Drumbeats welcome Ya Ya Sisters to luncheon

Guests at the Ya Ya Sisterhood Luncheon on Saturday were awash in beads, colors and animal prints for the African-themed event, which boasted bright colors and exotic food, such as African peanut soup. The event, which was a fundraiser for Durango Friends of the Arts, was held at the home of Cindy Cortese. Enlarge photo

LUCAS HESS/Durango Herald

Guests at the Ya Ya Sisterhood Luncheon on Saturday were awash in beads, colors and animal prints for the African-themed event, which boasted bright colors and exotic food, such as African peanut soup. The event, which was a fundraiser for Durango Friends of the Arts, was held at the home of Cindy Cortese.

Whether guests had attended a Ya Ya Sisterhood Luncheon in the past or were “Ya Ya Virgins,” they thought to a woman that Saturday’s 2012 luncheon was over the top.

Hostesses Susie Ammann, Cindy Cortese, Penny Haney, Mary Husemoller, Karren Little, Buff Rogers and Carol Treat pulled out all the stops for their African-themed extravaganza to benefit the Durango Friends of the Arts Grant Fund.

Guests arrived to the rhythms of the vast and multicultural continent courtesy of drumming performed by students from the Stillwater Foundation, which is one of DFA’s grant recipients.

Rogers had created a Sandibe cocktail of ginger lemonade and vodka, which was served with cheese mantecaos, little spicy cheese biscuits, to help get everyone in the spirit. Not that anyone needed much help on that front.

No one wanted to go inside on such a beautiful day – until, that is, they realized they, too, could put on one of the fascinators the hostesses were wearing. The party givers had spent three days making the hats in assorted colors and motifs made for the attendees. (Fascinators, if you have forgotten, or perhaps never knew, are dramatically decorated tiny hats that perch on the head British-style. They became part of the fashion lexicon after the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton last year.)

One of the traditions of the Ya Ya Sisterhood Luncheon is the headgear. The first two years, we all went home with crowns, last year, when the theme was Mexico, we all enjoyed flowery wreaths and this year it was the fascinators. Those proved so popular, the ladies are contemplating making more to sell at their largest fundraiser of the year, the fall luncheon and fashion show.

So mark your calendars now for Sept. 28, because hat lovers will want to score one of these one-of-a-kind chapeaux.

In one of the many ways representative of the synchronicity of this event, every woman managed to find a hat that went perfectly with her outfit. Which brings me to another round of accolades.

Asked to dress up “African-style,” the guests put a lot of energy into complying with the request, many wearing beaded jewelry they had picked up while living or traveling in Africa. It’s a good thing animal prints are still in, because Cortese’s home was awash in leopard prints. Colorful scarves also helped set the scene.

My personal thanks go to DFA President Kris Ryall, who personally duded me up for the festivities.

Cortese and her husband, Richard, visited Africa just last year, and she must have brought back a whole suitcase of items for the party. From tablecloths and masks to a veritable herd of miniature beaded African animals marching down the tables, there was no question what the theme was.

Rogers and Husemoller did all the cooking, including spicy carrot salad, beet salad with cumin – I don’t even like beets, and I loved these – and African peanut soup. Based on previous events, Rogers already has proven to be a talented baker, and her key lime and chocolate-peanut butter cupcakes provided a scrumptious, sweet end to the meal.

Always thinking of ways to raise money, the guests at one table set up a sign-up sheet for those who wanted copies of the recipes for a $5 donation. As of this writing, that impromptu act has brought in more than $150.

Bread, as is it often does, generously donated the bread, and Treat and her husband, Gary, reprised their contribution of the wine.

In addition to their fascinators, guests also went home with paper fans and wacky sunglasses as mementos. While the socializing is a lot of fun, with people catching up with old friends and meeting new ones, the luncheon is, after all, about the bonding of “sisterhood.”

Each year, the hostesses have created a candlelit gathering place for the recitation of the “Ya Ya Sisterhood Creed,” which they write just for the event. It is equal parts funny, thoughtful and caring, and this year, used African animals to remind us why our friendships are so important. My favorites were the monkey, which reminds us that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the hippopotamus, which reminds us that our behinds are not that wide.

This year’s event included a lot of new attendees, and it was fun to watch their faces as the fun unfolded. Deborah Uroda, who attended for the first time last year, said these ladies are teaching her how to throw a party.

The event raised more than $2,800. The money is used to supports artists and arts organizations, and many of the activities are for kids. As of its 2011 grants, DFA has poured more than $380,000 into keeping our arts scene vital and making sure the next generation is exposed to everything from ballroom dancing and jazz to cowboy poetry and musical theater.

And they’ve had a lot of fun raising that moolah.

The next general meeting is at 10 a.m. May 10 at Mutu’s Italian Kitchen. Karyn Gabaldon, whose eponymous gallery is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, will be the speaker, presenting at 10:30 a.m. After lunch, everyone will go down to Gabaldon’s gallery. Everyone is welcome, but lunch, should you choose to stay after the talk, is on you. Send your RSVP to Ammann at h82fly2@aol.com, because they want to give the restaurant a head count.

I’ve heard Gabaldon speak, and she is thoughtful, engaging and funny. In many ways, she reminds me of the late Stanton Englehart, who was one of her professors at Fort Lewis College. Gabaldon once told me she took one of his classes twice, just because his lectures, ruminations on life and art, were so compelling.

She is doing something extremely generous for DFA to mark the her three decades of running a gallery. In her first incarnation as an artist, Gabaldon was a brilliant potter, whose creations were coveted by collectors.

More recently, she has become a much-loved painter, but for those who missed her pottery phase, the collections of a couple of collectors have been donated back to Gabaldon, and she is selling them, with proceeds going to DFA. She says she was already paid for that work, so the sales should benefit a worthy cause close to her heart.

That exhibit will run during May.

To learn more about Durango Friends of the Arts, visit www.durangofriends.com. To become a member and build friendships with some of the most amazing women in La Plata County, call Treat at 375-7781 or email her at caroltreat@durango.net.

The website also includes the list of upcoming fundraisers, ranging from classes about altered books and jewelry-making to a progressive-game party and knitting day. Information about how to participate also is available there.

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Spring has sprung for the birthdays of Joyce Hondru, Jade Lobmeyer, Jacob Ward, Dana Hoffman, Curt Raulston, Nika Patterson, Ivey Patton, Charles Hakes, Jeffrey Wince, Doug Shand, Josh Poole, Kyle Cheesewright, Judy Fairchild, Caroline Kinser, Betsy Clark and Connor Collins.

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There are birthdays, and then there are birthdays. Nora Chiole Malles, who taught many of the folks in the southwest part of La Plata County, will turn 102 on April 19. She would greatly appreciate hearing from friends and former students on this august occasion.

Mail cards and letters to Nora Malles, Mangono del Sol, 5301 Roma NE, Room No. 2215, Albuquerque, NM 87108. Or give her a call at (505) 821-5243.

Many happy returns of the day, Mrs. Malles, and thanks go to Diana Schmitt for giving me the heads up.

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Nothing says happy anniversary better than a bouquet of colorful tulips for Alfredo and Nadine Ontiveros, Charles and Janet Williams and Bud and Sandy Beebe.

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For information about upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.

Here’s how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

If you are submitting an item for preview, please send it with briefs in the subject line and e-mail it to herald@durangoherald.com.

Karen Midkiff, left, and Kathie Bowers fill their plates with African peanut soup, beets with cumin and spicy carrots at the Ya Ya Sisterhood Luncheon on Saturday. Buff Rogers and Mary Husemoller prepared the exotic menu. Enlarge photo

LUCAS HESS/Durango Herald

Karen Midkiff, left, and Kathie Bowers fill their plates with African peanut soup, beets with cumin and spicy carrots at the Ya Ya Sisterhood Luncheon on Saturday. Buff Rogers and Mary Husemoller prepared the exotic menu.