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Book-themed birthday party features feather boas, faux bubbly and fun

When Ann Hockman pondered her contribution to this year's auction to benefit Bethany Crisis Nursery, she was inspired by "Fancy Nancy" children's books.

When Ann Hockman pondered her contribution to this year's auction to benefit Bethany Crisis Nursery, she was inspired by "Fancy Nancy" children's books.

The books feature a little girl who loves fancy, frilly things, getting dressed up and being pampered. Hockman, who regularly reads the books to her granddaughter, liked Nancy's spirit.

"It's not about wearing expensive, formal clothes; it's about frills," said the Superior woman. "Nancy is not a beauty. This is a little girl who does her own thing. She's her own person, she has her own style."

Hockman decided to offer a party for 10 girls, ages 4-9.

"It's a fun, over-the-top theme," said Hockman, who isn't new to organizing unusual food-related auction items. Last year, she set up a private baking session for 25 people with local cookbook author Bea Ojakangas.

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Hockman credits her recent idea to the women from the Shriners, who last spring sold tickets for a princess party, complete with hairstyling, manicures and a style show. But Hockman wasn't sure how a fancy children's party would fare at the Aug. 1 Take Time For Kids Live and Silent Auction, Bethany's largest annual fundraiser.

Katherine Rubin, who was volunteering at the auction, happened to have an 8-year-old daughter who would soon turn 9.

A strong supporter of the work done by the Lutheran Social Service's nursery, Rubin had already planned to contribute so she bid $800. Hoffman's employer, Curt Teberg of the Teberg Fund, threw in another $200. The $1,000 was twice Hockman's minimum bid goal.

"It was a lot of money, but it didn't matter -- up to a point -- because I knew all of it was going to go to the crisis nursery," Rubin said. "I just think it's a good cause. There's lots of unfortunate kids."

Party planning

For two months, Hoffman immersed herself in party planning, from recruiting volunteers to working on details such the heart-shaped markers for the "Fancy Nancy" bingo game created for the party. A 12-year-old girl served as a consultant to make sure party games and other activities were age-appropriate.

Hoffman took advantage of 50 percent off coupons at Michael's Arts and Crafts, looked for ideas at discount stores and scoured sales racks at Younkers for accessories for a style show. She also collected hats, scarves, jewelry, purses and gloves -- the more extravagant the better -- from friends and neighbors.

Hoffman rounded up volunteers from Wisconsin Indian Technical College in Superior to do the girls' hair and nails, another volunteer to do face painting and three young women to serves as models. Her daughter, Elizabeth, read a "Fancy Nancy" book to the guests. To serve the food, Teberg donned formal attire and his wife, Kris, wore a chef's jacket. Family and friends also helped with party details.

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For appetizers, Hoffman chose a faux champagne punch and crackers with cheese cut in heart shapes. Lunch featured cookie cutter sandwiches, small fruit kabobs, chips, a relish tray, fancy sugar cookies and, of course, cake and ice cream.

PINK THEME

When they arrived at the Marshall School on Saturday, the 10 young guests found tables decked out in pink and white tablecloths, pink flowers and pink balloon bouquets. Tables were set with polka dot dishes on white doilies with pink utensils and napkins tied with a bow. Accents of heart shapes and polka dots were everywhere. The tiered birthday cake was elaborately decorated with pink and white frosting.

"Isn't this great!" Allison McKenna said with excitement as she walked in. "I should have brought my tiara."

The 9-year-old didn't need to worry. When she had her hair styled and nails polished, Allison was presented with a tiara and a boa that she could keep.

The girls played pin the heart on Nancy. With a table full of extravagant accessories, they fancied up three young models.

"I'm really having fun," said Nora Johnson, 8, sporting her boa and a new "do." "It's different from any party I've ever been to. It's really pretty, especially the little bags we get to put all our stuff in."

Each girl took home a gift bag filled with prizes, goodies and a "Fancy Nancy" book donated by HarperCollins, the series publisher.

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Allison was all smiles.

"No one else has had one of these kind of parties," she said as the time for cake approached. "I like the way they decorated and the different things you can do like face painting."

Meanwhile, Anna Rubin, the guest of honor, waited for her "best part" of the party -- opening presents.

As the 2ยฝ-hour party ended, the girls who had largely been reserved when they arrived were bubbly as their parents picked them up.

Hoffman, who worn a fluffy boa, was pleased.

"I think the girls had a good time," she said.

CANDACE RENALLS is at 723-5329 or e-mail: crenalls@duluthnews.com .

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