Holiday Happenings ranges from whimsical to elegant

By Helena Rodriguez: PNT staff writer

Phantom of the Opera, wedding cakes and John Deere are not common Christmas themes, but it was anything goes during the ninth annual Holiday Happening event on Saturday.

The sold-out affair was sponsored by Altrusa International Inc., of Portales, and featured 67 uniquely decorated Christmas tables inside of the Eastern New Mexico University Campus Union Building Ballroom. From simple to elegant, spiritual to whimsical, and even fruity, each table was meticulously decorated under a central theme to capture the holiday spirit in a special way.

“People come here to get decorating ideas for their homes and every table is decorated differently. They can have similar themes, but they are all different,” Bernice D’Agostino, chairperson of the Holiday Happening, said. She noted that all of the 528 available seats were sold out two weeks before the deadline.

“Ideas for table themes generally start with one piece and then build from there,” said D’Agostino who designed her “Christmas del Italiano” table around an ornate ginger jar which her daughter gave her. D’Agostino embellished the jar with a small, elegantly decorated Christmas tree, and it became the table centerpiece.

Neal Kleman’s “Christmas Phantom” table was a special attraction. The original idea was centered around Phantom of the Opera and featured a mannequin-style phantom propped up in the center of the table. Each Holiday Happening table featured a take-home gift for each guest and Kleman’s gifts were the roses which had black ribbons tied around them and a ring attached, a prop taken straight from the movie.

“I have friends that are Phantom of the Opera fans and we get together a couple of times a year to watch the movie,” said Kleman as she explained how she came up with the idea.

Kleman took colorful pictures from movie scenes, cut them into oval shapes, and taped them to red chargers which are large, flat dinner plates. She then placed a glass plate over them. The result was a sophisticated yet classical place setting showcasing movie scenes. Added touches were dry ice in a vase to get a steamy effect and red satin capes as seat covers.

At Nellie Dyer and Louise Griffith’s “Marry Christmas” table, it wasn’t silver bells, but wedding bells that were ringing. A Christmas-themed wedding cake with red poinsettias and a fountain in the middle served as the centerpiece.

“A friend of ours told us we ought to do a Christmas wedding cake,” said Alice Griffith, one of the table designers. “I got married around Christmas time, on Dec. 22, 1957. I’m a widow now, but I would have been married 49 years this year. I think this ties in with Christmas because Christmas is a spiritual thing and marriage should be taken the same way.”

Other tables included traditional and contemporary themes, from “75 Years of Santa & Coke,” “Visions of Sugar Plums” and “A Victorian Tea Party” to “Christmas With a Twist of Lime,” “John Deere Christmas” and “Playful Penguins.” In addition to a luncheon, an auction and Dillard’s Fashion Show was also staged.

Altrusa President Beverly Bennett said proceeds will be used to help purchase additional playground equipment for Morrison Park. Altrusa has been helping fund the playground project for three years. “We’ll put a smile on everyone’s face because that was a neglected area,” Bennett said.

D’Aogstino said Altrusa raised approximately $11,500 from this year’s event with a net profit of about $7,500.