Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Party was grandest of the grand

It was the party to end all parties — except that next year’s version of the spectacular shindig a few days ago at Andrews Osborne Academy in Willoughby could turn out to be even bigger than this year’s. And that would be saying a lot.

The enormous blast held April 28 at AOA, with 900 happy — deliriously happy — revelers taking part, exceeded last year’s attendance by 200. Where can we go from here?

Called the "Best of the East" party, it was staged in the field house of the school — a three-hour opportunity to dine, imbibe, listen to incredibly good music, mingle, socialize, and — oh yes — vote for your favorites in every imaginable category involving food, service, entertainment, health, shopping and children’s activities.

There were display tables and booths as far as the eye could see. I counted about 120, but through the din and excitement I could have been off by a couple.

When we entered the front door of the Jerome T. Osborne building, Head of School Chuck Roman was there to greet all the partygoers. He must have gotten tired of shaking hands, but he held up well throughout the evening.

Our first stop was in the VIP room, which on a normal school day serves as the cafeteria for AOA students. That night it was transformed into an enchanted fairyland of food, beverages and the magnificent singing of Don Disantis, a vocalist in the Sinatra style.

I’ve known this guy for many years. He never misses a note. He and his band guarantee to make any social occasion a success. He never disappoints.

His style of strolling among the tables and crooning recognizable ballads into a hand-held microphone makes you feel as if you are sitting in the band.

Well, we spent an hour or so there and then drifted into the field house. It was pandemonium. I’ve seen smaller crowds at Indians games.

On the big stage was an eight-piece band called, outrageously, Abby Normal and the Detroit Lean. Their garb was as loud as their music. And when they broke out into "Cut the Cake" I could swear I was listening to the Average White Band.

With all that was going on, I had to make sure I clung to my ballot so I could vote for my favorite restaurants, coffee houses, florists and entertainment spots.

And of course I had to stop at The News-Herald booth and tell Brian McCloskey I was voting for the Johnnycake Jog as my favorite charitable race.

He had on display the greatest example of quilt-making I have ever seen. I don’t know who did it, but somebody had sewn together the fronts of every T-shirt in the quarter-century history of the Jog.

What a job! What a project! What a visual lesson in the history of what I would nominate as the finest "run" in country!

(Since I was in a small room with two other men and came up with the idea for the Johnnycake Jog, naturally I would say that. And I would give most of the brainstorming credit to the other two, a couple of guys named Dud and Ted. But I digress.)

Andrews Osborne was the host and Cleveland Magazine was a sponsor of the evening, in which finalists in all the categories were nominated by Circle East live well, a publication of Great Lakes Publishing.

By the time the many nominees were distilled to three in each category, choices were difficult because there were no second-raters among any of the proud purveyors of food and service.

And Jerry O. himself was there, presiding over the table reserved for his family. He is truly a Great American and a delight to be around — as I have been aware most of my life.

In case you don’t know it, without "Ace" there would be no Andrews Osborne Academy, because without his generous infusion of a few million dollars, the former Andrews School would have gone out of business (bankrupt) about three years ago.

I know. I was on the board at Andrews for many years. And I was on the board that voted for the merger of Andrews with Phillips Osborne School in Painesville.

After the merger, I was perfectly willing to step aside and let the others do the heavy lifting to get the new school moving ahead — people like Bob Ranallo and Dan Fishwick and Tim Wright and Michelle Hauser from our board and Jerry O., Rick Sippola and Diane Osborne from the Phillips board — a dozen, all together.

We knew they could do the job — and they did, with a great deal of credit going to the hiring of Chuck Roman as head of school. He’s the catalyst who makes it all work.

Thanks to him and Jerry and the others, it is working spectacularly.

Remember, if Andrews hadn’t been saved, it would be a parking lot, or a shopping center, or a housing development by now.

Thank you, Jerry and Chuck and the rest of the AOA crew, for making good things happen. Everything there now is wonderful. The alternative was terrible. And the Best of the East was another glittering accomplishment for the place that is an institution in Willoughby.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Jim for the nice words about the Johnnycake quilt. It is not finished yet but soon will be.
Vandy Linhart

May 8, 2011 at 11:26 AM 

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