Big Fish Ball 2018 Photo Gallery: A Celebration

The Big Fish Ball of 2018, our annual fundraiser gala, was a night to remember: owls, snakes, developments honored that support the river, chardonnay and cassoulet and sorbet, CBS Chicago’s Ed Curran...and lots of generous folks who came out to support our 39-year-old mission. The evening raised $280,000.

Friends of the Chicago River Executive Director Margaret Frisbie told the crowd that through the "power of partnership" the river that was "once forgotten and neglected has been brought back to life and now plays a vital role for recreation, nature, public health, and economic development in the city and the region."

"We have rewritten the story of the Chicago River," said Margaret, citing that in the last year alone, over 60,000 people participated in Friends programs including Chicago River Day, restoration work, our school education efforts and our Bridgehouse Museum on the Chicago Riverwalk.

In addition, Friends influenced river-edge developers calling for natural banks over seawalls and restored hundreds of acres of open space to improve habitat for birds, beavers, turtles, foxes, minks, muskrats, and the occasional river otter.

Challenges remain: pollution from sewage, stormwater, nutrients, and road salt; impacts from climate change; and litter.

But, noted Margaret, "As we know from being out on the river’s edge tonight, the river is cleaner and healthier than it has been in more than 100 years."

Take a look at the first wave of photos from Big Fish Ball:

What's more fun than live animals?...

...and, yes, you can pet them...


...if you really want to.

Friends of Friends!

On the count of three, say "river"!

Great people, great conversation.

This red-tailed hawk was amazing.

Artist Gino Savirino's real-time efforts fetched over $2,000 at auction...

...and was worth every penny....

...helped by a little auctioneer nudging.

The Chicago Park District and Studio Gang won our top prize, the Blue Ribbon Award, for the river-sensitive Eleanor Street Boathouse.

One of the smaller guests.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) talking about the North Branch Park & Nature Preserve, we presume...

Friends' executive director Margaret Frisbie tells the gala attendees that the story of Friends of the River is "a story of hope—and it is a continuing tale of dedicated and diverse individuals coming together to achieve extraordinary things."

The only way to get close to a skunk.

The after-party river cruise was gorgeous. Thanks, Shoreline Sightseeing.


Not up past his bedtime.

Friends executive director Margaret Frisbie and husband Matt Binns meet the snake.

CBS2's Ed Curran talked about his canoing on the Chicago River system. "Remember when we were young and we were told not to go near the Chicago River because it was so dirty?"