FUSION's Tuscan Sun shines a light on Federal Way | Nandell Palmer

A year ago when I went to the mother of all events in Federal Way — FUSION — I was most embarrassed. I showed up in shorts and running shoes.

Forgive me, it was my first time, and nobody primed me as to the proper dress code.

Two months prior to my attending FUSION, I had gone to the Multi-Service Center’s Crab Feed over-dressed. But after seeing men in comfy shorts and Hawaiian shirts, I pledged never to be over-dressed again at another Federal Way event.

Thus, the reason for my showing up underdressed at the posh shindig. That’s when I found out belatedly that FUSION was not that kind of a party.

One glimpse of its founder, Peggy LaPorte, will readily give you extra doses of class, culture and taste. Thank goodness I was treated with the utmost respect by everybody with whom I had made contact.

When I attended FUSION’s “Under the Tuscan Sun” last Wednesday, I made sure to step it up sartorially. I felt very much in place at this festive occasion.

As the estimable LaPorte sashayed her Audrey Hepburn figure over the sprawling grounds at Dumas Bay Center, she went out of her way to mingle with patrons, and made everybody feel special. I am very new to this, having rubbed shoulders with people who have been attending FUSION for 17 years since its inception. But the first Wednesday in August will now become a blackout date for me.

Weather wise, we could not have asked for a nicer day. But as the Tuscan Sun subsided over Federal Way, I was touched by the sheer goodness of its people’s hearts.

People gave generously via biddings despite the financial struggles that still pervade our local and national economies.

The spirit of volunteerism was alive and well. I was struck by Nick Witherbee and Will Hill, along with other members of the Federal Way High School ROTC, under the leadership of Lt. Col. Randy Long, working nonstop with fixed smiles on their faces.

Simultaneously, a cadre of young men from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints worked assiduously, too, alongside countless other volunteers. They pulled down kiosks and tables and tents. They loaded trucks and cleaned up the lawn, and everything in between.

I am still wondering if Cindy Ducich and Janice Siebenaler ever said no to a volunteering position. Anywhere. They outdid themselves again in their respective roles at FUSION.

Kudos to Metropolitan Market for being a top sponsor of the event and for still showing a presence in Federal Way after their departure last December. Their scrumptious offerings of Italian-tinged chicken kebabs, pasta with aioli, clams and salad were decadently fabulous. In my view, the food was even better than last year’s.

Susan Toohey, before long, will be on some primetime cable show displaying her interior decorating talent for all the world to see.

The entrance at the Knutzen Theatre came alive with her gifted hands. The Tuscan Sun theme was carried out with much precision: Grapes and vines and sunflowers festooned the arbor, and some of them trellised to greet gladdened faces.

As soon as you made two steps under this beautiful canopy, there was no doubt that you were smack in the heartland of Tuscany.

Board President Bob Wroblewski presented an award to the Marine View Presbyterian Church in Northeast Tacoma, with Pastor Jon Schmick accepting the plaque. Wroblewski noted that the award was given only once before to another recipient in FUSION’s 17-year history.

I could not have been more pleased to see such a coveted award go to Pastor Schmick and his church. They have done more than their share in giving back not only to their community, but to missions in various countries.

Susie Horan and Keith Eldridge, of Komo 4 News fame, kept the crowd entertained and engaged, playing the roles of emcee and auctioneer, respectively.

Tenor Gino Lucchetti belted out a number of Italian favorites, but I was very partial to "O Sole Mio." ‘Twas like Pavarotti was onstage.

Now, I cannot wait to see what FUSION 2011 will bring.

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