Tuesday, December 27, 2011

{Event} Party at the Barn!

Each year our children's school holds a ceilidh style "kitchen party" fundraiser.  Beginning in January 2012, Armbrae Academy will be celebrating its 125th Anniversary, and when I signed on as the volunteer event coordinator for all the 125th anniversary festivities, I figured we could start a little early with the planning of the kitchen party event!  Its no secret now how much I LOVE to design a dessert table for any event, but with this event I was getting to do the full meal deal....design, decor, food, etc!  It was very exciting to be trusted with the task.

When I first set foot in the century old barn owned by Catherine and Alex {parents and staff at Armbrae}, it only took a few minutes for me to close my eyes and visualize the entire night unfolding...the lights...twinkling and glowing, the sounds of music, the food, and of course...the dessert table!  It is a tradition to hold the kitchen party, now deemed, The Party at the Barn, in the home of parents of the school.  Alex also happens to be a teacher at Armbrae and when they offered the barn as the location for this year we were incredibly thrilled!

Barb, the Director of Development for the school, was the go-to person for all things operational, thank goodness!  With any event it takes a team to execute the details and certainly this was no exception.  Volunteer parents came forward to offer their expertise in marketing, online registration, and helped get things off the ground with a fabulous face lift to a favorite school event.  We were on our way!

Now it was time to bring all those details swirling around in my head to fruition.  The number one item on my agenda was making sure we had the right food....so I turned to the person I knew would fit the bill, Dennis Johnston of FID Resto.  He is a magician with food...to put it simply.  And he also happens to be an alumni of Armbrae.  Dennis not only agreed to do the food for the event but offered to come the night of the party and work the kitchen.  He was so much fun to work with and everyone loved visiting him in the kitchen throughout the night.

Once I new that all the food was under control I focused on the dessert table and the decor.
All of my trusted contributors came through for me again {see a full list of them below} and this time I even had a new dessert guru willing to donate her amazing goodies to our event.  I felt so lucky!  Joanne MacLennan {Cake Poppin Fun} is a mother of five and a cake pop artist.  We were introduced by a mutual friend and after speaking on the phone I knew that Joanne was a very special person.  She agreed to make some extra special cake pops for the dessert table to match the theme.  They not only looked amazing they were exceptionally delicious!

I wanted the barn to take on the feel of a wedding in a barn....just without the wedding.  I pictured white lights everywhere!  After speaking with my friend Fred and hearing about his use of white lights in a recent photo shoot I knew I could pull off the perfect tone for the evening.....all with several hundred white lights!  A huge thank you to my friend Sonja for her help stringing the lights all over the barn!

Catherine and Alex have set up this amazing space to be an art studio,  musical gathering place, and a place to gather friends and family.  So little needed to be done to transform it into the Party at the Barn.
Catherine is a well-known Cape Breton fiddler and Nova-Scotian artist.  She got to work organizing several notable fixtures on the local music scene, all drawing upon a variety of musical traditions unique to their own heritage.....including Irish, Scottish, English, Celtic and Native roots!

Her art work hung the walls of the barn and all the little details started to come together.  After a trip into the downstairs storage I was given full access to anything in the barn to be used for decor....well this was a treasure waiting to be discovered!  Catherine has a keen eye for old finds, turning them into useful treasures.  I felt like a kid in a candy store.  I brought up old wooden spools to support tubes filled with lights and hung old lanterns everywhere, giving things an illuminating glow.  A few days before the event I enticed our babysitter Claire to help me with some final details.  She worked tirelessly and even helped me carry up large wooden planks from the backyard to build a table!  

Once again Jennifer Partridge {Partridge Photography} made her appearance to capture the true essence of the evening.  It is one of her busiest times of year....so I was particularly grateful!!  She even took a little extra time to give me a photography lesson in lighting.

It was an incredible night!  The music was amazing, the food was delicious, and the crowd was the largest in attendance at a kitchen party yet!  As part of the kitchen party tradition, every guest brings their favorite wine, beer or spirit to the party to be auctioned off later in the night in a fun and entertaining live auction {my husband kept us all entertained this year with his auctioneer antics!}.
The Party at the Barn raised thousands of dollars, all to support the amazing educational, social, and cultural aspects that make Armbrae the school that it is.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen...and for trusting me to organize it!
A huge thank you to all the contributors for the delicious dessert table!

Jenna Durling {Little Red Kitsch'n} ::     oatmeal cranberry cookies
Tracey Lowe ::     leaf cookies, s'mores cups
Nadine Boutilier {Femme Fondants} ::     cupcakes
Joanne MacLennan {Cake Poppin Fun} ::   cake pops!
Jennifer O'Connor {Forty 4 Change} ::     s'mores buffet, oreo packages, chocolate chip double dipped cookies, candy jars

With two more postings to go and a full account of The Tree of Change, its all drawing to a close.....


  1. I think I say this every time but "this was one of my favorite tables!" xx

  2. Hi there, my name is Jennifer, I'm an event planner for ZedEvents. Ian McKinnon passed along your blog and it's great! I'm wondering if you could give me a contact for Cake Poppin Fun - I would love to see a rough price list for those suckers, my clients would love them. My email is jenniferdavies@zed.ca
    Thanks so much!