Here in Sarasota, we've elevated partying to an art form. With countless galas, celebrations and launches, we are always looking to join in on the fun. One event that's eagerly anticipated after a 10-year absence is The Ringling's UnGala Gala, returning to Sarasota Oct. 19, and museum planning director Christina Fraser is busy crafting experiences that represent the highest level of event production. We caught up with Fraser to find out how she brings her ideas to life, and what is in store for the UnGala.
Fraser developed her keen interest in party planning at a young age. "When I was 12, I would snag those Oriental Trading magazines when they came in the mail and start pairing things I thought would go well together," Fraser says. "It was strange behavior for a child, but I loved it.” Post-college she gained event planning experience while working at a resort. Eventually, her career path ended up in the very practical field of accounting. For Fraser, her creativity was never fulfilled in that role, but she didn't think she could make a career as a professional party planner. Always looking for ways to fuel her creative side, she started making her own homemade soaps and selling them at the downtown farmers market here in Sarasota. The farmers market team soon asked Fraser for help with their promotions. Eventually, she found her way to The Ringling, where her creativity has thrived.
Halloween seems to be her favorite holiday. Fraser co-chaired the popular Safe Sex Halloween Bash for Planned Parenthood, and she also hosts a spooktacular annual event at her home. One year, she had a Key West-themed party where the invitations were hand-painted coconuts complete with skeletons drinking margaritas.
The "Red or White" themed Wine Walk event at The Ringling in 2017 featured a custom constructed giant entryway arch made to look like a gown, complete with a woman sitting at the top. "Sometimes I have to make the things myself, or have my husband help," Fraser says. "It can be hard to communicate my ideas and have them executed just the way I want."
Behind every event planning pro is a cool head in a crisis. Fraser has seen (and handled) plenty. Resourcefulness comes with the territory of event planning. "One time, for a fire and ice-themed event, I had hired a fire performer to do an act underneath a snow machine. He called to cancel the night before, which left me scrambling to find another fire act! Luckily I found one in Tampa," Fraser says.
Her tip for us? When working with a smaller budget, worry less about the small details, like monogrammed cocktail napkins, and focus more on creating one big element. "The impact and wow factor will be memorable," Fraser says. "You want to have something that guests will talk about for years to come."
Looking to the fall, Fraser is busy putting together the finishing touches for the UnGala. The event will be a splashy affair and Fraser is focused on creating an elevated atmosphere of innovative decor and spectacular entertainment. "I have been playing around with this idea of something coming back around, the sphere shape, and metallics; it will be quite futuristic in some ways," Fraser said. "But I want to keep most of it a surprise, it's so much more fun that way!"
For more information about the UnGala Gala, check out the website. Sarasota Magazine is the official magazine sponsor.