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Gatsby Lawn Party Bootleg Dinner helps foster goodwill among Detroiters of all backgrounds

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It might best be described as fun fine-dining, Detroit-style.

The Detroit Gatsby Lawn Party’s recent “Bootleg Dinner,” held at the Farnsworth Street Orchard, combined community flair with culinary creativity.

The Party’s  mission is to foster goodwill among Detroiters of all backgrounds through events from historically themed eras. It has raised money for Detroit neighborhood causes.

Uniquely situated on the city’s east side near Moran, the Orchard offers a rustic vibe in the midst of urban surroundings. It’s the contrast – along with locally sourced, expertly prepared food, good wine, and live music – owners Ron Shelton and Laura Burmann hope will continue attracting guests to the annual event.

This year’s party was held July 23, bringing new visitors and guests to the neighborhood Shelton and Burmann, who are still Detroiters, once called home. Jason Loudermilk and Emma Hanrahan Loudermilk were among those joining the festivities, which included a 1920’s gangster-era “bootlegger” dress theme (though no bootleggers were harmed during the presentation of this event).

“Had the best night away with my 1920’s babe of a husband at the Detroit Gatsby Bootlegger Dinner in the Orchard, in support of the Farnsworth Street Orchard in the city,” says Hanrahan Loudermilk, in a Facebook post. “Such a fun night and cool event.”

The feeling of being “away,” right in the heart of Detroit, is one Shelton and Burmann hope to build on, while continuing to replicate such rare events at the orchard.

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Described as an open-air dining gala, the weekend’s five-course dinner prepared by Brian Psenske, executive chef at UAW-Ford National Program Center, and Matthew McGrail, chef de cuisine at Great Lakes Culinary Center, included miscellaneous artisanal charcuterie, pulled pork shumai, crab and cucumber shooters, mini caprese skewers, summer asparagus salad, Scallop Crudo, Gatz Porcetta, Georgia Saltimbucca, and “Bootlegger Custom Ice Cream” from ViceCream. Abick’s bar sponsored the wine selections.

Conceived by Shelton, a master craftsman, and Burmann, a Peace Corps representative, the seeds of Farnsworth Street Orchard’s vision were sown, literally, in 2014 when the pair planted trees. It became home to a variety of heritage apples, including the Detroit Red and an onsite cider mill.

Alison Chevalier founded the Detroit Gatsby Lawn Party in 2015, holding its inaugural event in Palmer Park last September. Last year’s event generated a portion of proceeds to benefit preservation of the historic Alger Theater.

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The Roaring Twenties style black-tie Detroit Gatsby Winter Gala held in March at the Charles T. Fisher mansion helped provide warm clothing, blankets and nourishing meals for the homeless in Detroit.

Other beneficiaries have included the Eimers Foundation and People for Palmer Park, which will be site of the next party, scheduled for noon to 5 p.m. at Detroit’s Palmer Park.

The September party will feature the Rhythm Society Orchestra, with Charleston dance lessons by choreographer Paulette Brockington, and performances by the Speakeasy Hoofers and The DGLP Flory Dorys.

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