Mother's Day came a day early for 125 women who spent a pampered Saturday afternoon during a leisurely gourmet brunch at the "Struttin' at the Strater" benefit at the Henry Strater Theatre.
The event included a mimosa brunch, fashion show and auction, with proceeds going to Dogster's Spay and Neuter Program of Durango and the Pagosa Springs Humane Society's Homeward Bound Campaign new building fund.
Before brunch could be served, each table bid on the waiter who would serve the group.
On stage, the men paraded, showed a little leg, coming forward and twirling to decide a tie before a high bid was offered.
"Cowboys are a big hit this year," said waiter Greg Stillwell.
They were such a hit that one woman tipped $150 to a chap-clad, cowboy hat-wearing waiter at a neighboring table. With a runway reserved table for eight going for $400, these women knew to come with their checkbooks.
There was a competitive exchange of attentive waiters working for tips, appropriately collected in fire hydrant centerpieces. All earnings were donated to the two organizations.
Although this was a benefit for the welfare of four-legged guests, attendees were under no pressure to adopt a pet.
"This is meant to be a fun event. There is no hitting you over the head," said Karen Zempel, founder and president of Dogster's.
Founded in 1999 to provide low-cost spay and neuter services to low-income pet owners in La Plata County, Dogster's provides emergency medical care and fostering to homeless animals on a case-by-case basis. With a similar mission, the Humane Society of Pagosa Springs boasts that they have reduced the number of animals coming into their shelter by 26 percent since 2003. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the two organizations collectively launched "Operation Care for a Pet," which helped 105 misplaced dogs and cats get reunited with their owners or find new homes.
After the main course of eggs Benedict was a fashion show featuring seven Southwest Colorado boutiques, with Bob Hite of Pagosa Springs as master of ceremonies. A former Florida TV news anchor, Hite was at home behind the microphone, ad-libbing freely with his booming voice.
Volunteer models strutted their summer styles with sass, some showing their tattoos. Among the local stores showcasing their wares were From the Heart, Rocky Mountain Children's Company, Smelter's Coalroom, Blu Boutique, Pine Needle Mountaineering, Durango Traditions, Eureka and Rainbow Gift Shop.
The winner of the "Best Struttin' Waiter" award was Erik Eicher, who served his guests in a grass skirt, an effort that won him a cowboy hat from Goodman's of Pagosa Springs. My waiter, Gregg Howard, presented each of his tables with a hand-written thank-you note, a picture of him posing with his pistol, a rose and his undivided attention. This was his second year waiting tables. Last year, the event was held in his hometown of Pagosa, and he'll likely be serving at next year's event.
Jentra Barker and her son, Rod, owners of the Strater, concluded the brunch with a special appearance of "Henry Strater," her dog who was placed with Jentra earlier this year. They were met with a standing ovation, paying tribute to why the organizations find so much joy in doing what they do.
becker_K@fortlewis.eduKarin L. Becker teaches composition at Fort Lewis College.