The New Paltz Garden Club held a “Table Carousel” event last Monday, June 15 at the Ulster County BOCES Conference Center. Nearly 100 members of the club that helps keep New Paltz beautiful attended the fundraiser held every 18 months or so in alternating spring and fall affairs. Funds raised at the event go toward the annual scholarship the club awards each year to a college-bound graduating New Paltz High School senior who plans to major in either environmental science or horticulture.
This year’s recipient of the garden club scholarship is Brooke Hart, recommended for the $500 award by her AP environmental science teacher at New Paltz High School, Cathy Law. “Brooke is a rigorous learner,” said Law. “She was an obvious choice for the award, because she brings so much to the table. Her own passions, her dedication… She just loves life, loves nature. And she’s very responsible. We need more stewards for the land who understand what’s going on with nature, and Brooke is a person whose actions will ripple outward.”
Hart says she plans to attend SUNY Ulster for two years and then transfer to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) near Syracuse, where she’ll major in environmental engineering. She’ll start classes this fall and plans to put the award toward tuition and books. Hart was accompanied at the garden club event by her mother, Theresa, and all three of her siblings. Her brother Nick, a senior airman stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota for the last three years, was home on a rare visit to see his youngest sister graduate from high school this month before he returns to active duty July 2. And Brooke’s sisters, Jacquelyn and Chelsea, were on hand to celebrate their sister receiving the scholarship award as she prepares to begin her higher education at the same school they attended. Jacquelyn was the first of the sisters to attend SUNY Ulster, graduating in May and moving on to SUNY New Paltz this fall, followed by Chelsea, who currently attends the community college and plans to continue her studies at SUNY ESF, just as Brooke will two years from now.
The Hart family were guests of honor at the themed “Hawaiian Delight” table designed by garden club members Barbara Campbell and Erna Gundlach. Each of the eleven tables at the event had its own theme, chosen by a garden club member or two members working together, who planned table settings, centerpieces and a dessert offering or light refreshments to correspond with their chosen theme and then sold tickets to fellow club members for the remaining seats at the table, with funds going toward the scholarship.
A great deal of creativity and attention to detail was evidenced in the results at each table. “Take Me Out to the Ballpark,” designed by Helen Kane, was red, white and blue all the way, with napkins made of baseball-printed fabric and baseball jerseys and caps worn by several guests at the table. Over at “White Out,” all of the dishes, place settings and even the refreshments were white in color, or nearly so, and most at the table wore white clothing. “Out of the Woods” was a very professional looking woodland-themed table that any florist or party planner would be happy to claim, designed by garden club members Lynda Cory and Fran Ezell. “Everything’s Comin’ Up Roses” by Shelly Ottens was played out in deep reds, with rose-shaped spiral desserts featured. “Birds and Bees” by Marilyn Mingé was all about black and yellow (think bumblebee); with yellow bird motif china and lemonade served from a beehive-shaped dispenser. Those enjoying dessert at Dale Stafford-Bohan and Arlene Ryan’s “Victorian Tea” table did so using beautiful china plates that have been in Dale’s family since the 1830s. “La Dolce Vita” had an Italian wedding theme, designed by Ester Sicari and Annette Intravaia, and “Cabbage Patch” by longtime garden club member Anita Coy, who has been with the club since the 1960s, featured carrot cake, lettuce leaf dishes and bunny props amidst an orange and green backdrop.
A raffle and silent auction featured lush arrangements of live plants and florals expertly put together by club members and gift basket offerings that ranged from a teatime basket with tea and cookies to the “summer survival” basket for parents, filled with art and craft supplies for the kids and a bottle of wine for mom and dad.
Many of the raffle and auction items came from local merchants who were generous with their donations for the fundraiser. Mohonk Preserve contributed a membership for a family of four, Shea O’Brien’s donated Sunday brunch for two and a variety of gift certificates were given by businesses that included Inquiring Minds bookstore, Rock & Snow and The Bakery. Among local merchants who donated to the raffle were Dedrick’s Pharmacy and Gifts, Groovy Blueberry, Handmade & More, Hudson Valley Goldsmith, Aphrodite Antiques, Imperial Jewelers and Maglyn’s Dream.
The New Paltz Garden Club has long shared a close relationship with local business owners. When a merchant does a particularly nice job of landscaping, the garden club presents them with their Civic Beautification Award for making New Paltz a better place to live. Local businesses get inspired by each other’s efforts and even end up in a little friendly competition with each other, said club president Bonnie Champion Finkenaur.
Founded in 1946, the New Paltz Garden Club is open to anybody who likes to garden. Members engage in activities that range from floral-themed photography shows to plant swaps to tours of special gardens and botanical centers. Annual dues for active members are $25. Members serve on one hospitality committee a year and work in one of the garden areas maintained by the club: the Huguenot Street perennial garden, the Deyo Hall xeriscape (water-conserving) garden on both sides of Broadhead Avenue and the gardens at the corner of Chestnut and Main streets. The club also maintains the large planters at the Thruway toll booth year-round.
More information is available at www.NewPaltzGardenClub.org.