Luanna Simmons poses with her parents, Philip Simmons and Suely Moura. REDA WIGLE/Keys Weekly

Big Pine had itself a fine time on Sept. 18, when Grimal Grove welcomed visitors to its first-ever gala. Owner Patrick Garvey, who purchased and restored the grove in 2013 only to see his efforts washed away by Hurricane Irma, has spent several years rebuilding the property and replanting it with breadfruit trees. For him, the event was a long-awaited cause for celebration. “This is our first time doing something on this scale,” he said. “Getting the place ready took a lot of work. I’m so excited that I’m able to share this place with others, and to see all the smiling faces and people being kind of amazed walking through the breadfruit trees, the diversity of the crowd, this is a magical place.” 

The event kicked off with tree poses among the trees as Kristin Peterson led an all-levels yoga class. Revelry continued with a breadfruit recipe contest highlighting pancakes, a spicy souffle and vegan chocolate cupcakes. No official winner was declared, but the cupcakes prepared by Jen DeMaria of Big Pine bed and breakfast Deer Run on the Atlantic, were a crowd favorite. 

Friendly and objectively attractive bartenders poured craft cocktails made with Mutiny Island Vodka, a liquor distilled with breadfruit. Harpist Scott Marishen set an ethereal tone to the evening, playing a beautiful and seasonally apropos rendition of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.” 

A vendor village featured a collection of supportive friends and local artisans including market and nursery items from Grimal Grove, local honey, fish fin jewelry from Forever Salty and a pop-up boutique curated by event coordinator Luanna Simmons. The evening was a family affair for Simmons; her mother Suely Moura offered items from One Hemp Family, her line of sustainable hemp clothing and her father Philip Simmons of Bangalore Key West sold breadfruit and lentil curry topped with chutney sourced from Grimal Grove’s own mango trees. Simmons was heartened and humbled by the community response. “We’ve had a really great turnout and lots of people who have never been here before. People are excited about volunteering and more events in the future. I wanted to get people here, so they will want to come back.” 

Simmons and Garvey promise that as the weather cools and the trees climb, coming back will be more common and more events will be underway. To keep up to date or to explore volunteer opportunities visit Grimal Grove’s Facebook and Instagram pages. 

REDA WIGLE is a middle child and Taurus Fire Tiger named after a stigmatic saint. She divides her time and affections between New Orleans and Key West.