On Friday night at its 19th Annual Winter Wonderland Ball, the New York Botanical Garden gave new meaning to the phrase “deck the halls.” Coinciding with the beloved Holiday Train Show inside NYBG’s palatial conservatory, the ball, which was presented by Etro and Saks Fifth Avenue, provided a backdrop of exotic flora interlaced with a sprawling latticework of model train sets. Just as dazzling were the guests, all bedecked in black tie.
While the NYBG is an idyll in the heart of the Bronx, its tent-pole gala serves to counteract the educational inequality in the proximal urban area; proceeds from the Winter Wonderland Ball support NYBG’s Children’s Education Program, which invites local kids to commune with nature and learn plant science. The ball’s chairmen, made up of next-gen New York benefactors, include Peter Brant Jr., Ariana Rockefeller, Anne Hathaway, and Georgina Bloomberg, who, as she tells us, was inspired to promote access to nature after becoming a mother.
“I want everyone to have the access [that he does]. He’s very lucky to be able to get out and go to the country. He’s surrounded my animals all the time,” says Bloomberg, an accomplished equestrian with stables in Westchester and Palm Beach. Whether her son will follow in her footsteps, however, is to be determined. “I was four when I started [riding] and he’s about to turn four,” she adds. “If he wants to make it his passion he can, but it’s not something I’ll force on him.”
Though youthful in theme, the model trains struck awe in the evening’s adult patrons. “I’m a little bit speechless just looking at it,” says Mia Moretti. “It’s so beautiful. It’s like my dream bedroom.” Even so, the globetrotting DJ adds she will soon trade in Rockwellian merriment for steamier pursuits. “I’ll be in Jamaica for New Years, which one of my favorite places,” she says. “I’m DJing this famous – or infamous – party at the Goldeneye resort; I remember it from seeing Kate Moss naked on a vacation there, doing something kind of scandalous.”
Also accustomed to warmer climates was swimsuit model Nina Agdal, who indulged in the botanical theme in a frilly, floor-length gown by Etro. “I love this dress, even though I’m definitely a tomboy, and the neckline is very low and I have breasts,” says Agdal. “It just made me feel like such a princess.” And despite not being a “Christmas person,” Agdal says she is leaning into the holiday spirit. “I’ve been listening to Christmas music. I’m really trying this year and this [gala] helps a lot, with all the decorations and everything.”
Main image: Nina Agdal. All images by Angela Pham/BFA.com.