ALL OF GOOD CHEER: The holiday-decorated rooms featured in the H.B. Plant Museum's Victorian Christmas Stroll were lovely. But they couldn't compete with the food at the museum society's annual Holiday Cocktail Buffet at the University of Tampa Nov. 21. Every year, members cook their specialty hors d'oeuvres and desserts, such as Becky Clarke's venison sausage and Marie Preston's liver pate. New this year: blue crab special by Marte Watson. Wynette Hampton and Lauren Stallings organized the food.
For years, Del and Richard Clarke roasted a pig for the museum society fundraiser. These days, seven couples split the cost of catering the 80-pound pig.
Co-chairs Patty Cowart and Mary Kay Ross greeted sponsors. Mayor Pam Iorio added her thanks, noting she wears her minaret pin several times a week as a symbol of Tampa.
Carla Rieger designed the party invitations and gave the museum society permission to reproduce the Christmas tree-laden rickshaw graphic on aprons, notecards and other keepsake items, said Ralphael Clarke, museum society president. Using her design, Roseann Creed and the decorating committee created a gorgeous centerpiece in the music room.
See the 22nd Victorian Christmas Stroll at the museum until Dec. 23.
GET ON BOARD WITH MAUREEN: "Using Beautiful Things To Do Beautiful Things" summed up philanthropic entrepreneur Maureen Rorech Dunkel's talk aboard the Radisson Seven Seas cruise ship, the Navigator, on Nov. 18. The founder of Marcelina's women's club on Plant Avenue and the People's Princess Charitable Foundation invited 100 women at $100 each for a five-course luncheon while the ship was in port. AAA Travel served as co-host. Guests were wild about the cabin's walk-in closets, balconies and butlers. Proceeds went to the People's Princess foundation.
"I'm a risk taker," said Rorech Dunkel, who founded the group "on pure emotion" in June 1997 when she bought 14 dresses belonging to Diana, Princess of Wales, for a retail venture in Tampa. When the princess died two months later, she created Dresses for Humanity, a touring exhibition that raised more than $2-million for children's cancer and AIDS-related charities.
In appreciation, the British royal family gave Rorech Dunkel unprecedented access to Kensington Palace over the next five years. "I'm the first non-royal to be offered party rights," she said. She promised her first fundraiser, April 17 in the King's Drawing Room, "will be one of the most glamorous charitable events held anywhere in the world."
Rorech Dunkel envisions a $100-million global venture tying the late princess' gowns to her Marcelina Project, which helps girls make better choices. She sees movies, a television program, toys, children's clothing and more. The project's first book, Marcelina & the Royal Princess, comes out next month. It was written to empower girls to resist aggression, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders and teen pregnancy.
ARTISTIC TRIFECTA: Gallery Bleu Acier opened its doors to an excited arts community Nov. 21, offering sculpture, prints, music, video and dance. More than 100 curious art seekers explored owner Erika Greenberg Schneider's gallery/print shop/home, absorbing artistic work indoors and out. Darren Liebman drew a crowd when he played the didgeridoo What's that? Visit www.didgrevolution.com) Among the art collectors: lawyer Scott Barnett, famed photographer Elisabeth Novick, Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena and Channel District kingpins Kim and Richard Markham. Schneider hopes to keep the buzz going with a monthly salon of varying arts prospectives called Art by Accident.
OPENING DOORS: The Nov. 20 preview party for Relive It! 19th Street Ybor brought 50 potential sponsors, government officials and history buffs to see the neighborhood's first restored casita. Called the East Garden, the casita on Ninth Avenue now houses a gift shop and exhibition gallery.
"It's more beautiful than we ever imagined, said Pat Gaggi, president of the Ybor City Museum Society. Guests took a hard hat tour of four other nearly finished casitas on 19th Street.
Save the evening: March 12 is the Relive It! 19th Street Ybor grand opening celebration in conjunction with the Cigar Heritage Festival the next day.
FISHY FUN: The second Tropics of Cancer auction party had 200 guests dancing to Driftwood, sampling food from four restaurants and bidding during the silent auction to benefit the American Cancer Society on Nov. 14 at the Florida Aquarium. Chairwoman Christy Mayer expects to raise almost $10,000 and is already planning the next one.
CORRECTION: Apologies to Lynette Bowen, purchaser of a dozen shoes by designer Mark Schwartz at the Pavilion live auction Nov. 6. In the excitement of the bidding, I must have heard Wynette, instead of Lynette. By the way, Pavilion No. 18, the Tampa Museum of Art's major fundraiser, netted $252,000, and more capital campaign announcements are expected soon.