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Gualala Arts

Promoting public interest and participation in the arts since 1961.

Archive of past events: 2004 through 2014

2011: Festival - Entertainment - Map - How to Enter - Judges - Awards - Sponsors - Quilt Raffle - Volunteers - Program

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call Gualala
Arts Center

Art in the Redwoods Festival
Top Hat Dinner (2011)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Doors open at 6:00 p.m.
Dinner served 7:00 p.m.

Art in the Redwoods Festival logo

The Top Hat dinner signaling the start of the Art in the Redwoods festival was originally on Friday night for many years, but since 2007 the Top Hat dinner on Thursday has been the gala kickoff to the annual event.

Each year Gualala Arts honors an artist or friend of the arts. In 2007, Duane Gordon was honored, in 2008 it was Dwight Eberly. Elaine Jacob was feted in 2009 and last year Bob and Edith Holmes shared the honor.

Art in the Redwoods Top Hat Dinner, photo credit: Barbara Pratt, 2008 The Top Hat opening dinner and wine celebration at the Gualala Arts Center starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 18 this year. Retired Bay Area caterer and event planner John Linderman is on board this year as the executive chef. John has been active in the community and has donated his talent and food to many organizations and Gualala Arts is thrilled to have him.

His company, Cheese Please Catering in San Mateo, carries on the tradition of exceptional food by his son Erik. Last year he was honored as the most valued member of The San Francisco Professional Food Society. He spends his time between The Sea Ranch and Bali and promises an outstanding dinner for all. John believes in team spirit and has rounded up the help of some local providers.

Gualala Arts would like to thank Chuckie Sorensen of Gualala Supermarket, Jennifer Arana from Let Them Eat Cake, Mark and Paulo from Gelati Pazzo Marco and Tim Dan from Saag's Meats. A big thanks goes to Rich from Red Dog Farms for his donation of local organic leg of lamb.

John and his team have put together a terrific menu that includes appetizers and a four course dinner including an amuse bouche, salad, main course and dessert.

"We know this year's 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner will be one to remember," says Gualala Arts. "Thanks to John, his team and all the people who have donated to make this a true fundraiser for Gualala Arts."

Top Hat diners will enjoy a sneak peek preview of the Fine Art Exhibit even before it is judged during the cocktail hour before dinner.

The event this year honors Kathy DiMaio and Betty O'Neil for their founding concepts that led to the creation of Art in the Redwoods and on to Gualala Arts.

By attending the Top Hat dinner you also receive a VIP Festival pass. Reservations for dinner ($150, in- cludes $100 donation) are recommended as it usually sells out. If you missed this year's dinner, please sign up early for next year.

Included in the VIP Festival Pass is the Friday, August 19 Champagne Preview from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. with award presentations and the judge's critiques. The fine art exhibit will be available for viewing and the first opportunity to purchase when doors open to the gallery at 4:30 p.m.

The heart of the festival is the magnificent exhibit of fine art throughout the building, including oil paintings, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, drawings, photographs, sculpture, woodworking, stained and fused glass, jew- elry and fiber arts - most of them for sale. The Top Hat VIP Pass also includes admission on Saturday and Sunday August 20 & 21.

Top Hat Honorees

On the 50th anniversary of Art in the Redwoods, it is appropriate that Gualala Arts recognize the two women who were instrumental in organizing the very first event in 1961.

Kathy DiMaio and Betty O'Neil Neither Kathy DiMaio or Betty O'Neil could envision the current four-day event housed in the Gualala Arts Center nor the organization that sponsors more than 1,600 events annually. But their idea created the vision and the reality visitors to this year's Art in the Redwoods see.

Top Hat, the premier event that now kicks off Art in the Redwoods, is limited to 100 tickets each costing $150 that include a VIP Festival Pass with a preview showing of the exhibit. At that first event, the refreshments consisted of home-made goods brought in by the organizers and accompanied by coffee and soft drinks.

Both octogenarians have a long history in the local community. O'Neil came to Gualala in 1956 to raise her young family as a single mother with the help of her parents. She worked seven and a half years for Gualala Lumber before becoming a mortgage loan officer at Sea Ranch for 16 and a half years. An avid gardener, she was inspired to have a summer garden show similar to one she attended in Oakland.

Also a gardener, a painter and a close friend, DiMaio grew up on the Mendocino coast. She was born in Cleone. At one time she worked in Fort Bragg for the California Western Railroad, now better known as the Skunk Train. She worked as a teacher's aide, at the Surf Super and at The Sea Ranch post office. She married Bob Rubel in 1948 and was involved in the timber business in Leggett, Ukiah, Annapolis and eventually Gualala. She remembers the time when the only three phones in town belonged to Ida Bower, the McNamee family store and the gas station.

Both women continued to organize Art in the Redwoods for a second year. This time the theme was a Japanese Garden complete with appropriate decorations. However, soon growing family and work obligations consumed the time of these independent, self-sufficient women and the task of putting on Art in the Redwoods became the responsibility of others.

The Top Hat dinner also had historical if less sophisticated origins in earlier Art in the Redwoods festivals. When the event was held in downtown Gualala, homemade baked goods were replaced by outdoor cafes under a canopy next to the Community Center. The 1982 event featured wine tasting in the "Redwood Garden." By 1984 it was called Le Café Forêt and that year an Artists' Ball was held in the Gualala Hotel.

Later, on the ridge, the Midsummer Faire offered authentic bangers and the Lions Club volunteered in both beverage booths and at the barbecue pits. For several years the evening meal and subsequent entertainment was called "Feast and Frolic" with dinner at the hotel followed by a musical performance or dancing at Ocean Song.

So this year's dinner is simply the latest manifestation of an Art in the Redwoods long tradition, another aspect of the idea first cooked up by Betty O'Neil and Kathy DiMaio 50 years ago.

Gualala Arts 50th anniversary logo

The Gualala Arts Center, located at 46501 Old State Highway in Gualala, CA,
is open weekdays 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and weekends from noon to 4:00 p.m.
Please call (707) 884-1138 for more information, or email

Join us in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Gualala Arts, 1961 - 2011

Serving the coastal communities of northern Sonoma & southern Mendocino Counties.