Trump hosts a blockbuster 2016 farewell
PALM BEACH, Florida (CNN) — President-elect Donald Trump will say goodbye to 2016 alongside 800 paying guests at his Mar-a-Lago estate Saturday, surrounded by an explosion of white and green flowers in his massive ballroom.
The annual Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve, which wife Melania and son Barron will also attend, is a highlight on the private club’s social calendar, members say. One indicated that prices range from $525 for members to $575 for members’ guests — in line with ticket prices in past years.
The event is sold out, according to Trump’s incoming White House press secretary, Sean Spicer. He said the bash would begin with cocktails in the mansion’s living room, following by dinner and dancing in the Grand Ballroom.
Trump himself added the ballroom onto Mar-a-Lago after purchasing the estate in 1985. The ornate space holds numerous annual fundraisers during the Palm Beach social season.
Transition officials have downplayed the suggestion that purchasing tickets to Saturday’s event may be akin to buying access to the President-elect, noting the New Year’s Eve party is an annual event at the club that regularly sells out.
For Saturday’s event, florists and designers concocted a “sophisticated and elegant” scheme that incorporates 8,000 flowers on tables and overhead.
“A lot of crystal, a lot of gold, a lot of candles,” Steve Levine, the business manager for Jose Gratrol Designs, said of the party’s decor. He said the Miami-based decoration company was planning a “special treatment with white flower garlands over the dance floor.”
He said his company submits its plans to Mar-a-Lago’s director of catering, who then presents them to Melania and Donald Trump for approval.
The same firm provided decoration for the past two New Years Eve parties at the estate, and Levine said this year’s decoration is along the same lines, though specified they never repeat any decoration identically.
The band for the evening: Party on the Moon, whose website hails the group as “America’s #1 Corporate and Private Party Band.” In a posting on the website, bandleader Dennis Smith said Party on the Moon had performed at an inaugural ball for President Barack Obama and would be honored to do the same for Trump.
“If I get the call to perform for President-Elect Trump, we will be there. If Hillary Clinton gave us the call, we would be there,” Smith wrote. “My life as an artist has nothing to do with my political choices.”
In past years, celebrities like Vanessa Williams, Regis Philbin and Rod Stewart have attended the party, according to the Palm Beach Post. At Mar-a-Lago Friday, Italian-American model Fabio was spotted entering the club.
Spicer said Friday that notable guests attending this year included Sylvester Stallone and Quincy Jones. However, Jones tweeted that he would be in Los Angeles for the holiday: “Looking forward to spending New Year’s Eve & the whole weekend w/my kids, & friends in LA. Be safe yawl & have a Happy New Year.”
Mar-a-Lago, a sprawling Italianate estate with fountains, pools and a croquet lawn, was originally intended by its builder to serve as a “Winter White House,” though it has never acted in that capacity until now.
Trump has relished the grandiosity of the estate, summoning potential Cabinet picks for meetings there at the same time regular members shuffle through the stately living and dining rooms.
The club has maintained its schedule of events, including annual holiday dinners. At Trump’s place setting on Christmas Eve: a nameplate reading “Mr. President.”