From sweet celebrations to an unforgettable gala performance, here's what happened on the social scene last week.
All in the family
Any number of things made Maria Wirries’ performance Dec. 16 with the Sarasota Orchestra at the Jewish Family & Children’s Services Gala unique. For starters, according to Ms. Wirries, “Everybody was so excited because it was the 30th anniversary of the organization and there was a feeling of warmth in the room and a lot of heart for the tributes.” It was also a ninth anniversary for Maria, who first sang at this event when she was 12 (12, repetition deliberate) years old. Now she’s ... My, how she’s grown!
Principal Guest Conductor Dirk Meyer chose two of her numbers for their relevance to the services provided by JFCS: “People (Who Need People)” and “Children Will Listen.” Maria chose the third, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” disarmingly appropriate to the agency’s theme “Embracing Our Community With Care.”
Maria’s own relationship with JFCS and its supporters is special, especially with benefactor Beatrice Friedman and her daughter and son-in-law Ilene Friedman and Greg Gregory.
“In addition to my mom, Jeaneen Wirries, I have all these grandmas and grandpas here,” Maria says. “The community has adopted me in a way and coming from a nontraditional background, it is so nice to have so many people supporting me and seeing me as part of their family. Especially around the holiday time, I think how grateful I am for people like those at JFCS that have been so instrumental in my life.”
That feeling is mutual, to be sure.
Ms. Wirries will graduate from Penn State University’s Musical Theatre Program this spring and head for – where else? – New York City. She already has auditions lined up for the summer and a whole lot of Sarasotans are looking forward to seeing her name in lights.
— Molly Schechter
Oh, woolly (and tacky) night
My mom will never let me forget her disapproval, but it’s true: “Ugly Christmas sweater” parties are definitely a thing, and I definitely have raided her closet more than once in preparation for one. She’s a kindergarten teacher, so they’re a work staple.
Amy Sankes and her husband, Josh, jumped on the trend five years ago, and this year’s soiree Dec. 16 at their appropriately located Holiday Drive home was as jolly as ever.
“If you show up without an ugly sweater, we have a basket of extras for you to choose from,” Amy says. “We have a secret committee of three that selects the best ugly sweaters and prizes include silly things like elf hats, Christmas sunglasses, etc.”
More than 30 of the couple’s closest friends enjoyed classic Christmas movies like “Christmas Vacation” and “Elf” on a giant projector in the Sankes’ backyard. The idea, Amy says, is to host a relaxed night to laugh and enjoy each other after attending so many formal holiday affairs. And it most definitely works.
Familiar faces included Erin and Doug Christy, Jen and Doug Grosso, Melissa and Joe Hembree, Ella and Dan Lewis, Christy and Tommy Teffenhart and many more.
— Niki Kottmann
Getting in the holiday spirit … Asolo Repertory Theatre was feeling extra jolly Dec. 15 at FSU Center for the Performing Arts when 130 of its staff and actors attended the company’s annual holiday party. Morton’s sponsored and catered the event, which featured a Hello Gorgeous Photobooth, Out and About Coffee and The Modern Girl Party’s “fluff” (cotton candy) in holiday flavors. A la Mode Macaron provided more than 200 macreams (ice cream macarons) as favors.
... Boy’s night out ... The black tie scene is usually a woman’s world, but it was all about the men Dec. 15 at Men, Whiskey, Watches & Wheels. Festivities actually began the night before, however, during the poker tournament at One Eyed Jacks Poker Room at Sarasota Kennel Club. The top three winners won cash prizes and the top winner won a custom Coffrin Jewelers watch ... Girls just wanna be merry ... Ashley Dooley hosted a Chickmas Christmas party Dec. 15 at her home, and each guest brought three dozen cookies for a festive tasting. Eventgoers voted on best looking and best tasting cookie. At the end, Ashley gave everyone a holiday-themed cookie container and guests piled up the goodies to take home.
— Niki Kottmann