Friends Like Your Reunion - Provo, Utah October 12-15, 2006

Unfortunately, I missed the first part of the event. I had planned to head to Provo on Wednesday, but both my kids had the flu. My husband was in Vegas and wouldn’t be home till late Thursday. Lest you think me a neglectful parent, I’ll point out that my kids are 1) a sophomore in college and 2) a senior in high school. Certainly old enough to leave overnight for one night. However, as one threw up, he asked what my friends would think if I didn’t go to Provo. That told me he really didn’t want me to leave while they were sick. Several hundred dollars later, I had a new flight booked for Friday.

Here's photos of the Friday morning events that I missed.

Paula's Friday Morning Photo Link Teresa's Friday Morning Photo Link

After flying Southwest with a connection through Chicago Midway, I arrived in Provo around 3pm. Teresa called to say she was at a loose end and could pick me up. So I claimed my luggage and went out to wait for Teresa. The weather was nice so the wait was nice. Teresa soon showed up and we were off to the Marriott. She dropped me at the door so I could hunt down Melinda from Meetings America to get my stuff so I had my wristband to get into the events. By this time it was 5pm and the busses were loading for the birthday party in an hour. People were already lining up. I found Diane and Maria’s retail area. They were wrapping up for the day to get ready to go the birthday party. I checked into the hotel, got my room key and the bellhop came over with my two big boxes of dolls I had shipped. After quickly dumping my stuff in my room, I headed off to the bus and found Paula and Lianne who had saved me a spot with them on bus one. Lots of my friends on the bus which was fun.

My Thanksgiving Point Photo Link
Paula's Thankgiving Point Photo Link Teresa's MDF Gift Photo Link Teresa's Thankgiving Point Photo Link

We got to Thanksgiving Point for Marie’s birthday party. They were still getting stuff set up so we waited in line outside for a bit. When you went in, you took a picture with Marie. We wanted to photoshop Hilaneh in since she couldn’t come so Marie did a funny pose with our arms raised as if around someone’s shoulders, but there’s no one there. We had taken our bags and put them at a table while we waited to take our photo. We ended up sitting at a table next to Marie’s kids. The front two rows of tables were reserved for friends and family. Then the 450 of us behind them. We visited with lots of people. I found the table for the artists and chatted with Sonja Bryer. She introduced me to JoAnn Pohlman, Karen Scott and Ping Lau.

To start the evening, Brian went up on stage with three of the littlest kids. Abigail gave the blessing. There was cheese and crackers, vegetables and dip and a punch fountain to start. Dinner was steak, chicken, salads, corn on the cob, baked beans, etc. When that was all done, and everyone was full, we sat back for the entertainment.

I can’t remember when exactly in all this they brought the cake out. It was made to look like a bunch of Marie’s doll boxes with lots of candles. A couple of Provo firefighters pushed it on a cart. Marie went over and took the candles of “47” off and blew them out. Then she had Steven, Rachael and Michael help her blow out all the other candles. This must have been after some of the entertainment since the littlest kids weren’t there at that point.

For entertainment, Marie’s manager, Karl Engemann and his family sang a couple of songs. Jerry Mowry, who toured with Marie sang and told funny stories about touring with her. Lisa Hatch and her daughter, Alexis, sang “For Good” from the musical “Wicked”. Steven and Rachael did a Donny and Marie spoof and then Steven sang. It almost felt like being at a family birthday party except that there were 500 people there. Marie’s brother, Tom, spoke about her as his adored little sister. All the folks who work with Marie in her office did a “Thanks for the Memories” song and had verses of funny things. To end the evening, a few MDF members got up to present Marie with some gifts from the group. Tanya St. Amant, the founder and owner of MarieDollFriends, presented Marie with a gift certificate to Nordstroms. Vicky DiGiusto, co-owner of MDF, presented a donation to CMN in Marie’s name. Robbin Spegel gave her a scrapbook that Tanya had done up of birthday cards from the members. I gave her a bag of all the cards that didn’t fit in the scrapbook. She said she would scrapbook them. Cheryl Thompson gave her an MDF rag doll she had made. Chris Spute gave her a quilt she had made that included pictures of MDF members, pictures of milestones in Marie’s doll career, magazine covers from Doll magazines, and lots of other symbolism. It is really an incredible quilt. Marie seemed quite touched and overcome at the gifts. The Nordstroms gift certificate was substantial, but the point was that we wanted her to know how much we love and appreciate the joy and friendships collecting her dolls has brought into our lives. I was on stage so I didn't take any photos of this part of the event. Check out the links from the other women to see photos.

Marie ended the night with a slide show of her parents, mostly her dad, since it was his birthday too. She talked about going to see him earlier in the day and that sometimes he knows you, sometimes he doesn’t, but so far he has always known her. He’s 89 now and in a care facility. It was quite emotional at times and drew both tears and laughter.

They loaded us back on the busses and took us back to the hotel. It was pretty late so I headed off to my room. I shared a room with Paula and Lianne. Two beds and a pull out sofa which worked great. I unpacked my boxes of dolls. It was a bit crowded in our room!

My Signing Photo Link
Paula's Signing Photo Link Teresa's Signing Photo Link

Saturday morning, they had breakfast for us. We got up and showered and got ready to go. I was debating what shirt to wear and Lianne asked what doll I was bringing. I had the MOD Squad Adora Belle in pink and green so I went with the green shirt. Off to breakfast. They were drawing names to win one doll from each of the artists there. I hadn’t put my slips in since I got there so late. Nenita won the My Friend set by Karen Scott. They cleared us all out of the room to get it ready for the signing. They divided the room in half with Marie on one side and the artists on the other. Several people had signed up for tours in the afternoon and they got bumped to the front of the signing line to make sure they were done in time for their tours. This made group one a much bigger group which took more time to get signed. I was in group two and we got into the signing room about noon. We were supposed to be done at noon. They had several tables lined up and you went in, put your dolls face down with their heads turned to be signed and waited for Marie to get to your row. While you waited, you got to watch her with all the other folks and they had a big screen up showing different clips of tv shows, the Osmond Star ceremony, Celebrity Duets, etc. That helped to pass the time. Marie would go down one table, sign all the dolls, then up to the front to take pictures with each person and then on to the next table. It was hard to get pictures of her as she signed and chatted with people because of all the rows of people between us. Her youngest daughter, Abigail, came in and ran up to the table in front of us and grabbed the Baby Abby doll. She ran up to Marie to show her and Marie picked her up to pose for a few photos in front of the big picture of Baby Abby. Of course, I was too far back in the room to get a shot. I chatted with Maria Williams through much of the waiting which was fun.

By this time it was 1:30 and I was starving. I saw Bob Crump in the hall and asked him where I could get a sandwich. He directed me a few blocks away to the Smokehouse Barbeque. I wandered off by myself, bought a sandwich and sat on a bench in the center of Provo for a few minutes. I finally went back to my hotel room and ate my sandwich in the quiet there. Back down to the madness of the signing. I had my Rose Bud dolls that I was hoping to have signed by the artists. We were supposed to only have three per artist, but I ended up with six signed by Sonja Bryer. It was late in the afternoon and there were a lot of folks off on tours by this time so the lines were short. I had a set of Wee Bees for Ping Lau to sign, Yellow Rose Bud for Beverly Stoehr, Childs Play Rose Bud for Karen Scott, Faithful Friends for JoAnn Pohlman, White Christmas Rose Bud, M’lissa Virginia Baby Blues and Crystal for Karen Seamons, Faithful Friends and Adora Belle MOD Squad for Paula Hart (she dressed them), M’lissa Virginia Baby Blues and Baby Darling Rose Bud for Lisa Hatch and then MV Baby Blues, AB MOD Squad and Remember Me for Marie. Since Lisa was with Marie, I had Baby Darling Rose Bud there for Lisa and Marie grabbed her and signed her as well. Plus Lianne didn’t bring any dolls so she had two of my Rose Buds signed for me. Good signing day for me! I even had to call Lianne to bring some down from our room.

I packed all the dolls back to my room and went to see what I could do for Diane and Maria. We were packing up dolls to take back to Maria’s shop. We loaded up three trucks and they went to unload at the shop. I had to go get ready for the PJ party. I came back down and the silent auction had turned into a live auction in the hallway with Tim Luke auctioneering. They ended up raising over $22,000 on the auction of some of the dolls from Marie’s personal collection. I had to keep running up to the room for things we forgot like our gift for Marie’s birthday. When I’d come back, I’d try to wiggle back to the front of the line with Paula and Lianne, but the last time, people wouldn’t let me through. Some of the crowds can get ugly! Paula and Lianne just saved me a seat.

My PJ Party Photo Link
Paula's PJ Party Photo Link Teresa's PJ Party Photo Link

When we went into the Ball Room for the PJ party, they put a sticker on our backs. We had to ask questions about the doll named on the sticker and try to guess what doll it was. Inside, they had rows of chairs set up and we were in the second row. In front of those chairs were rows of inflatable chairs where Marie, her staff, the Charisma crowd and the artists were sitting. The last row, they drew names for and those people got to take the chairs home with them as well as MOD squad pillows. There was pizza, ice cream, strawberries and such to eat. You could get a temporary tattoo. They gave some prizes for different outfits. Laura won for crazy hair, Teresa for sure to stop traffic. The winners were two women in matching pj’s with photos of lots of Marie’s dolls on them. As they were doing the prizes, they called Bob Crump up. He had teased Marie that she should be making matching pj’s for us all. She asked him to promise to wear the pj’s she had for him without knowing what they were. He promised and Marie gave him a blond, ponytailed wig and baby doll pj’s. Good sport that he is, Bob came back wearing the outfit and brought down the house. He hammed it up on stage and left Marie in stitches. I think he even scared Brian a bit.

To end the night, they had a comedian on. Johnnie something. I can’t remember his last name . . . . . . he was good. He joked about us having a web site that we go to and chat about dolls and Marie, not realizing that we actually do. Poor Marie laughed so much, I thought she’d fall over. The party was supposed to end at midnight, but it ran till 1:30 am. We were some of the last ones out the door and we took a few photos looking very tired.

I had to go back to the room, pack up my dolls and all my stuff so that I could check out early the next morning as Maria was picking me up at 8:30. I knew Paula and Lianne wouldn’t be up then. I think we finally got to sleep around 2:30 am. Sunday morning, I went to find the bellhop to help get my stuff downstairs. I saw Sonja Bryer, Beverly Stoehr and Karen Scott in the hallway on their way out. I discovered that Diane and Maria still had lots of stuff to drive back to Maria’s shop. While we were loading the trucks, I tripped over a water sprinkler and did one of those stumbling at an angle, arms spinning, legs spinning, try to catch your balance for about ten steps and then crash to the ground. Yah, that was fun. Luckily, I don’t think anyone I knew saw me. I banged my hip pretty good, but was otherwise OK. When the trucks were loaded, we drove over to Maria’s shop and unloaded them. We had to crate up 33 crates of the exclusive Adora Belle Baby to ship to Diane’s shop. Then all the dolls that people bought for Marie to sign had to be staged. I did that with the help of Maria’s husband (that was after he brought us coffee and egg mcmuffins!).We packed up and shipped a few boxes for people like me and Paula. Diane and Maria were working on the paperwork from it all. Finally, at about 8:30 pm, Jeff came and drove Diane and I to a hotel near the airport. We grabbed a quick dinner and chatted for a while before heading off to bed. Up early and off to the airport to head for home.

My first flight was at 7:45 am. I didn’t realize that it stopped at Chicago Midway before I got to Baltimore for my connection to Providence. I finally landed in Providence at 7:00 pm to be picked up by my husband. All in all, a fun time, but very tiring!!!

And the very next week, despite everyone saying how they wouldn’t be able to do IDEX in January after all this, the tickets for the brunch went on sale and we all bought tickets, selling out the event in a day and a half. See you all in Orlando!!!