Faces of the South Gala of the Decade: The Show Must Go On

Hundreds of the South’s Movers & Shakers converged on the all new Plant Riverside District on Friday, July 24. At the heart of this celebration was the debut of two stunning works of art. The first, in our humble opinion, was the Faces of the South: The Trilogy Edition. The second was the highly anticipated Plant Riverside District, the latest Southern landmark to bear the indelible mark of Richard Kessler.

Naturally, nobody’s first plan was to hold a lavish gala in the middle of a pandemic but in our defense there was no pandemic when we started planning this. However, we are firm believers that the show must go on, and the evening taught us that with the right safety protocols in place you can’t keep a good time down, even with the lingering threat of the virus.


Our confidence paid off, with the event living up to its billing as “The Gala of the Decade.” Outside along the waterfront, the crowd mingled at a safe distance, took in the sights and danced to the music of Equinox Orchestra. Called in by pre-designated groups, they were allowed inside for the once-in-a-lifetime preview of the South’s newest premiere entertainment hotspot, the Plant Riverside District.

Richard Kessler and South magazine Publisher Michael Brooks. 

“When I first bought this property the first thing I did was to call 30 people together — these were civic leaders, people from the city, from the county, architects, planners, businesspeople — I invited them to the Bohemian for a day, and I said ‘OK, I want you to help me answer two questions. First, if you owned this property what would you do with it? And second, what does Savannah need that it does not have?’” — Richard Kessler

It was a fabulous event, and it drew out a who’s who of the South. Representative Ron Stephens, congressman Buddy Carter and Mayor Van Johnson were just a few of the high-profile attendees that were present. Van Johnson spoke of the new opening and also about Safe Savannah, the program established to help keep Savannah safe during this pandemic. Richard Kessler revealed his latest masterpiece and informed the gala attendees of how the idea was conceptualized and executed to his exacting specifications.

State Representative Ron Stephens, Chairman of the local legislative delegation and Chairman of the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee was present to accept the award Face of Georgia on behalf of Governor Brian Kemp while Richard Kessler accepted the coveted Face of 2020 award presented by South magazine publisher Michael Brooks.


The show must go on,” said Brooks. “Businesses need to be open and we all must learn how to adapt to these changing times. If we use our energy for the positive and concentrate on solutions and healthy debates, we can make advancements on living harmoniously during these turbulent times.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson. 

“Ladies and gentlemen we are living in some strange and interesting times, times that no one has ever seen before in our generation. And so therefore we’ve had to do some very difficult things, things that were uncomfortable to us, things that were difficult for us, things that were strange for us. And that involved doing everything we could to make sure that Savannah could get from today to get to tomorrow.” — Mayor Van Johnson 

Mark Tate of Tate Law and Tate Global Media was in attendance as a presenting sponsor along with Elaine Seabolt of Seabolt Real Estate, who was a gold sponsor. Both stepped up to make presentations and congratulate Richard Kessler on a job well done.


Southern Eagle set up mobile stations for party-goers to taste some carefully curated craft beers to meet the occasion and Savannah Distributing along with Ghost Coast Distillery mixed in some craft cocktails that were just what the doctor ordered.


The many chefs who worked so diligently on preparing the food the for the event presented a spread that proved why the South is the epicurean capital of the world. Guests were stunned at the variety of delicious choices and the amazing sweet endings that were offered.

Security Associates of Coastal Georgia was there to ensure that security was tightened down and took digital temperature checks as each attendee checked in. Ms Polly's Cake Giants wowed the crowd with a dozen cakes that featured photo toppings of some prominent Faces of the South. And as all this was happening, the Fabulous Equinox Orchestra and the Free Spirit orchestra put on two simultaneously fantastic shows, magician David Jowers pulled off one of his greatest tricks to date by levitating a gala guest on the Main Stage, and the Stardust Pixxies put on the show of a lifetime with acrobatic performances running back to back during the tours. “We have been working for months on creating an all-new show with new platforms that would make this a very unique experience” said the Pixies troupe leader Jamie Lynn Failing.

The beautiful photography featured in Faces of the South was displayed as Clayton Digital Reprographics printed out enlargements of many of the Faces which added to the incredible backdrop of the PRD’s amazing interior design.


It was like stepping into another world” one gala-goer exclaimed as she excited the tour. “I felt like I was in Las Vegas!” The breathtaking design of the PRD had that effect on many of the attendees and when it was time for the finale, the exciting Stardust Pixxies danced in harmony with the “Dancing Waters” show at the Riverside Fountain. Old Town Trolleys took guests back to their cars after the event.


At South, we don’t play. If we’re going to call something “The Gala of the Decade,” it had better live up to the hype. To those in attendance, and to our partners who helped make it happen, it certainly did at that.


You can view the galleries from the gala here: Part I and Part II