The Valley Line: Magic of FSHA gala was no illusion

Another Fiesta Days celebration has just marched into history and it did it with great style. The events began on Friday night with Casino Night at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. On Saturday the AM Kiwanis Club staged its popular community breakfast at Memorial Park, accompanied by a vintage car show. The LCF Tournament of Roses Assn. held its annual open house at the float-building site on Hampton Road. Saturday was also a big night for the Family Flick with the Disney film "Frozen" being shown in the park, introduced by the film's director Chris Buck, who lives here in town and won an Oscar for his work on the film.

The historic Lanterman House welcomed guests to its "Summer Whites" picnic and open house on Sunday afternoon. The big WOW of the celebration came on Sunday night with the Family Dinner in the park, featuring the outstanding music by the La Cañada High School Jazz Band and vocalists, culminating in the brilliant fireworks show presented by the Allen Lund Co..

Monday morning began with the annual Crescenta-Cañada Family YMCA Fiesta Days run, followed by the impressive Memorial Service, a tribute to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces at Memorial Park.

Everyone loves a parade, especially the annual Memorial Day parade with this year's theme, "Home Grown." The Fiesta Days celebration came to an end with the first "Music in the Park" event of the season with the band Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries, always a crowd favorite.


It was a magical night for guests when they celebrated this year's Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's gala benefit this year themed, "Do you believe in a young girl's heart?"

Waving their magic wands in order to create an unforgettable evening were co-chairs Nancy Mercolino and Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, whose daughters attend the school on the hill high above city. The lead magician for the evening was Charlotte Saydah, event coordinator for the Academy.

Greeting guests were Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy president Sister Carolyn McCormack and principal Sister Celeste Marie Botello. A banner bordered by red roses and printed with the word "Believe" captured the evening's theme.

Cocktails and appetizers were served in the patio where the silent auction took place on such prizes as designer clothing, jewelry, home decor items and so much more. Entertaining guests was magician Jim Witkowski, who amazed everyone. Witkowski often performs at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. Throughout the evening about 40 students at the school helped out in a myriad of ways. They looked adorable in their bright red jackets and magician-like black top hats.

When the dinner bell sounded, guests were ushered into a clear gala tent that was beautifully decorated with swaged tiny white lights and oversized paper red roses. The centerpieces at each table were arrangements of fragrant red roses.

Sisters Carolyn and Celeste gave the blessing and welcomed guests to this very special evening. They then surprised everyone by performing their own magical tricks that people absolutely loved.

"As this 37th annual Gala celebration unfolds, we are aware of the positive, generous support of all who make up our Flintridge Sacred Heart community," the Sisters stated in their program notes. "You are the Magic on the Hill tonight! We thank you for coming to experience the magic of enjoying the friendship and camaraderie of each other's company, for supporting the silent auction and for lifting your paddles high at the live auction! Thank you for your strong support of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose and our mission on this Hill these 83 years."

Phil Deroca acted as emcee for the evening and he was at his very best when he encouraged guests to bid on the 11 fabulous items offered in the live auction. Bidders were eager to raise their paddles high for such opportunities as a Los Tacos catered dinner for 50, a July 4 fireworks viewing party "On The Hill" for 50 guests with a mouth-watering dinner of barbecue ribs, chicken and all the fixings from the famous Newport Rib Company.

Another amazing auction item that received brisk bidding was the opportunity to enjoy an opulent gourmet dining experience in the historical main lounge at the Academy, which was once the Biltmore Hotel designed by the famous Los Angeles architect Myron Hunt and built in 1926 . Guests will dine on the fine china from the original Flintridge Hotel, using antique silver and will listen to stories about the how the Biltmore Hotel became a Catholic school for girls.

Speaking of dining, preparing the fabulous food at the gala benefit was prepared and served by the catering firm, the Spot. Gala guests dined on two different salads, a stacked beet salad with citrus, chevre, shaved heirloom radish, baby pansies, candied pistachio and hydroponic watercress. The alternate salad served was mango, cucumber, crab and avocado timbale served with mango gazpacho. The entree was Colorado lamb rack chop with an infused sage-blackberry wine sauce, potato gratin and Swiss chard and baby vegetable saute. Dessert offerings were apple cognac cheesecake served with a caramel sauce and fresh vanilla whipped cream or an ice cream parfait with hot fudge and whipped cream with a cherry on top.

The gala was an exquisite evening for all who attended. Among the hard-working committee were Karen Deacy-Russell, Carolyn Gmelich, Maria Lopez, Maureen Housman, Susan Pickering, Todd and Debbie Brown, Scotti and Luke Strockis, Alan Abelhouzen, Sherry Gray, Peter Zwart, Carmen Arom, Laura Agakanian, Taline Kouyoumdjian, Lois Hankins, Brenda Pieroni, Christine Zika, Christina Jabarian, Liz Melehani, Monica Saldivar, Colleen Welsh, Lisa Whan, Debbie Zielinski, Marie Grimes, Ani Harutunian, Sandra Herman, Beth Krappman, Katy McCollum, Mary Jane Rittichier, Debbie Spathelf and Georgina Whitford.


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

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