Skene Manor basket party on Saturday


I f you’ve never seen a small fireplace inside a basket, chances are you’ve never been to the Skene Manor Basket Party.

The event features at least 100 baskets — sometimes more — and is one of the largest events of its type in the area, attracting upwards of 300 people.

“It’s the largest one-day fundraiser for the manor,” said Jean Vladyka, who organizes the event each year with her twin sister Joan.

This year’s event will be held on Saturday, Nov. 24, in the drill room of the former Whitehall Armory, now the Whitehall Athletic Club.

“It’s always held on the Saturday following Thanksgiving,” said Joan. “People know the Saturday after Thanksgiving is the basket party.”

For many, the event is an enjoyable alternative to throngs of overzealous shoppers patronizing the area’s malls and big stores the day before.

“It’s a lot of fun and people really look forward to it,” said Joan.

Jean and Joan, who are often called upon by other organizations for their expertise in planning basket parties — they played a role in the Distinguished Young Women basket party last month — spend months planning the event.

“We started nearly two months ago. You have to start early,” said Jean.

“The last two weeks are real busy, but there’s a lot of background work before then,” said Joan.

Each basket and the items there within are all donated by volunteers, friends of the Skene Manor, local businesses and individuals. Once the items have been received, Joan and Jean bundle and package the contents into neat and attractive packages.

On Friday, the twin sisters were busy arranging, packing and wrapping baskets of every imaginable shape and size.

The variety of baskets is extensive. Baskets were scattered throughout the manor, piled on tables, under Christmas trees, in the dining room, the kitchen, foyer and a few side rooms.

Listening to Jean and Joan describe the kinds of baskets is reminiscent of the movie “Forrest Gump,” when Bubba is describing types of shrimp (“You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. Dey’s uh, shrimp kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp …”).

There are Italian gourmet baskets, Kobalt tool baskets, a bird feeder basket, kitchen-themed baskets, a baby doll basket, a Spider Man basket, maple syrup baskets, holiday-themed baskets, and many, many more.

“There’s a little of everything for everyone,” said Joan. “There’s beautiful baskets, big baskets.”

But baskets aren’t the only items that can be had at the party.

There will be a number of raffle items (a raffle ticket is included with admission), including a Kindle Fire, a handmade quilt, and four dinners for two (valued at $240) at the manor.

Organizers will also announce the winners of the Skene Manor’s annual fuel raffle, which helps cover heating costs at the century-old building. Only 300 tickets are sold for the annual raffle and the top prize is $1,000. Tickets cost $25 and will be available during the basket party.

The doors of the Whitehall Athletic Club will open at 11 a.m. and patrons will have an opportunity to view the assortment of baskets and decide how to spend their tickets. Drawings are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Admission is required for anyone who is at least five years old. The cost is $8 and includes a light lunch (sandwiches, chips, cookies and a beverage) as well as a sheet of 25 tickets. Additional sheets of tickets will be available for $2 each.

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