When Darby Jung, president of the St. Petersburg Debutante Club, asked her father about opening the home of her grandparents for a coffee to introduce the 2008 debs, the answer came quickly.
"I immediately said, 'Of course,' " David Knowlton said. " 'Your grandmother would have wanted you to do that.' It worked out very well."
Jung and her sisters, Kim Kennedy, Kerry Dobbs and Libby Knowlton, all were present for the morning gathering at the home of family patriarch John Knowlton, as were their cousins Kristin Georgevich and Corrie Stover, and their aunts Trina Kaufhold and Shannon Knowlton. All of those women have been debutantes at the annual Presentation Ball, traditionally held the week between Christmas and New Year's.
For many years, John Knowlton was the master of ceremonies for the event. Betty Knowlton, his wife, who died in 1999, was the club's longtime adviser, the liaison between the selection committee and mothers of the debs.
To describe the two as beloved is an understatement: Many alumni debutantes at the party remembered having their photographs taken in the Knowlton home.
Talk at the coffee was of the family's history of hospitality, the glittering waterfront, and the history of the house, designed in the mid 1950s by Petersburg architect William Harvard Sr.
Evelyn Moorefield, who succeeded Betty Knowlton as adviser to the young women, introduced the class of 2008.
Seventeen debutantes will be presented Dec. 30 at the Coliseum:
Allyson Stewart DeCresie, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Joseph DeCresie; Florida State University.
Amaya Felisa DeVicente, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jose Manuel DeVicente; University of Florida.
Andrea Caroline Dreyer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Richard Dreyer; Florida State University.
Stephanie June Ellis, daughter of Mrs. Marian Yon Maguire; Tallahassee Community College.
Jillian Lennox Gairing, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Lennox Gairing; Centre College, Danville, Ky.
Madison Elissa Marie Kebler, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Albright Kebler; Randolph College, Lynchburg, Va.
Anna Marie Keegan, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Patrick Keegan; Florida State University.
Kimberley Jeanne Levitt, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Myles Howard Levitt; Duke University.
Madison Dabbs McGrath, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Scott McGrath; Mars Hill College, Mars Hill, N.C.
Anna Ford Mosby, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Davenport Mosby; Duke University.
Ryan Nicole Orobello, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Peter William Orobello; Rollins College.
Christine Lynn Sayler, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Alan Page Sayler; University of South Florida.
Rachael Shauna Silverstein, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Murray Bruce Silverstein; University of South Florida.
Rosie Harvey Stovall, daughter of Dr. George William and Mrs. Jane Stovall; University of the Arts, Philadelphia.
Kendyl Barbara Tash, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Clifford Tash; Duke University.
Alexandra Louise Walker, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Frank Walker; Beacon College, Leesburg.
Laura Ann Winkler, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Philip Winkler; Elon University, Elon, N.C.
Wrapping up a busy year of voluntarism at a dinner meeting in the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, the Junior League of St. Petersburg recognized three members for outstanding service.
The Mailande Holland Barton award, named for one of the founding members and the first president of the St. Petersburg league, went to Kerry Kriseman. Among her achievements are helping to establish the Family Visitation House, chairing several committees, serving on the executive board and volunteering with the Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco counties, Great Explorations, Family Service Centers and the Holocaust Museum.
Mrs. Kriseman, her husband, state Rep. Rick Kriseman, and their children were on vacation in Virginia earlier this week as fire destroyed their home.
The league is accepting financial donations on their behalf. Checks may be made to the Junior League of St. Petersburg (note "Kriseman family" on the memo line), 500 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, Suite 201, St. Petersburg, FL 33705. The phone number is (727) 895-5018. Contributions are not tax deductible.
The league honored Pat Mason with its Virginia H. Lazzara Sustainer of the Year Award, named for the woman who gave much to the community and died in 1986.
Mason, a founder and current executive director of First Night, a New Year's Eve arts festival, is a former president of the league and has been a leader in numerous civic projects.
New member Ashley Surdyk received the Tomorrow's Leader Award in recognition for her strong leadership skills, perfect attendance, resourcefulness and generosity.
The inaugural Anne Register Anderson Memorial Scholarship Award, named for a former league president who died in 2006, went to Linda Lee, a young woman who overcame numerous challenges while living in foster care for more than nine years.
She has been active as a community volunteer and hopes to attend college and eventually to help shape public policy, especially as it affects foster children and other vulnerable young people.