2013, February 2, Saturday, Groundhog Day
Another PROGRESSIVE DINNER! at the four neighborhood homes of our…
Thanks to all the hosts and guests over the years for making this event possible and successful.
Your support brings our next big project closer every year—reinstalling the long-lost, NOW-FOUND FOUNTAIN at Franklin and Marshall Streets, gone since the last mid-century!
The day started with a groundhog in Punxatawney failing to see his shadow (the sign of an early spring); but here, the temperature was dropping below freezing as we set out for the 7th Annual Progressive Dinner. Thoughts of the cold dispelled quickly as our first hosts welcomed us to their spectacular home.
Our biggest crowd ever—60 members—spread out through the first floor, exploring the appetizers laid out in the dining room, the huge hearths (one configured as Annie’s bed, a very lucky, friendly dog) and the beautiful living room. As we compared notes on the year past, about travels, about work and family, about the neighborhood, it quickly became clear many in this group had gone beyond neighborliness and into friendship.
Unexpectedly, Jeff Beitel, our President, called us all upstairs to gather in the huge game room. Jeff updated us on the group’s projects in the park, especially the efforts to restore the long-lost and now recovered fountain.
Jeff also showed off a newly discovered photo of the fountain from 1899 that shows it in more detail than we’ve ever seen.
Running slightly late, we then made our way to the home of Beetsie and Rich Fazio on Virginia Avenue. Dark had come, showing off the luminaries lining the path to each host home. A few thin flakes of snow also struck our cheeks.
The second stop is usually reserved for soup OR salad, but the Fazios decided not to choose and instead offered both, plus a hot pot of chili. Conversation seemed to slow a bit as the crowd dug in, but soon we returned to speaking quite loudly to hear above the background chatter.
Too soon, Linda Scott–perennial majordomo, creater and organizer of the Progressive Dinners–rang the gong; the bright red and very loud fire bell could not be ignored.
Leaving, we discovered the snow had picked up and made the going a little slippery. Thankfully, the next stop was next door at the home of Beth Soldwisch and Jerry Szczepaniak.
Departing from our unwritten custom of buffet dinners balanced precariously upon laps, our hosts for the entree had transformed their home into a multi-room restaurant with seating for all, flowers on each table. The main course was also impressive: huge portions of polenta topped with fresh mozzarella and served with sausage and tomato gravy.
Judging by photos taken during this stop, the crowd was becoming even chummier, with much hugging, some kissing and a few hijinks. Did I mention each home served wine and beer?
The final stop was just around the corner where more luminaries lined the curving walk to the home of Ronnie Balassone and Kirby Tirk–more surprises and delights awaited. The dessert trays and the selection of beverages impressed us. However, we were not prepared for the sound of a jazz duo—piano and bass—playing from the living room. FMSP member Mike Norris and his accompanist simply wowed with one tune after another from their broad repertoire. Of course, with toes tapping, it wasn’t long before a few were dancing.
Now here’s a warning to all future dessert hosts: people do not want to leave. Though some had to hurry home to children and sitters, many stayed way past our posted closing time, thanks to the hospitality of Ronnie, Kirk, and Seuss (another lucky dog). The band played on. The wine, beer and coffee kept pouring. For all we know, some are still there.
The rest of us? The 364-day countdown to next year’s 8th Progressive Dinner starts for us today.