updated 11/18/2010 4:15:22 AM ET 2010-11-18T09:15:22

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., Nov. 17, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Snowflakes drifting past a crescent moon set the holiday mood for guests attending the Opening Night Gala of The Christmas Company, the signature fundraiser of the Junior League of Orange County, Calif., Inc. (JLOCC). At the event held November 10 at the OC Fair & Event Center, posh Santa Timothy Connaghan listened for holiday wishes, but the flawless vintage Cadillac parked along the red carpet already had a trunk full of presents. For those items not yet on everyone's list, attendees had the first look at the fabulous merchandise offered by more than 90 exhibitors who were on board for a four-day shopping extravaganza.

The Christmas Company Overall Chair Jaynine Warner, a pilot for SkyWest Airlines, created a transporting theme for the gala evening: "Come Fly With Me." She and Special Events Chair Jennifer Gonzales led the creation of the many facets of the black-tie occasion, which kicked off The Christmas Company's 35th year. In all, they raised more than $180,000. 

Small plate dining provided for the evening included everything from delicious mini-Thanksgiving dinners from Above All Catering and fabulous Prime Rib sandwiches from Five Crowns, to salmon sliders from Bayside Restaurant, and lobster bisque from Bluewater Grill. Additional selections were offered by Auld Irisher, The Golden Truffle Catering & Restaurant, House of BIG FISH and Ice Cold Beer, K'ya Bistro Bar, K'ya Street Fare, NapaStyle, Newport Rib Company, Panera, Royal Khyber, The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar, and What a Dish Café and Catering. The sweets included cleverly decorated, filled cupcakes by It's All About the Cake, and fruit with chocolate for dipping from The Melting Pot. Close to 750 strolling diners also enjoyed an array of wines and signature cocktails provided by Gallo Family Vineyards.

With her purchase of a glass of Barefoot Bubbly donated for the "Champagne and Diamonds" opportunity drawing, Carey Scott won a beautiful diamond necklace (valued at $5,000) contributed by Black, Starr & Frost.   Silent and live auctions featured a private flying lesson courtesy of Orange County Flight Center; exclusive winery tour and tasting opportunities courtesy of the Gallo Family Vineyards; golf outings;  stays in Italian villas and Mexican hideaways; tickets to sporting events and Hollywood premiere parties; spa experiences; certificates to dine at both long-time favorite and up and coming local restaurants; and stunning jewelry. 

For those in pursuit of a break in the action, Classic Cigar Mobile was parked near the entrance. A replica of a classic 1946 Westcraft trailer, it was a smoker's dream, complete with a walk-in, cedar-lined humidor, cherry wood furniture and Italian leather upholstery.

The Christmas Company's special events started the following day. Early shoppers enjoyed a Preferred Shopping Breakfast starting at 9 a.m., Thurs., Nov. 11, during an exclusive two-hour VIP shopping experience. 

Swimmer Janet Evans shared her journey to becoming a champion as the keynote speaker at a luncheon entitled "Inspiration from an Olympic Medalist" on Friday, Nov. 12.  That evening, Zov Karamardian, chef/owner of Zov's Bistro & Bakery in Tustin, as well as Zov's Café & Bar in both Irvine and Newport Coast, demonstrated the creation of recipes from her soon-to-be released second book "Simply Zov," offering tips on how to achieve maximum results in the kitchen.

Youngsters joined in the fun during "Breakfast with Santa," sponsored by Build-A-Bear Workshop and Ruby's Diner on Saturday morning.  The pace continued that afternoon with "Friends, Fashion & Fun," with DJ Max of Tribalunderworld and a show featuring fashions from Macy's Mission Viejo.  Hair styles by Paul Mitchell the School, make-up by CAMMUA, and luxurious hand massages provided by Crabtree and Evelyn added to the experience.

Sunday Tea Parties for parents and children with "Fancy Nancy" book series illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser were an early sellout. Glasser presented the latest book in the series, "Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique" while little girls in frilly dresses practiced their company manners.  

For this massive undertaking, Overall Event Chair Jaynine Warner was assisted by a hard-working steering committee including Julie Asher, Chair-Elect; Taylor Becket, Art and Printing Chair; Melissa Davis, Donor Chair; Stephanie Casper & Carey Scott, Exhibitor Co-Chairs; Courtney Blackburn & Laura Puckett, Mistletoe Madness Co-Chairs; Elizabeth Evans, Operations Chair; Stacy Orbacz, Publicity Chair; Jennifer Gonzales, Special Events Chair; Karen Carboni, Staffing Chair; Cathie Cardelucci, Sustainer Advisor; Luciana Laszewski, Tickets Chair; and Mei Li, Treasurer.

 Sponsors for the event included REO World, Dacor, Gallo Family Vineyards, Jill FM, Enterprise Counsel Group, Direct Carpet, Orange Coast Magazine and Zov's Bistro & Bakery. Funds raised annually by the JLOCC directly impact the community through collaborative projects with partner organizations and support JLOCC's mission of promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving the community.  This year's projects include the Second Harvest Food Bank Backpack Program, Crittenton Services Connect Program, Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) Reading Program, Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Emancipated Youth Program, Kinship Support Services Program, Bear Hugs and Bear Necessities Program, and Impact Orange County, which conducts done-in-a-day volunteer opportunities.

About the Junior League of Orange County, California, Inc.

The Junior League of Orange County, California, Inc. is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.  JLOCC has helped found organizations such as Orangewood Children's Home and the Volunteer Center of Orange County, now known as OneOC.  As a solely educational and charitable organization, the JLOCC's trained volunteers actively support the community through collaboration with organizations that promote and support the health, safety and education of all individuals in Orange County.  A 501(c)(3) organization, the JLOCC reaches out to women of all races, religions, and national origins.  Originally founded in 1956 as the Newport Harbor Service League, the JLOCC is a member organization of the Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc.  To learn more about the JLOCC, call (949) 261-0823 or visit www.jlocc.org .

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