March 13, 2010

Victoria Mansion's 150th birthday gala a true Turkish delight

— Fezzes were in fashion during Turkish Delight. The exotic event celebrated the 150th birthday of Portland's Victoria Mansion. Festivities included the unveiling of the restored Smoking Room in the historic building.

Candice Thornton Lee, chairwoman, and her committee arranged a gala affair complete with music, food and energetic entertainment. Music was by the ethnic band Okbari. Authentic Turkish food was catered by the Mediterranean Grill in Falmouth. Diners under the party tent were treated to a lively performance by members of Maine Belly Dance.

For some in the crowd, the delightful evening called for colorful costumes. Mansion docents John and Eunice Wilcox were a striking couple. Eunice, jiggling many baubles and beads, had borrowed three costumes from a belly-dancing friend and managed to wear them all. John's touch of Turkey was a lofty white turban. Or was it a towel? Shep Lee and Ashton Johnson were seen putting their fezzes together for a quiet chat.

Mansion executive director Robert Wolterstorff was quite splendid in a silk Nehru jacket imported from India. Curator Arlene Schwind topped her gown with a high-feathered turban. Dan Kennedy posed in a black smoking jacket trimmed with purple. Frank Reilly, always dapper, mentioned his new play. ''A Green Sky'' will be presented in Maine by the Island Institute. Photographer Marta Morse had tales to tell about a recent trip to Mongolia.

Party-goers included board president Mike Stone, Steve and Ellen Barton, Mary Jo and Steve Kolkhorst, Madeleine Corson and Katharine Watson. Doug and Monique Weber of Downeast Beverage distributed specialty cigars to male guests. They shared their booth with a hookah, an Eastern smoking pipe.


Costumes of more recent vintage prevailed at the Portland Museum of Art. The party celebrated the 25th year of the Charles Shipman Payson Building. Accordingly, many clothes-saving guests competed for prizes in '80s styles. WJBQ's Rob Steele called for applause to determine the best attire. And the winners were Riley Hart, Gudlang Hermanndottir and Olivia Stanley.

According to the clicker count, more than 900 people gathered for an evening of music, art and the debut of breakdancing in the museum. The ''oldie but goodie'' film in the auditorium was ''The Breakfast Club,'' starring Portland's own Judd Nelson.


Ballet by the sea was the main attraction at a Cape Elizabeth estate. Portland Ballet Company presented the reception featuring performances by company members and students enrolled in the pre-professional program. The modern and classical pieces included a preview of ''Giselle,'' which will be staged next spring.

Several longtime associates of the company received Dance Inspiration Awards. The honorees were photographers Stuart Nudelman and Patrick Michaud, and videographers Blake Baldwin and Lee Cote.

Among guests attending the seaside social were Tony Buxton, Liz Hoglund, Jan Lynskey, Bill and Lynn Heinz, Jon and Nori Gale and PBC executive director Eugenia O'Brien with her husband Charles.


The Deborah Morton Society added four new members during a convocation ceremony held at the University of New England's Westbrook College Campus.

The award honors the memory of Morton, valedictorian of Westbrook Seminary's Class of 1879. She was connected with the school for more than 60 years while serving as a civic leader in Portland.

Martha Tod Dudman, of Northeast Harbor, is a writer ''who likes to make up stories and walk in the woods.'' Along the way, Martha managed a group of radio stations and was a professional fundraiser. Comparing writing and walking, she noted, ''You never know where you're going to end up. That's what makes life such fun.''

Reading defines the career of Esther Nettles Rauch. The former professor at the University of Maine travels throughout the state encouraging people to read and share discussions. The Bangor area resident told the audience, ''Let's read a book and talk about it together.''

Leigh Ingalls Saufley is the first female chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Her mother, Janet Ingalls, was her inspiration, telling Leigh she could accomplish anything if she worked hard. ''It wasn't easy for women in the field of law,'' said Saufley. She credited Caroline Glassman and the late Harriet Henry (both Morton Society members) for paving the way for their successors.

Nancy Thibodeau's topic was service, which she defined as generous acts of kindness to others. The Fort Kent woman is the driving force behind her town's emergence as the host for Nordic competitions. These events have brought worldwide attention and millions of dollars to the area.

Each year, the society presents an endowed scholarship to a UNE student. The latest recipient is Allyson Hildreth, of Standish, who is enrolled in the dental hygiene program.

P.S. In a nod to modern times, UNE President Danielle Ripich revealed that the Deborah Morton Award is informally known as ''the Debbie.''

Natalie Brenner has been observing and writing about the social scene for the Maine Sunday Telegram for 29 years.

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