Most times when the words “charity” and “gala” are in on invite to an Ottawa event it can mean “stuffy” and “dull.” But last week’s Ottawa Riverkeeper event held on Albert Island, in part of the old Domtar site off Booth Street, was anything but. The warehouse’s cool industrial feel, signature cocktails and the food truck service set the night apart from other Ottawa receptions. It also raised more than $175,000 to help keep the Ottawa River clean, beating last year’s total by at least $50,000. The venue, known as Zibi, is located on one of the islands on the Domtar site about to be redeveloped by Windmill Developments. It was the first time in more than 50 years that people other than city planners and paper mill employees were on the grounds. It was nearly all that Party Central was talking about all evening. Outside, there were clear tents with inflatable sofas and stand-up bar tables for socializing, next to a Beau’s beer tap and an alley of food trucks. Inside one of the old brick buildings were a stage and a Pinterest-worthy cocktail bar. The exposed brick walls, massive pipes and beams were strung with lanterns, river-themed art hung on the walls, and the Ottawa River flowing past the huge windows. VIP guests trickled in after work, followed by about 300 more attendees just as the sun was setting. It was a windy evening on the water. The food service was offered into two quarters between speeches and performances as local food trucks Streat, Ad Mare, Mr. Churros, and Culinary Melt Down served up hand-sized portions of yummy snacks including gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, lobster rolls, veggie tacos, crab cake sliders, and bacon and onion grilled cheese. Inside, caterers rotated an expansive array of hors d’oeuvres including rolled grilled eggplant and goat cheese, shrimp cocktail shots, guacamole-filled cucumbers and strawberry and ricotta bites. Later in the evening, the churro truck starting banging out delicious dulce almond churros. Also on offer were local wines, and two custom cocktails featuring Harvey and Vern’s soda: one, a take on a margarita, and the other was the “Irish Mule,” aptly named after the evening’s guest of honour, Canada’s Ambassador to Ireland Kevin Vickers, the former House Sgt.-at-Arms. Midway through the evening Mr. Vickers gave a heartfelt and choked-up speech when he talked about his long-time connection to the water and his involvement with the Ottawa Riverkeeper since its infancy. He hosted the first-ever event in his Sergeant at Arm’s Hill office four years back. He said that during his time on the Hill, running along the Ottawa River every morning brought him peace and calm, and said what happened on Oct. 22, 2014 was akin to coming across a group of water rats on his path. Mr. Vickers shot and killed lone gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau after he stormed through Centre Block carrying a rifle. RBC past president and CEO Gord Nixon, and champion of the RBC Blue Water Project, was also recognized. Evan Solomon, host of CBC’s Power & Politics, was the evening’s emcee. The group of donors also heard from Kitigan Zibi band council member, and University of Ottawa professor Claudette Commanda who welcomed everyone to the traditional Algonquin land. There was a handful of other indigenous leaders there, including elder Peter Deconti. Meredith Brown, executive director of the Ottawa Riverkeeper Charity, also got up to express her gratitude for the support her organization has received, noting that in just the three years since the inaugural gala, the number of people attending the event has grown too big to fit on a boat. She drove home the importance of protecting one of Canada’s most historic waterways and said the soon-to-be redeveloped island was an ideal place to still be on the water, while thinking about the area’s future. But the night wasn’t all smooth sailing (had to). As guests arrived, there was a gaggle of protesters at the front gate handing out flyers and voicing their disapproval for the $1.2-billion residential, retail, and commercial community redevelopment of the land. They didn’t last long, but Party Central did also catch wind of a door crasher who broke into the event yelling about not building condos on stolen Algonquin land. Guests, included: Nature Canada’s Eleanor Fast; Earnscliffe Strategy Group’s Velma McColl; Bluesky Strategy Group’s Susan Smith; MediaStyle’s Ian Capstick; consultant Kathleen Monk; CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson; and Global News’ Laura Stone. There were also a fair number of MPs, including Conservative MPs Larry Miller and James Rajotte; NDP MPs Murray Rankin, Charlie Angus, and Andrew Cash and Fin Donnelly; and Liberal MPs Rodger Cuzner and John McCallum. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Green Party MP Bruce Hyer were there, too. As well, both Ottawa Centre NDP MP Paul Dewar and Liberal candidate for the riding Catherine McKenna were spotted making their rounds. The night carried on until around 1 a.m., and attendees danced the night away at the front of the stage and outdoors. Live performances throughout the night included some jazz, courtesy of Peter Cancura and Down Home, and folk rock from the Skydiggers’ Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson.