The great desire to breathe life into the country’s oldest-operating aquarium was on full display at the well-attended Race to Reopen the Belle Isle Aquarium Fundraiser Gala over the weekend.
From the gentle melodies of a strolling violinist to flaming balls of fire, the everyday appearance of the Aquarium and Conservatory was transformed.
Tents burst with delicious food, from meatballs and my favorite dessert from Slow Jams Jam to bagels and spreads from Corridor Sausage Company and Detroit Institute of Bagels. The Whitney served up beverages and adult cocktails, providing for a festive atmosphere up top, as well as in the Conservatory near the Koi Pond, where luminaries were suspended from trees and even floated in the pond. Music drifted from speakers and a strolling violinist.
Below the aquarium, the original Speak Easy was reopened for business, providing patrons with a historic glimpse into the ’30s. A caricature artist also humored the audience.
Inside the Great Lakes Tank, which currently is awaiting restoration, burlesque dancers entertained the crowd, while the Detroit Fire Guild wowed the onlookers with flaming hula hoops, balls of fire, and of course, the eating of flaming swords.
The main event, obviously, were the fish. Big tanks were alive with all sorts of aquatic life, including the delightful Moray Eel and the Flowerhorn, which interacted with the audience.
Tanks currently awaiting repair and restoration were filled with displays from local artists, cub scout groups, and historic photos and documents of the aquarium. Some of the live exhibits were on loan for the event, including the tortoises and the bearded dragons, from The Roadshow in Roseville.
The Michigan Glass Project is hosting the next fundraising event at the Belle Isle Aquarium on June 15th. Please visit www.facebook.com/pages/belle-isle-aquarium for more information on upcoming events and opening dates.
PS: Despite the media frenzy Sunday, the fish were not vandalized, as reported. They are awaiting your visit! They had a water issue, as explained on the the aquarium’s Facebook page, and some normal tank die-off. Although they lost a few fish, they will be replaced. There are no security concerns. Please show your support for all the volunteer efforts!
Doni Langdon is a volunteer for the the Belle Isle Aquarium and owner of Throttle Gals.
Doniece Langdon is a native Detroit, owner of Throttle Gals magazine and volunteers for the Belle Isle Aquarium.