The moment you step foot on the mountain, you will enter into a rapturous world of magic, mystique and extravagance, all unfolding through the daring lens of each years' theme. From The Great Gatsby to Bond 007 to Studio 54, the goal is always to transport our guests to a different time and place. In 2019, DAOU Mountain was transformed into turn-of-the-century Paris. We all dined and danced together in a reverie of joie de vivre, surrounded by the pageantries of old Paris. Best of all, it was an evening of fellowship and friendship spent in the company of our DAOU members.
In short, the 2019 edition of our annual DAOU Gala—billed as Le Moulin Rouge—was nothing less than a showstopper. We thought it would be fun to take you behind the scenes and into the 10-month journey that culminated in this party for the ages… After each DAOU Gala, we think to ourselves: “How will we ever outdo that?” The task initially seems daunting. But as soon as we sit down together with a blank sheet of paper, it begins to take form. And once the plan has crossed over into the absolutely ridiculous—then we know we have it.
In past years, we staged colorful themes such as Bond 007 and Studio 54. It was Georges Daou who came up with our 2019 theme—Le Moulin Rouge. He and his brother, Winemaker Daniel Daou, spent their formative years living in Paris, so they had a deep personal connection with the City of Lights. Even better, vintage Paris provided a rich tapestry of creative material. Once we landed on it, this theme immediately felt so natural. It had all of the elements: dancing, entertainment, characters and magic. Once we had our direction, the ideas started flooding in. Now that we had our theme and initial ideas, it was time to begin creating the event.
Something incredible about DAOU is this deep dedication to innovation, passion and unbridled joy. Georges and Daniel weave that into every element of DAOU. Everyone here, in all areas, is empowered to challenge the status quo. This is what drives and inspires the DAOU Gala, as it gives us the creative space to write absolutely absurd ideas on the whiteboard and shout out phrases like “I think we need a pillow fight bounce house” or “What if we put a person in a bathtub in the center bar?” And then we just figure out how to bring it to life.
We wrote down every ridiculous idea that came to mind, put it on the whiteboard, and crossed off whatever was boring. When we dreamed up something really unimaginable, we would say to each other, “Everything’s a thing.” Because we can pretty much figure out how to make anything a reality. And you should have seen our Google searches! “Do alligators bite?” “Can a giraffe walk upstairs?” Nothing was off the table.
Once the event was fully imagined and mapped out, it was time to buckle down and actually make it all happen. We pretty much moved into the conference room and did not come out for a month, fueled by vision boards, to-do lists and caffeine. When we got a little punchy, we would sometimes try on the costumes and walk around the property to re-energize.
Our galas have so many moving parts, which means there are always things that can go wrong. However, we have plans from A to Z for every contingency, and we spend a lot of time anticipating the unanticipated. When something does not happen as planned, we mobilize and make it right. Despite all of our planning, there are always last minute adjustments that need to be made. For example, one year, the cotton candy balls that we hung from the ceiling were not as full as we would have liked. So on the day of the event, we found someone who would rent us a cotton candy machine. Maeve Pesquera, our Senior Vice President, then proceeded to save the day by making oodles of cotton candy in our tank room.
On the day of the event, it is always all hands on deck. It is an incredible feeling to see it all come together. The anticipation and excitement are fierce. Last year, the whole team jumped on the stage and danced it out to “YMCA.” This year, Jenna Kujundzich, my chief partner in planning, and I took turns pushing each other on the carousel (because we didn’t have the keys to turn it on!). Once again, the entire team here was truly part of our DAOU 2019 Gala—everyone on the Mountain touched the event in some way. Suddenly, everything we had written down on the whiteboard came alive in wonder and color. It was so touching to see our team, our members and our guests experience such a special evening together. And perhaps the biggest reward was to see everyone’s reactions of surprise and amazement.
“Something incredible about DAOU is this deep dedication to innovation, passion and unbridled joy. Georges and Daniel weave that into every element of DAOU. Everyone here is empowered to challenge the status quo. This is what drives and inspires the DAOU Gala.”CHRISTINA RIVERA-GLENN, SENIOR DIRECTOR, RETAIL & BRAND STRATEGY