Story, photos by Sharon Kozden
“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.” — John Dewey
I suspected that I was in for a wild night at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University‘s Door 19 event, cleverly named Boozy Botanicals.
My vivid imagination envisioned scenes straight out of Little Shop of Horrors, all man-eating plants and specialty cocktails infused with the likes of stinging nettles or mugwort, ferns and fronds serving as swizzle sticks. Maybe my previous assignment at the Academy (Xtreme Bugs, featuring animatronic bugs ten times my size and cookies made from ants and other insects) was triggering residual “what next?” PTSD. Thankfully, my overactive imagination was way off regarding the chosen theme. Instead, Boozy Botanticals was Prohibition and Art Deco-era inspired. Think speakeasies and secret door code-wording. Ladies donning flapper dresses made the rounds among guests. Roaring Twenties revelry had arrived at Door 19. Because the event was so close to Halloween, the Deco-era dressed mixed easily with, say, the spooky-pale twins from ‘The Shining.”
Much of the suspense with these Door 19 affairs involves anticipating just what they’ll think of next. Expect the unexpected. Prepare for the unconventional. Delight in wonder, surprise and mystery. Enjoy grown-up play. The Academy presents this series of quarterly science-themed events not only to help fund and support their programs but to share and introduce to the public the world of natural science in a way that assigns old-fashioned academic textbooks to the boredom bins. These curious happenings (and they are happenings!) boast names that alone intrigue and attract crowds. Check out 2019’s schedule: Renais Science Faire, Clams Casino Royale, Death and Taxidermy and Traditional Medicinals.
Impossible-t0-miss at every turn during the Boozy Botanicals gathering were my hosts, the nearly ceiling-high dinosaurs. Just don’t ask them to check your coat. After a friendly nod to said dino-hosts (there actually was an entrance table with cheerful women pointing the way), I hit the bar for a glass of white wine. Not being accustomed to hard liquor, I still manage a sip or so of whatever is being featured because a) I’m curious and b) it’s part of my photojournalist work. Eight Oaks Craft Distilleries was in the house, pouring a specialty cocktail named the Autumn Pear, featuring their Authentic Applejack combined with pear nectar and apple cider. Nice blend. Pleasing to autumnal senses.
For those who typically don’t stray from the familiar, something-for-everyone included an array of more typical libation- and victual staples. Drink wine (and more) from the open bar. Indulge in delectable hors d’oeuvres courtesy of the culinary wizards at 12th St. Catering, whose creations are always uniquely presented, flavorful and downright tasty. They dished up a trifecta (including vegan delights) of Herb Crusted Chicken Lollipops, Baby Morrocan Spiced Lamb Chops and Char Grilled Ancho Tequila Rubbed Pork Ribs. All of these were paired with savory sides. Talk about foodstuff names that draw crowds. They couldn’t dish ’em out fast enough for the hungry party-goers.
Preferring to grab a drink and a light bite or two, I then meandered and mingled as the spirit moved me with little regard for schedules. If, however, you don’t want to miss a particular timed showing, the brochure details will expertly guide you. With full belly and drink in hand, I continued to explore and roam, checking out the entertainment, the multi-talented Divine Hand Ensemble, where I fixated on the harpist. Noting a long list of presented activities, I increased my pace to max out my share of quirky fun. At one of the fascinating diversions, folks could be found in the process of dissecting bones from an owl pellet to place within a locket. I was not exaggerating about the variety and quality of offbeat, eccentric and just plain zany goings on.
At some point, I located Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University’s President and CEO Scott Cooper seated at a table, playing a game most of us remember, Operation. A study in intensity, I was not about to break his concentration with a greeting. That could wait until later. In the meantime, I continued exploring the wonderfully weird ways in which to bring science into my world. Of the 14 or so listed adventures and tours scattered about the museum, herewith a sample of two that really piqued my interest-the Operation game tournament and a visit to a climate-controlled room which housed butterflies and more. At the entrance was a table with certain items for sale provided by the Center for Biological Diversity. Mystified by the merch until closer inspection, I had a slow-dawn realization that someone had come with truly witty and playful packaging for condoms. Told ya the event was a mixed bag of anything goes. The prophylactic purchase proceeds went exclusively to help prevent endangered species from becoming extinct. Don’t miss a photo below of the clever marketing messaging on these products.
As my evening at the Academy wound down, I couldn’t help but wonder if Emily Dickinson was speaking of Boozy Botanicals when she wrote Wild Nights. To wit:
Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
Were I with thee, Wild Nights should be
C’mon out to the Academy of Natural Sciences Door 19 events and decide for yourselves. For more information, check the Academy’s website at ansp.org.
Not quite the fashion-forward and gracious host I was expecting but, when it comes to the Academy of Natural Sciences, nothing surprises me. My previous event there, I ate cookies with bugs as one of the ingredients.