‘Folly’ holiday too good to have missed

Published 9:36 pm Thursday, December 11, 2008

More than 150 intrepid guests braved the wind and cold to attend the stunning Christmas presentation held by staff and volunteers at Riddick’s Folly on Dec. 5. For those who stayed at home by their television sets, I’d like to tell you what you missed.

First, the short walk from the overflowing parking lot was enhanced by music provided by the Brass Choir of Old Dominion University. These talented musicians played selections of seasonal music, setting the tone for the festive evening.

Riddick’s Folly board members greeted attendees as they entered the house, giving background and inviting guests into the parlor, where “family” members in lovely period dress gave an interesting vignette of a period Christmas, as guests were invited to add ornaments to a beautifully decorated tree.

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In the next room, a couple danced and discussed the looming war. Two gentlemen sat in Mr. Riddick’s office discussing the politics of the period. Guests were then invited to the upper floors of the mansion, where they observed the lady of the house at prayer, children being read a bedtime story, a Union soldier, and a father and daughter as they prepared to greet their guests. All wore elaborate period costumes.

On the ground floor by the newly renovated kitchen, freed slaves presented a touching discussion of the Emancipation Proclamation and explained how it had affected their lives. Spiced cider and cookies were served outside the Folly Shop, which was open and filled with unique offerings.

Museum director Phillip Staten, Robert Archer and Jean Steingold, as well as all the volunteer actors, are to be commended for this worthy event. If you missed it, you missed a highlight of Suffolk’s Christmas season this year.

The one sour note of the evening was the “Where’s Waldo?” exercise members of my tour group engaged in, as we tried without success to recognize a single attendee from either the city staff or the City Council.

No wonder support for the arts and cultural events seems so lukewarm in Suffolk. It is difficult to support what you do not know.