Seventeen hours into a 50-hour scrapbooking marathon, Raffie Siegal was still smiling. With butterfly print paper in hand, she placed photographs of her 3-year-old granddaughter Aubrey on each page.
"I'm trying to catch up on a year of scrapbooking," said Siegal, 66, of New Port Richey. "I'm that far behind. This marathon is a perfect way to catch up. I love making the books, and Aubrey will have them for the rest of her life and for her children."
Twenty people attended the marathon, which ran from 7 p.m. Friday to 9 p.m. on Sunday at the Largo Cultural Center. The event celebrated the Recreation Department's 50th anniversary. A $50 entry fee included three meals each day, snacks, coffee and cold drinks.
"We started at 7 last night, had popcorn for a late-night snack and raffled off two scrapbook baskets," said recreation manager Krista Pincince, 33. "We finished around 1:30 a.m. and were ready to go again at 7."
Scrapbookers staked out long tables covered with red cloths to cut, glue, emboss and create. They woke up with a walk around Largo Central Park and later enjoyed roundtable technique programs. They also had chances to win scrapbooking baskets and other door prizes raffled away over the two days.
Most of the women joked, laughed, nibbled snacks and sipped coffee as they designed pages and created embellishments. Some made books for themselves, others fashioned gifts to give away.
Tonia Jackson, 48, sifted through a pile of scalloped-edged, black-and-white photos. She studied each as she crafted a memory book for her mother, Doris. Jackson's mother has vascular dementia, an oxygen deficiency which results in memory loss and confusion. On this day, scrapbooking was bittersweet for Jackson as she created a gift of love meant to trigger memories and bring her mother comfort.
Jackson moved from Lakeland to Indian Shores four years ago and first started scrapbooking through a monthly program at Largo's Highland Recreation Complex.
"I'm doing this for my mother and me," said Jackson, visibly struggling with her emotions. "She's moving into an assisted living facility next Sunday. They recommended taking pictures with her. This one's of her and Dad forever ago. This is a family reunion with mom, her sisters, brothers, their spouses and her mom and dad. I don't know the years, but I can write who they are, maybe help her remember."
Memories and preserving happy moments — it's what scrapbooking is about. And having fun in the process.
One group of three women gathered for a reunion of sorts. Longtime scrapbooking friends, they call themselves the Paper Dolls.
Maria Klein, 47, of Clearwater; Linda Williams, 45, of Kenneth City; and Rhonda Crandall, 43, of Largo have been scrapbooking together for 10 years.
"We're here to catch up and get a break from our families," said Klein. "We all have active family lives with lots of responsibilities. This is an opportunity to be creative and get back to who we are as individuals."
Some participants found freedom in leaving supplies spread out across the table. After returning from the 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. scheduled "crop crash" — also known as sleeping — everything was still in place.
"People like being able to start working where they left off," said Charla Lucas, a Largo special events coordinator. "There are no worries about the kids touching something or the cat lying on your pages."
While the women brought their own supplies, in one corner of the room stood a table with ribbons, sheets of paper, borders, stickers, brads and embellishments — leftovers from monthly scrapbooking sessions at the complex. The rec center gathers them for anyone to use. Call it scrapbook sustainability.
"We usually have about eight hours of scrapbooking a month, but this is a major marathon," said Lucas, 30. "The Cultural Center has never hosted anything like it, and our hope is to make it an annual event."
Dawn Smolowitz, 46, who works at the rec center, attended the event with Raffie Siegal, her mother. Smolowitz has been scrapbooking since 2004. Both she and Siegal go to the monthly scrapbooking programs at Highland, but had never attended a marathon.
"This program is giving Mom and I time to spend together," said Smolowitz. "It's a memory for us. I'll take pictures throughout the weekend of her, the people and programs, and those will become pages in my memory book."