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Vinoy Place will host oohs and ahs in March


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 13, 2000

You read it first here: The site of the Florida Orchestra Guild Designer Showhouse, March 3-25, will be Vinoy Place, the residential development being completed downtown. President Mary Shuh made the announcement at the group's annual Kringle Mingle, a just-for-fun coffee originated years ago by Nancye Barrett as a respite from the guild's constant fundraising and organized this year by Beth McDonald.

Actually, there will be two show houses: in one of the high-rise condominium towers and in the last available "city home," a four-bedroom townhouse, said showhouse chairwoman Maritza Smith.

"About $800,000?" Cindy Weatherby asked of the townhouse. "Try $1.2-million," said Mrs. Smith, a price that, presumably, will not include the furnishings local designers will stuff into it.

The group was happy about the news, not only because it is a coup to get both venues but because guild members often endure months of searching, failed negotiations and angst before finding a suitable residence for the show house.

Joann Barger's house on Brightwaters Boulevard, where we gathered for the Kringle Mingle, is beautiful enough, though I doubt that her family would enjoy vacating it for the better part of a month, a requirement for show houses.

Garlands, trees and flowers, including early peonies, were seasonal show-offs in rooms already full of lovely collections of art and objets.

But what is it about putting lights on the Christmas tree that inspires such high emotions? Everyone queried agreed with Charlotte Krizek, who said she has to leave her husband alone with the job to avoid conflict. "He's doing it right now," she said. "It's best this way."

I joined a cluster of guild members cruising the dining room table, loaded with sandwiches and sweets. Service was temporarily slowed when Alice Radcliffe lost the silver ladle at the bottom of the punch bowl. (None of us was sure about proper protocol under the circumstances: Wash your hands conspicuously and then go fish? Put on rubber gloves? Call 911?)

In the double-height family room, Thomas Wilkins was easily spotted as the only guy in the place and there to collect $10,000 from the guild on behalf of the Florida Orchestra. As everyone knows, he is the resident conductor.

Sally Poynter was easily spotted as the only person wearing reindeer antlers, in fuzzy red with blinking lights, that "Ann Foster stuck on my head; I don't know why. I don't want people to think I normally wear something like this."

Also nice to see were Terry Ray; Priscilla Young; Betty Bowley, who told us that this year's Hands Across the Bay Luncheon with the Tampa and Clearwater guilds will be held Jan. 12 at the Tampa Yacht Club; Nancy Reeser; Eunice Hirsch; Lorraine Danna; Virginia Smith; Ellen McNeiece; Juliet Miller; Sheila Tempelmann; Pat Howells; Celma Mastry; Edie Lyster; Caroline DeVale; Eleanor Myers; Jean G. Irwin; Catherine McGarry; Jeanne Nelson and Charley Williams.

These women stay busy.

Just finished is the guild's Golden Baton Brunch and the Holiday Kitchen and Patio Tour.

For that early December event, chairwoman Lorraine Danna garnered 10 residences spread throughout the community, including Jo and David Hastings' new house in the style of a French manor, located in the Pasadena area, which they had recently moved into. The Hastings own Habana Cafe in Gulfport, which accounts for the yummy desserts made by their partner, Mrs. Hastings' mother, Flor Gonzalez.

More fa-la-la on Saturday at the St. Petersburg Woman's Club, as about 100 members convened for the annual Christmas party.

The group's clubhouse, a historic Mediterranean Revival building on Snell Isle, was full of good cheer aided, no doubt, by the champagne dispensed by Elsa Tugman and Betty Weddle before lunch.

Red was the color of choice for most guests' attire, including Bernice McCune, at the check-in table with her daughter Pat LaMonde, so party chairwoman Bea Hayes was a standout in a white suit with emerald blouse that matched her earrings.

Club president Fern Clayton could not stop to chat, being on a mission to find her daughter, who was MIA in the crowded room, so I visited with Karen Groff and Jane Lanier, creators of the charming reindeer and snowmen on the luncheon tables.

A tradition is the Parade of Presidents, in which leaders of other organizations are honored, and the line-up featured Vera Brantley of the All Children's Hospital Guild; Joan Jaicks of the Women's Chamber of Commerce (who could not stay for lunch, joining her husband for a lunch honoring volunteers at the St. Petersburg Museum of History); Hugh Ann Cason-Kelly of Infinity; Mary Shuh of the Florida Orchestra Guild; Edie Spies of both the Bayfront Medical Center and Museum of History guilds; and Queen of Hearts Judy Cunniff.

I wandered into the kitchen, where Dan Montgomery, owner of Brown Dog Cafe, readied plates of food for the four-course meal about to commence. "They won't be hungry for a while," he said. I guess not: Cheese-filled profiteroles, a cream-of-something-green soup, meat-and-potatoes entree and a chocolate dessert looked like a week's worth of caloric intake.

In the crowd were Judy Zamillo, reminding me that the spring tea is April 8, so mark your calendars; Rissie Toombs; Joann Walker; Rosalie Markins; Teresa Hartley; Mary Barton-Skwarek; Ethel O'Connell, who told me the club's weekly bridge games draw 50 to 60 women on average; Marsha Irvin; Grace Post; Mary Lou Phillips and Barbara Will.

Lest you think the group is only about fun and games, community projects chairwoman Marjorie Joiner showed me an example of the group's work with Sally House, a Salvation Army shelter for children in transition into foster care. Members stitch bags for each child and fill them with necessities such as toothbrushes and soap, since many of them leave their homes without time to pack anything.

The St. Petersburg Woman's Club (and I have never been able to find out why it is not "Women's" Club) is part of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, established in 1890 by Jane Cunningham Croly, a journalist in New York City. After she was denied admittance to an all-male press club dinner honoring author Charles Dickens, she formed her own club, which has evolved into a network of philanthropic organizations throughout the United States. The GFWC can claim, among other accomplishments, to have been instrumental in founding about 75 percent of our public libraries. In the past two years, local clubs have donated about $50-million and 17-million volunteer hours to their communities.

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