Happiness is a rich arts scene

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Modeling her hat promoting the theme “Happiness is …” Co-chairwoman Cindy Cortese greets attendees to the 22nd annual Luncheon and Fashion Show of the Durango Friends of the Arts at the ballroom of the DoubleTree Hotel on Sept. 28. Cortese’s hat includes photos of things that make her happy, including her 106-year-old grandmother, Sarah Ruby Folsom. The hat was named “Best on Theme.”

At one of the seminal events of the fall fundraising season, the members of the Durango Friends of the Arts proved that even a 22-year-old event can be made fresh and fun.

DFA’s Silent Auction, Luncheon and Fashion Show was held Sept. 28, at the DoubleTree Hotel, with 185 dressed up and happily schmoozing guests. Before anyone arrived, Co-chairwomen Cindy Cortese and Carol Bruno had marshalled the troops for the big day. And they were troops, with more than 75 people involved one way or another.

Myriam Palmer and Bruno fielded reservation calls.

The day began with a silent auction organized by Carol Treat and her committee – Jacky Dziubek, Deb Rainey-Nelson, Diane Rabeno, Patti Baranowski, Mary Kay Steadman, Dana Wilson, Marjie Wilson, Karen Meyer, Nancy Bennett, Caroline Todd, Peggy Zemach, Susan Welty, Lexie Bauer, Nancy Fisher, Evelyn Gaylor and Cortese.

The auction was inventive and enormous, reflecting members’ love of the outdoors, the arts, fashion and this community, as well as items that could be used in people’s daily lives.

Need something for your home? Try elegant lamps and vases, ceramics by artists such as Nick Blaisdell, watercolors by Judy Morgan, a gift certificate from Artesano’s Design Collection ... the list goes on.

Love jewelry? Ooh, la, la!

Is your favorite thing taking advantage of our beautiful outdoors? Glacier Club donated a game of golf for four and dinner, someone else donated a fly-fishing trip on the Pine River, a fly-fishing rod and hand-tied flies.

Into getting your nails done and facials? Some lucky bidders will be looking fine.

You’re getting the picture.

Chairwoman Pat Lorenzen, Pat Dworkin and Marilyn Garst planned the salad luncheon and made sure all was ready for the festivities.

On entering the ballroom, guests were greeted by exuberant, fun and thoughtful table decorations. Lorenzen judged the decorations, awarding Most Elaborate Table to Diane Welle, Most Humorous to Cortese’s entry, which Janice Martin and Buff Rogers decorated, and Best Table on the Happiness Is ... theme to Lorraine Sufficool, whose friends Sharon Hunter and Renee Waldeck created the joy portrayed. The latter group of ladies are all from Bayfield.

After a salad lunch followed by the DoubleTree’s famous chocolate chip cookies, it was time for mistresses of ceremonies Deborah Uroda and Suzan Lane to take the stage.

The woman have both been active in Snowdown, including the Follies and the Do’s and Don’ts Luncheon, so you have an idea of the flavor of the rest of the event. Funny, risqué and on point – if a little “punny” on occasion.

One of the best lines was Uroda’s.

“My mother spent my first two years teaching me to walk and talk, then the next 16 telling me to sit down and shut up,” she said.

The hat awards are a perennial favorite at this event. Welle, Jackie DiSanto and Phyllis Max selected three winners. Penny Youngflesh’s “Gone Fishing” hat was so “alluring,” as Lane dubbed it, she won Most Humorous. Cortese’s hat took “Best on Theme” for her pillbox, which sported photos of friends and family who make her happy. And Gaylor’s lovely fascinator-style chapeau won her the Most Elaborate honors.

The entertainment was a combination of performances by DFA grant recipients and members’ offerings. It was organized by Chairwoman Maggie Sauer, with Cortese as co-chairwoman, Welty as director and Penny Haney, Rogers, Uroda and Connie Voss chipping in.

First up was the Stillwater Foundation’s jazz combo Grand Central. DFA grants money to the foundation for scholarships so students whose families can’t afford it can pursue their interest in music.

Jesse Ogle is the group’s instructor and guitar accompanist. The rest of the combo is made up of Alicia Whitman on saxophone, Mady Brockway on violin (yes, a jazz combo with not one, but two violinists, and it worked), Zac Gasaway on bass, Tony Williams on piano and double threat Mallory Shanks, as both the second violinist and the vocalist.

I was sitting next to Jaime Marquez, who said Mallory’s voice has a quality that can’t be taught and was at a level far beyond her years. I would say ditto, adding that while she was great at jazz, I’d love to hear her tackle the blues.

Between acts, the style show showed us how to make “Durango casual” striking. The show was organized by chairwoman Karren Little – who also modeled – Sonja Bayly Smith, who also modeled, Dworkin and Joanie Petersen Thomas, who also handled publicity and modeled.

Several stores put together outfits, including Appaloosa Trading Co. and Ladies Boutique, Blu Boutique, Boot Barn, Eureka!, Giddy-Up 409, Kelly’s Cowboy Co., La Plata Gifts at the DoubleTree, M. Moose and Co., from Farmington, and Overland Sheepskin Co.

The lovely models strolled the room with grace, looking far more at ease than they apparently felt, as most told me afterward. They were Geri Swingle, Roxanne Hamilton, Mary Chapel, Mary Orsini (who also handled the DFA merchandise table), Linda Mannix, Karen Meyer, Julie Brown, Sarah Sumner, Jana Goldstein, Nancy Ottman, Basia Daney, Susie Ammann and Judy Fairchild.

Three very special items were auctioned live. Two started with the garbage cans Waste Management gives its customers, which artists Amy Felker and Bethany Bachman had beautified, in homage to the Dumpster Beautification Project, which DFA also supports. Students at the Robert E. DeNier Youth Center were part of the project.

The garbage cans brought in more than $850, but the big ticket item was Tim Sullivan and Narrow Gauge’s donation of entertainment at a party for three or four hours. After much spirited bidding, the band brought in a whopping $3,500. Sullivan generously showed up at the event to help out and tout his donation.

Haney and Rogers were glowing in white as Angelic Yo Mama’s; Suzy DiSanto’s students from her Take the Lead program for fifth-graders in Durango School District could take on “Dancing with the Stars”; Mona Wood Patterson and Chuck Ford from Merely Players brought their puppet Edith Ann, who is 5½ and loves art.

“It’s more fun to paint in unexpected places,” Edith Ann said, “like the bottoms of your daddy’s shoes and the wall behind the couch.”

Lindy Simmons, representing the Cowboy Poetry Gathering, another grant recipient, didn’t just recite a poem, she wrote one especially for the occasion. She focused on what happiness is for a cowboy working the herd, and it was lyrically beautiful.

And Durango’s Irish songbird, Gemma Kavanagh, brought down the house with the grand finale. After arriving in her most divalicious pale blue glittering gown, and introducing her accompanist, Linda Mack, she began a parody of the song “Memories” from “Cats.”

Cortese found it on YouTube, and the only rendition I found was performed by Pam Peterson, so I’ll give her the credit.

The lyrics had the crowd in stitches, because it was all about the loss of memory in senior moments. Here’s a sample (hint: hum the end of “Memories” as you read):

“What the heck is that guy’s name? He sings with me in choir. Did I turn both the burners off, or is my house on fire! Shoot me, put me out of my misery, or just leave me to wander through Walmart’s parking lot.”

Those who had only seen her on stage in her classical music performances may not have known how funny she is, but they do now.

The end result was DFA record-breakers on all levels – highest totals ever for the silent auction and the luncheon overall, more than $17,000.

Cortese said the group, which has been holding fundraisers all year to fill up its Grant Fund, is prepped to give away the highest amount in its more than two-decade history – more than $47,000.

The money will go to artists and arts organizations in the community, and we will all benefit from that.

Other grant fund recipients in 2012 included the Animas High School Digital Media Arts Program, the Docent Program at the Durango Arts Center, the Durango Children’s Chorale, the Durango Performing Arts Co., Music in the Mountains Goes to School and the San Juan Symphony’s Youth Outreach and Education Program.

To join DFA, email Treat at caroltreat@durango.net. To learn more about the grants process, contact Palmer at mharp4@bresnan.net.

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Pulling out their jackets for their birthdays because the candles on the cake don’t provide enough heat are Donna Arriza, Lucas Baken, Lynn Bell, Brett Englund, Elijah Ollier, Cheryl Bauer, Geri Campbell, Jan Millet, Lee Van Winkle, Keiran Murphy, Megan Cooksey, Martha Diehl, Oscar Johnson, Lawrence Nass, Shawn Slater, Karen Harris, Anna McCulloch, Carol Nokes, Molly Zink, Kendall Mimmack, Kathy Pierson, Evelyn Ramey, Marilyn Summers, Brad Cook, Roger Haney, Kerry Hill, Michelle Shramko, Mary (Crow) Dunlap, Marilyn Swanson, Richard Nobman, Jonah Michael Unterreiner (3!), Therese Teiber, Jackie Honold, Natasha Brown, Brian Honold, Rich Ajer, Ben Meyer, Karen Boots, Marie Maple, Jessica Widder, Mark Fleming, Robin Southworth, Sue Mages, Alexa Fleming, Caroline Munger, Bob Cox, Nancy Wiedeman, Preston Knight, Ashley Creyer, Chris Calwell, Linda Schwinghammer, Betsy Janeczek, Sharon Kusenberger and one of my favorite people, Penny Haney.

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Walking hand-in-had through fallen leaves for their anniversaries are Doug and Lori Brouner, Don and Sandra Mapel, Zeke and Glenda Baumgardner, Larry and Kathy Phelps, Tim and Debbie Smith, Gordon and Wanda Greve, David Ottman and Jen Schoedler, Jon and Mary Shafer, Frank and Karen Anesi, Bob and Nancy Conrad, Jeremy and Kristen Dugan, Miles and Holly Newby, Art and Katie Cahill, Steve and Andrea Owen, Duane and Judy Danielson, Kevin and Tabitha Heckman, Jon and Etoile Hening, Rege and Nancy Leach, Chris and Linda Berger, Greg and Shirley Drover and Dave and Marty Schank.

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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.

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