GAAC brings south-of-the-border flavor to Greenville

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 12, 2006

It's amazing what a group of talented, energetic people can do. Last weekend, a plain, utilitarian structure at the Butler County Fairgrounds was completely transformed into a lovely Mexican mercado, complete with a strolling mariachi band, glowing fairy lights and vivid colors everywhere you looked.

The occasion was the Greenville Area Arts Council's Annual Benefit Gala and Silent Auction. This year's Mexican fiesta theme proved a hit with the attendees.

&#8220Isn't this great? They did a wonderful job decorating the place. And I just love the mariachi band,” Annabel Markle said.

Many of the ladies present got into the fiesta spirit, donning embroidered blouses, peasant skirts and bohemian jewelry. Nancy Jones tucked a colorful blossom behind her ear and played bingo with gusto.

From colorful striped blankets and giant paper flowers to sombreros and dozens of strands of multi-colored mini lights, the gala's decorations and its brightly clad guests all added to the festive ambience of the evening.

&#8220This was a great idea. They come up with a different theme each year and it's always fun to discover what they are going to do,” Liza Berry said as she sipped one of the tasty orange soft drinks at a table near the &#8220cantina.”

April Thigpen didn't let her broken foot stop her from having a good time at Saturday night's event. Grabbing a prop ukulele, Thigpen had fun strumming along with the salsa music pounding through the speakers.

Earlier in the evening, the tunes were provided by the talented four-man Mariachi Band Garibaldi, who delighted the crowd with traditional favorites such as &#8220Cielito Lindo” and &#8220La Bamba.”

There were a few not-so-traditional faves, too.

&#8220Earlier, they actually played some Elvis songs…and that song, what is it, ‘Turkey in the Straw'? Only they gave it their special mariachi touch,” Jill Stallworth of the GAAC board laughed.

The band moved around the &#8220market,” giving everyone a chance to enjoy their musicianship as well as pausing to playfully pose with guests, including a laughing Jean Bauer.

A variety of flavorful dips, tortilla chips, tamales and other south-of-border taste treats were offered to guests, who were wowed by a magnificent arrangement of gladioli in vivid shades of orange, red, and yellow as the table's centerpiece.

Hundreds of items were offered in the silent auction, including furs and leather from Henig Furs of Montgomery, original paintings by local artists such as Lucy McGowin and Frances Frakes, gift baskets for everyone from sports fans to gardening enthusiasts and a number of gift certificates, all donated by area businesses and individuals.

There was everything from fish forks and fishing flies to designer handbags and gas cards (once again a very popular item).

&#8220There's a lot to see. I've made it down one side, now I am ready for the other one,” Susan Haigler said with a smile as she headed for more treasures to bid on.

Members of Beta Sigma Phi, a service sorority in Montgomery, were again on hand to man the cantina, gaming tables, assist with the auction and help keep everything running like clockwork during the evening.

&#8220Oh, we couldn't do it without them. There aren't enough of us, to begin with, and they manage everything so well. We get a chance to enjoy the event,” Stallworth said.

Occasional happy shouts were heard from winners, who traded their chips in for vouchers to be used toward auction items.

Charles Haigler III showed off his voucher for $193 with a grin. &#8220Not too bad, huh?”

After an evening of good music, good food and drink, fun and games and fabulous bargains, it was time for the auction to close.

Shoppers rushed to their spots to see if they still had the winning bids. Some hopes were dashed, while others proudly grabbed the bid sheets and lined up to pay for their items.

&#8220Miss” Bobbie Gamble, membership chair for the GAAC, made a quick tour around the floor as the auction wound down and gave a nod of approval.

&#8220This is good, it's good. I'm seeing names on the sheets. That means people have been bidding.”

The monies raised through the event go to fund upcoming productions of the GAAC, some of which cost more than $10,000 to bring to the Camellia City.

The GAAC presents three to four professional productions on the stage of the Ritz each season, bringing the best of Broadway, Las Vegas and more to a hometown audience.

&#8220We appreciate the support of all those who donated items to this auction, our members for all their work in decorating and preparing the delicious food, those who sponsored our band and cantina, and those who came and bid on items. We couldn't do all this without you,” Gamble said.