THE PLACE TO BE: Last Saturday, Festival Hall was transformed into a snowy village square filled with 100 festively decorated silk Christmas trees and 75 silk wreaths. I arrived at this winter wonderland at 10 a.m., joining some of Baltimore's busiest people -- Hope Quackenbush, executive director of the Center for Performing Arts; Tom Matte, former Colts great; Fred Lazarus, Maryland Institute of Art; Bob Bergman, Walters Art Gallery; Phyllis Brotman, Image Dynamics; and City Council president Mary Pat Clarke -- to judge the trees that make up the second annual Kennedy Institute Festival of Trees. Sally Casey and her committee have done a fabulous job with the festival, and I can assure you, it's the place to go if you want to get into the Christmas spirit. (The price of admission is $3; $1.50 for seniors and children. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Dec. 15.)
Later Saturday evening, more than a thousand guests arrived at Festival Hall for the KinderGala, which turned out to be another innovative fund-raiser for the Kennedy Institute. It was beautiful. Imagine dinner tables creatively mingled amid the decorated trees; neat little shops where guests spent lots of money on little Christmas presents, and and an International Tree Village featuring trees and customs from 15 countries. There were also celebrity trees decorated and donated by celebs such as Dinah Shore, Jim McKay, Anne Archer Jastrow, Eddie Arcaro, Brooks Robinson and many others.
The gala's executive chairman, Ray Piechocki and his wife, Marge, and chairwoman Mary Beth Smolev and her husband, Dr. James, were delighted with this year's sold-out crowd. The gala netted more than $400,000 for the Kennedy Institute.
Among those enjoying the wonderful show put on by Clint Holmes and "The Mighty Majors" were Zanvyl Krieger; Dr. Gary Goldstein and his wife, Arlene Forastiere; Joe DeFrancis and Lynda O'Dea; Mr. and Mrs. Pat Deering; Mr. and Mrs. Michael Sullivan; Mr. and Mrs. H. Lee Boatwright; Judge and Mrs. Alan Lipson; Zelig and Linda Robinson; Mr. and Mrs. Ron Creamer; Mr. and Mrs. George England; Mr. and Mrs. Robert DiCicco; Mr. and Mrs. Dixon Gibbs; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Offutt; Mr. and Mrs. Mac Passano; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Rosenberg; Judge and Mrs. John Turnbull Jr.; Mr. and Mrs. Marcellus Alexander; and an array of movers and shakers in Baltimore.
STATE WORKERS PLAY SANTA: State workers at the State Office Building at 201 W. Preston St. are enjoying the 24 Christmas trees decorated by state agencies. Last week, Lainy LeBow, who oversees this annual project, asked me to join P.W. Feats owner Paul Wolhman and judge the handiwork of all the state employees who enthusiastically worked on the Tree Trimming contest.
It was a difficult job and there could easily have been 10 winners instead of four. First place went to Department of Agriculture employees Mark Berry, Darryll Buschling, Mary Krok, Pebbles LaBeau, Steve Malan, Shirley Painter and Beverly Raymond, who came up with an interesting tree which depicts the many facets of Maryland agriculture.
Second place went to a tree decorated by youngsters involved in programs run by the Department of Juvenile Services. You could call this a loving tree. The youngsters made ornaments of their heroes, people like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordon and Aretha Franklin. I left feeling good about the kids and their enthusiasm.
Third place went to the Department of Natural Resources, whose tree was "naturally" pretty, and last but never least was the wonderful tree created by the Department of the Military, led by Command Sgt. Major Wilson Thornton. The tree is covered with memorabilia that tells the history of Maryland's military. A miniature replica of the National Guard Armory sat at the base of the tree.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer, State Comptroller Louis Goldstein, Secretary of State Winfield Kelly and State Treasurer Lucy Maurer came to the party to award prizes to winners, and it seemed as if the governor's entire cabinet made an appearance: Nancy Grasmick, Bishop Robinson, Bill Fogle, Torrey Brown, Hilda Ford, Mary Ann Saar, Rosalie Abrams and Mark Wasserman. Everyone joined the governor to sing Christmas carols with area singers, led by the talented Nathan Carter of Morgan State, and all were treated to free box lunches donated by Martin's Caterers.