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I think the Mission San Juan Capistrano’s “Romance of the Mission” black-tie gala is one of the most romantic events of the year. Seriously, dining by candlelight under the stars in the Mission’s historic central courtyard after enjoying a magnificent concert in the ruins of the Great Stone Church, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a singular delight!

This year’s benefit showcased acclaimed singer/actor Davis Gaines in the stunning Great Stone Church setting, dramatically lit by a variety of color combinations throughout his performance. Gaines, known for performing the title role in The Phantom of the Opera more than 2,000 times on Broadway, in Los Angeles and San Francisco, wowed the crowd singing songs from the Great American Songbook, and ending, of course, with the famous “Music of the Night” from Phantom. Guests ate it up!

The Mission’s Executive Director Michelle Lawrence-Adams welcomed everyone, along with The Mission Preservation Foundation President George O’Connell. The duo recognized honorary chairs Jan and the Honorable H. Warren Siegel for their generous support of the Mission over the years before the Mission bells drew the nearly 400 guests into the central courtyard for dinner.

The benefit’s longtime partnership with The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, has proved a winning one. Once again, the dinner was superb and the wait staff top-notch. O’Connell presented the hotel’s Executive Chef Andres Jimenez with a special certificate thanking him for his efforts in creating the gala’s extraordinary menus. San Juan Capistrano businessman Bill Ortega was also acknowledged for his role as the 20-year proprietor of Ortega’s Mission Gift Shop at the Mission by Reverend Monsignor Arthur A. Holquin, rector at Mission Bascilica San Juan Capistrano and Mission Foundation member.

Former Mission Foundation member Lula Halfacre, representing Traditional Jewelers, pulled the winning opportunity prize ticket for the stunning 18k gold filigree diamond cross from the renowned Fashion Island jeweler. A smiling Jim Peterson, one of the gala’s major underwriters through Microsemi, accepted the prize for his wife Sheila.

The good news is that the fundraiser netted close to $200,000 to help fund the Mission’s Gate House Preservation Project, which will relocate the gift store to the street and return the historic Sala building to museum use. The Gate House completion is scheduled for March, 2013.

Photos: Carla Rhea