As the premier partygoer in Durango, I see a lot of cool, creative hosting.
But the one event where I experience a true sense of anticipation to see what they’ve come up with this year is the St. Columba School Auction and Gala.
Thrown by the parents and staff at the school, it is an over-the-top transformation of the school, gym and all, with so many clever and thoughtful details it’s hard to take them all in. This year’s theme was “Moonlit Enchanted Forest.” (The moon is often part of the theme.)
Major kudos go to Mariah May-Ostendorp, who, for the last couple of years, has put her theater-design degree to great use. Guests entered to a hallway with full murals on both sides featuring literature related to the theme that May-Ostendorp painted. Scenes from Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Peter Pan had enticed attendees into the mood before they even checked in.
The evening started with an extravaganza of appetizers prepared by St. Columba parents in an effort led by Gina Pastor. (Whoever brought the alfajores – Mexican cookie sandwiches filled with dulce de leche – wow!)
Lisa Noyes, Lee Ann Harbison, Stephanie Pace, Tami Huber and Sandy Gurule did yeowomen’s work collecting and presenting a massive silent auction. In addition to the scores of businesses that donated, every classroom’s parents put together what they call baskets that are more like tables full of items on themes.
Second grade, for example, was A Global Culinary Experience, complete with food, spices and tableware from around the world; third-grade parents put together No Man is an Island, Every Book is a World, a handcrafted bookshelf with scads of good reading; seventh-grade families assembled the ultimate We All Scream for Ice Cream with everything needed for an ice cream social (I counted at least 30 toppings, which were a small part of the offering); and the eighth-grade parents went all out for Margaritaville, including some primo tequila and a frozen margarita maker.
Gala veterans Tracy Pope, Kathrene Frautschy and Charlene Stephenson provided invaluable advice and support for an event with so many moving parts.
The decorating committee – in addition to May-Ostendorp, they were Mary Lynn Clark, Linda Garcia-Long and Jenni Ziercher – included one touch after another to unify the theme, including the masterpiece, “Albert, the Ent tree,” which made a big statement in the gym. The table numbers were on wood slices, with pinecones and other woodland touches making every table a part of the décor.
Jimmy Nicholson and his Durangourmet crew created a delicious dinner, starting with a salad of mixed greens with toasted piñon nuts and oranges with a lime-garlic dressing, followed by a baked chicken breast stuffed with spinach and feta cheese and served with a basil-lemon sauce – I think cardboard would taste good with that sauce – and served with grilled vegetables and baby potatoes with garlic and rosemary. The meal ended on a sweet note with an apple-walnut-sour cream pie.
St. Columba upperclassmen, also known as the middle school students, handled the serving with aplomb.
Joe Leder of Animas Wine & Spirits made sure the crowd was in a generous mood by even supplying wines that were on theme – Once Upon a Vine’s Enchanted Chardonnay and Big Bad Red Blend. Dan MacVeigh took on the job of coordinating several bars for the evening.
The Rev. Kevin Novack gave a blessing using his smartphone to read 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, which includes the phrase “God loves a cheerful giver.” It brought a laugh, but was also a good reminder of why everyone was there: to raise money for their school community to add more technology and put a new roof on the elementary school building.
Bill Gwinn and Derek Arnold were the masters of ceremonies. E.M. Taylor and Lonnie and Dena Malouff, for the 15th year in a row, served as auctioneers for a major live auction (36 items!). One thing you have to say about a live auction with so many items is that they have to keep it moving, which made it both more fun and more productive. The evening brought in a whopping $62,000, according to Katie Stewart, who found herself as the coordinating fulcrum for about 75 volunteers.
Here’s hoping I’ve credited all the key players – it seems like a cast of thousands when you’re there, and my note taking was a tad limited by the fact that I was having so much fun.
I mentioned in my last column that I had been to two events recently where people arrived with generous hearts. The first was the Durango Adaptive Sports Association Harvest Gala, and the second was the St. Columba event. I don’t think Novack’s blessing inspired the feeling, but it may have amplified it some. Or maybe it has something to do with being a gala?
In any case, thanks for a wonderful evening. Now the anticipation begins to see what you’ll do next year!
Will the first snow of the season fall on these birthday boys and girls? Here’s wishing a happy one for Chuck Norton, Dot Larson, David Buck, Meghan O’Brien, Brock Fassett, Yvonne Johnson, Peeb Lupia, Barney Anderson, Jill Shuman, Paul Boyer, Jim Clay, Bruce Rodman, Pam Turner, Joann Vota, Willie Krischke and David Turner.
If you see some cute puppies wearing green jackets, ask for permission before petting them. Those intrepid trainers of Guide Dogs for the Blind, Wayne and Sue Caplan, Jim and Sue Mooney and Byard and Nancy Peake, have taken on their new crop of puppies, whom they will be socializing for the next year or so before they go on to formal training to become guide dogs.
Ananda, a golden retriever, is with the Mooneys; black labrador siblings Balboa and Baja are with the Peakes and Caplans, respectively.
There are only two things that make it endurable to give up a dog you’ve grown to know and love – knowing he or she will provide independence to someone whose life is constrained by visual impairment; and knowing a new puppy will soon arrive for training.
Visit www.guidedogs.com to learn more.
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