Extreme Entertaing – With Sharon Tuntland
She calls it “entertaining for a cause,” but that seems too simplistic when looking at the long list of impressive events Sharon Tuntland has held at her home or organized as a community event. Her name is synonymous with fundraising. Her private parties are legendary. Her energy seems endless.
The Tuntlands had always liked entertaining in the more conventional sense, but in the last 15 years or so, they have gone way outside the norm. “Because we have been blessed in so many ways, we feel it’s important to give back,” says Sharon.
Many organizations have benefited from the creative endeavors of Sharon and her husband, Al. Sharon enjoys hosting themed parties at their personal residence and diverse public locations. Some are elegant: masked balls and Mozart. Others are laid back and casual: pool parties and potlucks. Sharon sorted their entertaining into five categories.
1. CHARITABLE DOINGS
Many philanthropic endeavors have benefited young people. “I have worked with children my whole life. As the oldest on a family farm, I grew up taking care of three younger siblings. I taught Sunday School, majored in education and taught for seven years,” Sharon says.
“When our children were in school, I seemed to be the mother hen for the neighborhood brood,” Sharon recalls. “I first became involved in charitable event planning as a Hoover PTA volunteer. I enjoyed the camaraderie of working with a team of people. It seemed an easy step to broaden my involvement to include the youth of Rochester.”
Fourteen years ago, Sharon hosted a house party with guest speaker Robbie Calloway, senior Vice President of Boys and Girls Club of America (B&GCR). The express purpose was to introduce its programs and services to community leaders with the goal to start a club in Rochester.
Another evening found 80 friends in her recreation room playing Beanie Baby Bingo for the B&GCR. Recently she hosted Youth Art Showcase in the intimate lobby of the Rochester Civic Theatre. Highlighting framed photography and club member stage performances, the evening’s guest attendance benefited the B&GCR.
The event she is most proud of getting off the ground is the Chair Affair. The 2014 Chair Affair will be held on February 22. “I served as co-chair of the first event in 2003. I continued for 10 years. It was exciting to watch attendance grow from 250 to 550 and revenue for the B&GCR increase from $40,000 to $250,000,” she recalls.
Sharon organized The Big Party Downtown using two floors at The Shops at University Square. Food, drink, a live band and casino games benefited the youth mentoring organization.
“I also believe the arts add substantially to the quality of life. An active arts community helps us all come together as we enjoy music, theatre, dance or visual arts.”
She hosted two Mozart House Parties promoting attendance at the Rochester Symphony Orchestra’s Mozart concerts. Held on two levels of her home, live vocal and instrumental performances of Mozart music filled one level, while German and Viennese appetizers and desserts filled the other. Maestro Jere Lantz entertained the crowd with engaging comments about the life and music of Mozart.Other ideas produced the Autumn Gala, Roaring ’20s, Mardi Gras and Great Gatsby parties which have benefited the orchestra as well.
2. SHOWING YOUR APPRECIATION
Sharon excels at creating themed appreciation receptions. Major donors to Minnesota Public Radio were treated to a special performance by Ahn Trio, three sisters who are based out of New York. For the History Center of Olmsted County, a holiday party said thank you with a giant tree, good food and fellowship. There was the Candlelight and Cake Reception for B&GCR donors. Receptions have been held throughout the community in the Riverside Building, the Plummer House, Historic Third Street, the Gilded Star and Hamilton Music.
Sharon looks around town, matches the event to a location and comes up with a theme. “Sometimes I have a theme and then find somewhere that would work.”
3. POOLSIDE POLITICS
A backyard pool at the Tuntlands often played host to a variety of parties including fundraising receptions for US Congress, State Senate and gubernatorial candidates.
“Our most famous guest speaker was Bob Dole. That was exciting.exciting!” says Sharon. “The receptions ranged from 20 in our family room to 250 gathered around the pool. People enjoy parties poolside. It’s not as formal as other locations.”
4. BIRTHDAY BASHES
There’s nothing like a birthday for her husband, children or family to get Sharon’s creative juices flowing. “When our kids were little, we had a birthday bike ride party where we biked the Douglas Trail. Another time we trucked the tricycles to Silver Lake, decorated them and rode around the lake before playing in the park,” Sharon reminisces. “We had a Tom and Jerry cartoon party, a yellow brick road party, a Sesame Street pool party at the Country Club and countless sleepovers.”
Her husband fondly remembers past parties given in his honor. For his 40th, it was a Plummer House party with guests from his past. His 50th was a Mississippi River theme with boating at a cabin, and at 60 he found a flock of pink flamingos on the lawn.
“When he turned 70, I gave three parties. Surprise guests spent a weekend, we had a reunion of past employees and ended with a catered backyard dinner for 90 guests. When Mom turned 90, we had a Bingo party with individualized Bingo cards that pertained to her life.”
5. FUN TIMES ARE HERE TO STAY
When her kids were small, Sharon changed their play room into a fort, school, library, circus, forest or hospital when friends came over. The game night parties began when the kids played high school sports, Sharon recalls. They would watch videos of the game, sing karaoke and “the pool got a good workout too.”
“I enjoyed the block parties we had on Telemark Lane. One year we organized a boulevard tree planting project. Not all parties are big. We like small gatherings in our media room when there is a special event such as the Super Bowl, election night or New Year’s Eve. Friends gather to watch the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.”
How does she do it?
“Ask for help; you’ll find people are very generous. Committees, speakers, performers, servers and co-hosts enjoy doing something different and unique to raise money for worthwhile causes,” Sharon advises.
Catering is a necessity for big groups: “My favorite is a light buffet with an assortment of appetizers. For medium size parties, I work with others and we share food preparation.”
For smaller groups Al likes to grill. Sharon specializes in a few simple menus that don’t take much thought. Think outside the proverbial box for fun things to do, she says.
The key to all Sharon does is that she loves it—the ideas, the meetings, the work: “If my event planning can raise funds to help Rochester become a stronger community, I am honored to do so.”
ENTERTAINING TIPS From Sharon
1. Consider guest list; people make the party.
2. Select the venue: home or away.
3. Decide on entertainment, activities, etc.
4. Set a budget and choose a menu.
5. Use nametags if people don’t know each other.
6. Avoid stress by planning ahead.
7. Entertaining at home? Good excuse to spiff up outdoor and inside.
8. Family gatherings? Encourage others to cook a meal and clean up.
9. If you don’t receive an RSVP, follow up with a phone call.
10. Don’t assume your husband will be home in time for a surprise birthday party (now that’s another story!).
Debi Neville is a freelance writer who likes to entertain and admires those who give her ideas.