wellington Florist.

Christie and Bettina Gannon, with help from some young friends, won the competition. “I sincerely thank those who supported us, especially the families who lent their daughters for the design competition, and everyone who attended,” Christie said. “The people, the flowers, the incredible brunch and a wonderful cause, it was a beautiful event. I was honored to have the first-place arrangement. Honestly, the kids did an amazing job putting it together.”

Bettina had a great time and was all smiles during Bubbles & Bouquets, holding her own with the adults, and showing off her artistic abilities.

“I had so much fun,” the young philanthropist said. “The different colors and shapes were awesome, and my friends were so good at putting the flowers in just the right places.”

When it was announced that the Gannons won, Bettina and her friends danced and hugged in celebration.

The other participants also enjoyed the day.

“Omar and I have participated in many events for causes that make a special impact in the local community,” Del Rio Linton said. “With the many extravagant events that take place throughout the county, how brilliant of Brittany to come up with the idea of repurposing the amazing floral arrangements from those events, and use them to put a smile on the faces of an elderly person or a veteran.”

Beckett and Miller met on the day of the event, so they didn’t have the benefit of advanced planning. Considering the overhead costs of large events, Miller believes that Petals With Purpose is a special way to minimize waste and give flowers a new life, while Beckett found the premise to be intriguing.

“There are a bunch of charities, and all of them are amazing on different levels for what they do, but when you have the ability and are fortunate enough to actually see what your time, effort and dollars are going for, that’s definitely amazing,” Beckett said.

For the Turks, participating was personal. “My mom is in a nursing home,” Karyn said. “I realize the impact that a visit, or just a simple ‘hello’ with some flowers, can make in the day of a person who is in a facility.”

She was eager to get involved. “When I heard about it, I thought about all of the people who are in the same facility as my mom,” Karyn said. “A lot of them don’t get visitors. A lot of them, their families are up north, or their families are just busy. It can just brighten somebody’s day and just makes such a huge difference.”

Shay and John Discepolo enjoyed competing. “Participating in the event was great,” John said. “We both had a great time raising money for a great cause. I would definitely do it again in a heartbeat.”

Aaron Menitoff of Aaron’s Catering of the Palm Beaches was a participant last year and helped sponsor this year’s event. “It went fantastic. It was a great turnout,” he said. “The event provided a fun, different experience with delicious food and beverages during an afternoon where attendees could socialize, have fun and be part of a competition making flower arrangements.”

Petals With Purpose is special to Aaron and his wife Julie, who work together in the catering industry. “It’s not curing cancer, but it is making someone’s quality of life more meaningful and allowing them to feel as important and worthwhile as possible,” he said.

Next year, Petals With Purpose will be celebrating its fifth anniversary, so Bubbles & Bouquets will be extra special, Agro said.

For more information, call (561) 223-9129 or visit www.petalswithpurpose.org.

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The Acai Bowl At Voi-La Is An Exquisite Treat For The Senses

WellingtonTable-VioLa

The Acai Bowl At Voi-La Is An Exquisite Treat For The Senses

Story and Photos by Julie Unger

There’s a new restaurant in Wellington with Venezuelan roots and a French name. It’s called Voi-La, which means “look there” or “there it is.”

“It’s the idea that when you have it, it’s easy, you take it and just grab it and go,” chef Andrea Larrazabal explained. “Even though we don’t have French food, we have a lot of things to take and go. It’s for busy people who don’t have the time to spend two hours at a restaurant.”

Both in the front of Voi-La and toward the back are grab-and-go options such as milanesas de pollo, milanesas de carne, milanesas de tilapia, milanesas de cerdo, chicken parmigiana, broccoli quiche, empanaditas de pollo, torta de platano Chiquita, arepitas, lasagna, fresh salads and other items to make a quick meal.

Voi-La is owned by Maria Fernanda Asuaje and professional Argentinian show jumper Ignacio Maurin. Asuaje is a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef and equestrian, while Maurin’s wife, Larrazabal, is a trained chef from the Venezuelan Center of Gastronomic Training.

The restaurant opened in the beginning of August, but Larrazabal and Asuaje have been catering together since the fall of 2015. They were catering for friends, birthdays and other events and were encouraged to open their own local restaurant. Within a few months, Voi-La was born.

The signature dish at Voi-La, Larrazabal said, is the acai bowl. It comes with banana, kiwi, pineapple, strawberries, granola, honey and coconut flakes, and customers can add almond butter.

“Acai, it’s fruit from the Amazon. You can find it in Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia and a lot of the South American countries. It has antioxidants, is very trendy, and is really good for you. We have it in a version that is a sorbet,” she explained. “It’s something that we really like, and it’s South American. We want to take advantage of what the acai is bringing and the properties.”

An acai bowl, or smoothie, is very popular right now, but Voi-La’s twist of making it a sorbet is unique. By adding fruit and almond butter, it adds another layer of nutrition and flavor. Teenagers are choosing the nutritious fruit bowl over chocolates and sweets, Asuaje said.

Granola, fruit and coconut are arranged over the acai sorbet and then drizzled with honey. Almond butter can come on the side. The acai bowl is an exquisite treat for the senses, with a variety of tastes and textures, while providing a nutritional powerhouse.

There are many Venezuelan treats on the menu, including tequeños, which are like mozzarella sticks; meat, chicken and cheese empanadas; spinach and feta croquettes; and baked brie with honey.

“There’s nothing like this around here,” Larrazabal said. “It’s a mix of a lot of things.”

Another special item on the menu is the cheese course. With more than a dozen cheese choices, ranging from robiola bosina, brie couronne, port salut, gruere, mahon, valdeon blue and more, customers are able to assemble a cheese plate with meats — including horzoiberico de bellota, prosciutto di parma, jamon iberico and smoked salmon — and accompaniments such as plum jam, mango chutney, pesto, truffle honey and more. This creates a plate that is perfect for gathering with friends and having a relaxed conversation while enjoying the music, Asuaje said.

Recently added to the menu are gourmet paninis, such as one with jamon iberico, manchego and sweet onion jam; one with mozzarella, tomato confit, basil pesto and a balsamic reduction; one with prosciutto, goat cheese and a fig spread; and a one with brie, bacon and honey.

Fresh smoothies, be it the Greenest Favorite Smoothie, the Carolina Smoothie, the Banana Blonde, Blue Grape or Blueberry Sunset, offer a fresh mix of fruits and vegetables to cool off and get nourished. The soup of the day varies, but is always made fresh. Specialty teas add another drink offering full of flavor.

Guests can custom make their own salads, allowing customers to pick their favorite greens, toppings and dressings to create a light and healthy meal.

The mission at Voi-La is to make delicious, high-quality food that is good for the body and soul, with an emphasis on hospitality, service, passion, creativity and never-ending improvement.

“It’s our dream come true,” Larrazabal said. “I never imagined having this.”

Voi-La is located at 13889 Wellington Trace, Suite A8, in the Wellington Marketplace near Walgreens, between Dunkin’ Donuts and Wellington Florist. Closed Monday, the restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (786) 281-1589.

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