Fashionable fundraiser takes the stage | Eastern North Carolina Now

Downtown Washington came alive for the 2nd Annual Dress Rehearsal Fashion Show at The Turnage Theater in Washington.

Whimsy models lounge backstage before the 2nd Annual Dress Rehearsal Fashion Show: (pictured from left) Claire Beecher wearing Tracy Negoshian, Courtney Strickland wearing Ryu and Rachael Arnold wearing Ryu.

   Downtown Washington came alive Saturday for the 2nd Annual Dress Rehearsal Fashion Show at The Turnage Theater in Washington.

   The walkways and shops along Main Street and Stewart Parkway were unusually busy with people going to and from the 12:30 p.m. fashion show. They paused to have lunch or browse the boutiques amid their promenades under the long-awaited and newly born, warm, baby blue sky.

   Scotty Henly, executive director of The Turnage Theater, verified that 230, $20 tickets had been sold when the box office opened one hour before the show.

   The fashion show featured apparel from seven downtown shops: Everyday Creations, Stewarts Jewelry Store, Whimsy, Cat Bamboo, Charisma Boutique, Inner Banks Artisan Center and Blythe House.

   What was billed as a fundraiser for the theater, and intended as advertisement for the featured local boutiques and galleries, provided traffic and sales among all neighboring businesses. Even if they didn't have their own merchandise to showcase in the fashion show, some business owners donated their time and services to help make the day a success for the entire district.

   "This is all to benefit the Turnage, and if it helps the Turnage, it will help every business downtown, even if we're not represented in the fashion show," said Meredith Loughlin, owner of downtown's Lone Leaf Gallery & Custom Framing, who left her husband, Neil, to watch their shop, so she could model clothes for Whimsy.

   This is just the sentiment that Deborah Page Wright, owner of downtown’s Blythe House, hoped to inspire, when she took it upon herself to organize the event. Wright is the rare kind of person who can make volunteerism look fun.

   One of Wright’s models, Virginia Finnerty, moved to Washington from Florida just five weeks ago, and couldn’t believe she was already up on a stage modeling for an audience of strangers. She attributed her willingness to put aside her inhibitions to the indebtedness she feels to Wright’s help with decorating her new bed and breakfast, the Pamlico House.

   “Paige has been helping me unbelievably to get that all set up,” said Finnerty. “So when it was time to help her, how could I say no?”

   Wright was equally appreciative of all the girls who participated in what has become an annual fundraiser for The Turnage Theater.

   “The models today, I really appreciate their dedication and giving up a beautiful day--the first day of spring, of course,” said Wright. “What a wonderful way to celebrate it and for all the right reasons.”

   Each $20 ticket sold went into a raffle for a $500 prize. At the show's end, Wright joined Master of Ceremonies Janet Cox on the stage for the raffle.

   “My, you got the best seat in the house, and you won the raffle!” laughed Cox, upon announcing the winner, who had purchased seat A110.

Before the show, several stylists from downtown’s Capelli Salon helped the models primp and preen in a backstage dressing room. Pictured above, Lisa Smith-Gargaro, owner the salon, was working on her fourth hairstyle of the morning. Brittany Fravel, daughter of Jayne Meisell, manager of Charisma Boutique, requested curls for her turn on the catwalk.

Janet Sueiro Rodman modeled earrings and necklaces from Stewart's Jewelry Store.

Meredith Loughlin and Mary Margaret Fowle modeled JWLA clothing from Whimsy.

As the finale, all of the models danced onstage, joined by Richard Young, dressed as past Hollywood star Tiny Tim in a suit from The Salvation Army, playing his ukulele.

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