PIEDMONT -- The jewel that is Piedmont Park gained another facet as the setting Sunday for a celebration of the Piedmont Beautification Foundation's 50th anniversary "Party in the Park."

Smooth jazz by Shades of Gray played inside Community Hall as guests admired the artful flower arrangements on pedestals, the arrangements of succulents to bonsai that mirrored photos of the park's myriad gardens.

Three large panels assembled by Piedmont resident Scott Fitzgerrell showed photos of the many projects PBF helped fund over the years, including the Japanese Tea House, the Exedra, the Ronada/Ramona Triangle and the Dracena Park children's play area.

"Think what the community has done on all levels," said PBF's president, Michelle Winchester. "We received many unexpected donations from the publicity of this event."

Piedmont Parks and Project Manager Mark Feldkamp conducted park tours as part of the festivities, sharing anecdotes about park history and highlighting the plant palettes.

"These original iron gates were found in the creek and restored," said Feldkamp of the gates at the Exedra, an elegant entrance to the park and a meeting place at the plaza.

"Meet you at the blue vase," Feldkamp kidded.

Visitors tramped down the steep path along Bushy Dell Creek, where redwood and pine trees and other flora provide shade and a backdrop for green, velvety grasses and soft pungent moss. A gaggle of boys split off from their hiking parents to scramble up the steep hill their way, laughing and yelling "meet you at the top."

"The park people do a terrific job," said John Matzger, as he made his way along the tour.

His wife, celebration host and former Mayor Valerie Matzger, teased Feldkamp that the park was his backyard, his "baby."

Feldkamp, a horticulturist, researches, designs and oversees all the plantings in the city, with great pride. He points out new flowers he has had planted that bloom longer and require less water. Sixty-year Piedmont resident Barbara Locktov found the flower exhibits in the hall charming.

"Piedmont is a very quaint place to live. We bought a lot here years ago and built our own home and just stayed," she said.

Marella Guigou loved "everything, all over the place, all of it," as she studied a table full of sample plants that are used in the park, then hovered over the area where commemorative tea towels and notecards were sold.

Visitors were scattered under cloudy skies until 1 p.m., when about 100 people assembled in the hall for the formal program followed by a giant birthday cake. Cameron Wolfe Jr. reprised the history of the foundation, and his mother's involvement.

"Mom's favorite project was acquiring the tea house," Wolfe said.

The 100-year-old tea house was shipped from Japan to a private party in Piedmont, then sold in the 1970s to the Piedmont school district. The house was then donated to the city by the district, disassembled and moved to Piedmont Park to make way for the building of Piedmont Middle School.

Hort Shapiro urged visitors to help grow the PBF endowment fund with bequests and donations to ensure a steady stream of cash for future projects. The foundation has donated $3 million to beautification projects over the last 18 years.

Former Mayor Susan Hill reminded guests that PBF not only funds projects, but puts money toward maintenance and repairs. Kudos and recognitions to all who helped make the day a success concluded the ceremony.

FYI
The Piedmont City Council on April 21 issued a proclamation recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Piedmont Beautification Foundation for its contributions to beautifying the city over the past half-century.
"For the past 50 years, the Piedmont Beautification Foundation has greatly contributed to the enhancement of our parks, community facilities and public spaces," Mayor Margaret Fujioka said. "I look forward to working together on future civic projects in our city."
The proclamation declared April 27, 2014, as Piedmont Beautification Day.