Holiday spirits were bright and the competitors in good cheer at the annual Create Your Own Gingerbread House decorating competition, a fundraiser for the Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Even so, Linda Carbone, CEO of Florida's West Coast Region and the Tampa Bay Chapter, reminded guests of some sobering need: The Red Cross responded not only to those who suffered in Hurricane Sandy but also to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and many other efforts throughout the year.
The gingerbread event, hosted for 18 years now at the Loews Don CeSar Hotel, fills the ballroom, where co-chairs Karol Bullard and Mary Critchfield, master of ceremonies Dick Crippen and DJ Rob Vollmar keep everyone on task.
The judges — Margaret Word Burnside, Jen Holloway, Barry Spaulding and I — had a challenging task but managed to select these winners for 2012: Rosemary Manning, most awesome attire; Alyssa Woodard, child's fantasy house; Karin Carlan, most original; Karen Campbell, most traditional; Michele Tibbs, most fun; Suzanne Kemnetz, cookie rookie of the year; Pasadena Yacht and Country Club team, best group theme; Progress Energy team, best group theme runner-up; and Mary Miceli, best in show.
St. Petersburg debutantes, their fathers and grandfathers were guests of honor at a brunch hosted by Langston and Carol Holland, David and Lisa Meehan, Janet Raymond, Terri and Vincent Shook, Dick and Shawn Ulrich, Bob and Barbara Ulrich, Betty Willis and Bob and Sally Willis.
The celebration took place in the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.
"One Hot Cuban Night," a presentation of Tampa Bay International, offered food and music displays, photos and dance demonstrations in the social room at St. Petersburg's Bayfront Tower.
Ana Hartnett and Luisa Perez-Harvey were co-chairs for the event, which included a collaboration among the St. Petersburg North Fred Astaire Dance Studio, Sol Caribe Band of Tampa and Habana Cafe in Gulfport.
The organization is a social group for women of a variety of backgrounds who meet to promote global understanding and friendship through cultural and humanitarian activities.