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Date of Issue: March 30, 2006

Tea party first event at Belle Haven Cottage

Welcome to Belle Haven
Piper Hansen, 4, welcomed guests to Belle Haven Cottage in Anna Maria for a garden tea party in celebration of her March birthday. The event, held March 25, was well attended by several well-dressed 4- and 5-year-olds and is the first private event to be held in the historic cottage since it was restored by the Anna Maria Island Historical Society on the grounds of the Island museum. Islander photos: Diana Bogan
Belles of Belle Haven
A bevy of 4- and 5-year-olds dressed in their favorite party/dress-up clothes gathered in the garden of Belle Haven Cottage located at the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum in Anna Maria for a tea party. After sipping iced tea and munching on finger sandwiches, the girls enjoyed running through the gardens - unhampered by their long dresses. From left are twins Annie and Tori Walter, Katie Krokroskia, Cayden Perry, Emily Lathum-Turner, Hannah McCracken and Piper Hansen.

Belle Haven Cottage was the locale of choice for an old-fashioned garden tea party hosted by Piper Leigh Hansen, 4, of Bradenton. The March 25 gathering was the first private event held in the historic home since Anna Maria Island Historical Society Director Sissy Quinn announced plans to offer the facility for special events.

The tea party was a birthday celebration for Hansen, who turned 4 March 5. The party was delayed, Hansen says, because the Historical Society, "was having a festival on my birthday." She was referring to the Heritage Day celebration held at the museum the day before her actual birthday.

The party took place in the main room of the cottage. The table was covered in a butterfly printed tablecloth and place mats their were actual puzzles featuring either a butterfly, sun, or gecko in bright shades of pink, yellow and purple. Tea pots of various sizes filled with iced tea lined the table, along with tea pot candles.

Place settings included an old tea cup and saucer. Hansen, with the help of her mom, spent the weeks before her party rummaging through thrift stores and antique shops for cups that no longer belonged to a set. The mismatched set of cups was an eclectic touch that brought a bit of old-fashioned charm to the party.

Six girls aged 4 and 5 arrived dressed in their favorite party/dress-up dress — most of which were floor length. Guests included Katie Krokroskia, Emily Lathum-Turner, Hannah McCracken, Cayden Perry and twins Annie and Tori Walter.

As each arrived they were asked to pick the tea cup they liked best, which was theirs to take home after the party. While waiting for other guests to arrive, the girls decorated old-fashioned brimmed bonnets with fabric markers and felt flowers and butterflies.

Hansen was a proper host, pouring tea for each girl and offering home-made sandwiches and other light fare. Choosing a more traditional tea time menu, it featured banana honey sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, ham and cheese sandwiches, mini quiche and mini lemon pound cake muffins. In keeping with the "garden" aspect of the theme, sandwiches were cut into flower and butterfly shapes, and she offered some a "caterpillar" cookies. The birthday cake was a chocolate raspberry cake made from scratch and decorated to look like a lady bug.

After tea, the ladies gathered in the garden for a scavenger hunt. The length of their gowns didn’t hamper any of them from racing around the cottage in search of Piper’s pinwheels, which were carefully hidden among the flowers. Small, old-fashioned prizes, such as a paddle ball, yo-yo, slinky, and dress-up jewelry were given out. Emily Lathum-Turner was the big winner, finding 23 pinwheels. She had first pick of the prizes.

After the search, all guests were sent immediately to jail. The whole gang eagerly lined up at the old Anna Maria City jail adjacent to the cottage where a dragonfly pinata was strung-up. Each entered the jail to take a swing at the pinata and once the candy filling was free they all rushed in to gather their loot.

The party ended back inside the cottage for birthday cake and more tea and lemonade. Dad "Koko" Ray played happy birthday on flute, before letting Piper make a secret wish.

Piper said she was "so excited" to finally have a tea party, which she has been asking her mom to host for at least six months.

She said the party was so much fun and that all her friends were "beautiful."