The Valley Line: Crowds flock to Showcase House

I hope that all of you have your air conditioning ducts and filters clean and thermostats calibrated in readiness for the heat wave that has been forecast for this weekend. It's hard to believe that high temps will be here so soon.

California crazy weather is just ramping up. Also ramping up are philanthropic benefits.

The Pasadena Showcase House of Design opened up with great fanfare on April 21. Design aficionados are flocking to this beautiful Monterey Colonial home built in 1941 in a lovely Arcadia neighborhood.

Two La Cañada Flintridge interior design firms are prominently featured in this 49th showcase house. The mother/daughter team of Annsley Strong and Courtney Strong Thomas designed the upstairs Reader's Retreat, and Jan Ledgard of Yorkshire Kitchens, Inc. designed the pool house and the outdoor kitchen.

This warm weather has made for great house-and-garden touring, dining in the on-premises restaurant and shopping with the many vendors selling their wares, ranging from jewelry to table accessories and even clothing.

Just before opening the house to the public, the members of Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts hosted a "premiere party" for special guests who toured the house at twilight and then partied on into the dark of the night at the Turf Club Ballroom at Santa Anita Race Track.

Greeting guests at the door of the house were Kathryn Hofgaarden, president, and Katherine Watkins, benefit chair. Kathryn and her husband, Charlie, are LCF residents.

Also welcoming guests to the house were Brigett Guitron, Andrea Kelly and Debra Qurtman, exterior chairs and Dana Marevich and Lynn Mehl, interior chairs.

Many of the guests heeded the invitation request for the ladies to wear hats that might be seen at the Kentucky Derby. There were many gorgeous hats of all designs and colors. The men got into the act too, as some of the guys wore bowlers, more popularly known as derbys. However, Charlie Hofgaarden really got into the spirit of things by wearing a top hat — guess he was going to the Royal Ascot in England.

The evening was a real winner as guests first sipped cocktails and partook of a fabulous chilled seafood display of jumbo cocktail shrimp with remoulade sauce, and lemon and oysters on the half shell with horseradish sauce.

A dinner buffet offered Angus beef prime rib, a mashed potato bar with all the accouterments, a salad bar and a grilled asparagus platter. The buffet of amazing desserts was a crowd-pleaser.

La Cañadans Ellen and David Sherwood were my delightful dining companions. Ellen was aglow as she chatted about the wonders of being a new grandmother. Her daughter, Lindsey Drake Levine (LCHS '98), is the mother of a baby named Jack.

The Showcase House of Design will be open through Sunday, May 19. Make plans to go before it closes — it makes for a great outing.

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The night was recently filled with music when the Los Angeles Children's Chorus honored the legacy of legendary composer and beloved American musical storyteller Richard Sherman, along with Mary Blodgett and Carlton Calvin, who are advocates and benefactors of the chorus.

Richard Sherman and his late brother Robert formed one of Walt Disney's most successful songwriting teams.

The event, called "Gala Bel Canto" was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion's Grand Hall and raised $270,000.

Also seen at the gala were actors Dick Van Dyke, Leonard Maltin (who served as emcee for the evening) and Ashley Brown, who played the title role in the stage version of "Mary Poppins."

Brown sang a poignant rendition of Sherman's iconic, "Feed the Birds." Van Dyke presented Sherman's award and then joined Sherman for an impromptu duet on "Chim Chim Cher-ee." Then Sherman gave a very special performance, teaming up with the Los Angeles Children's Chorus to perform his blockbuster, "It's A Small World (After All)."

Also front-and-center that night were the members of the chorus. The tribute to Blodgett and Calvin featured a performance by LACC's Young Men's Ensemble. The choristers, conducted by artistic director Anne Tomlinson, sang three Sherman Brothers songs.

The Children's Chorus roster lists several La Cañada youth, as it has over many years. I did see La Cañadan Abigail Rosen and her parents, Paul and Lois Rosen, there.

Some other La Cañadans enjoying this exciting evening were Michael and Tania Cahill, Carin and John Schiller, Julia and Andy Gaskill and David Haupt and Rashmi Bansal. Bansal is a member of the Los Angeles Children's Chorus board.

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JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. Email her at jnvalleysun@yahoo.com with news of your special event.

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