As every good hostess knows, a great deal of planning goes into a successful holiday party, especially when more than 800 guests are expected for the evening.
That is the task for Polly Grapes, director of the Campus Store at State Fair Community College, several members of her staff and Mike Matalone, food services manager for Great Western Dining at SFCC, and his staff, who prepare the food for Jingle on the Green, SFCC’s annual holiday gift to the community.
“This is our eighth annual celebration and it continues to grow each year,” Grapes said. “I love this time of year, especially as the trees take on their personalities and I watch them come to life.”
With six themed trees to decorate this year, Grapes spends several hours in the decorating phase for the event but the preparations begin much earlier.
“It really starts as soon as the last event is over, when I think about what worked and what may not have,” Grapes said. “I can always tell as I watch and listen to the reactions of the children and the people who come each year.
“I will have a vision in my head of what I want to do or I will be at a store and see something and it will stay with me and I’ll try to find a way to make it work,” Grapes added. “Sometimes it starts with something as small as one ornament that I see that has something special or unique about it.”
That is what inspired the “Sparkle Glitter” tree at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art.
When Grapes found a burgundy and gold ball ornament, she knew she had found a theme.
“When I pack the decorations away each year I found that it is best to do that by color,” Grapes said. “That way I know what I have to work with and when I discover something new I add to the collection.”
Grapes typically spends an hour and a half “fluffing” each tree before starting to add the ornaments and decorative touches.
The trees are either eight or nine feet tall and typically have more than 1,000 lights each.
“Usually it takes six to eight hours to decorate each tree,” Grapes said. “I usually like to do the work at night or on the weekends when I have less distractions,”
With more than 30 totes full of decorations, the challenge is making the tree different each year. The only theme that has been a constant for each of the eight years of the event is peppermint.
“We do some variation of peppermint every year,” Grapes said. “The red, white and green colors are traditional Christmas and the food works out too.”
As for the food, that is an event in the making each year.
“We try to keep everything a secret because each team is judged,” Matalone said. “It is a competition between the teams because the members of the winning team get a paid day off.”
Some things are not a secret about the six food displays, though.
“We probably go through 40 pounds of chocolate, 100 pounds of butter and 45 dozen eggs, and that’s just to start,” Matalone said. “We’ve been planning for weeks, ever since Polly told us the themes.
“We will spend at least three days baking and it will take five or six hours, just to put all the food out on the tables the day of the event,” Matalone said. “I can tell you right now there is a lot of trash-talking going on; it’s as bad as any pick-up basketball game.”
Hawkins and Assistant Director Laura Smith did let a few secrets slip about the menu.
Guests will be able to sample nutter butter reindeer, salted caramel rice crispy treats, crushed candy in white almond bark, fruit trees, chocolate fountains, petit fours, cupcakes, and an appearance by the Grinch, among other sweet treats.
“Polly always does a really fantastic job with the event and always gives us something good to work with,” Matalone and Smith both said. “We’re really excited about our part of the evening.”
A third part of the evening are the musicians who perform.
This year will feature 13 musical performances throughout the night including State Fair musicians and choirs, the Sedalia Chorale, area junior high and high school bands and choirs and a lever harpist.
One additional touch to make the night magical are the more than 1,000 luminaries that line the campus sidewalks lighting the paths for the guests.
“It takes an hour or more to get them all placed,” Courtney Hicks, operations manager for the Campus Store, said. “We have it down to a science and have a lot of help from the nursing, radiology and ag students to get them all placed and lit.
“The lighting always depends on the weather,” Hicks said. “We typically remove them that night; it really is fun to see the ag students stomp them out and ride around on their gators to pick them all up.”
Hicks said she feels the campus is never more beautiful than it is that night, something President Dr. Joanna Anderson agrees with.
“It is such a beautiful evening,” Anderson said. “It is our gift to the community for the support that they have shown us throughout the year.
“It is just a wonderful way to bring our campus and community together,” Anderson added.
Jingle on the Green will be hosted by SFCC from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available on all campus lots.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484