Characters from “The Nutcracker” ballet came to life at the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea Party on Sunday at the Valencia Arts Center.

Kids and parents enjoyed meeting and taking pictures with costumed cast members, shopping in the boutique and the tea time meal of finger foods and tea.

Director Christine Martin said the tea parties have really grown over the years since their first party in 2000.

At that time, there was one sitting with 10 tables. Now there are two sittings with 20 tables, which will seat approximately 240 people, Martin said.

“The kids are really excited for it,” Martin said. Many parents and children shopped in the boutique, which had ornaments made or donated by the dancers.

Robyn Hinz, mother of 9-year-old Elizabeth who dances the roles of a mouse and baby angel, said the parents really pulled together to set up the tea party.

The tea party is also a fundraising event. Half of the proceeds from the boutique shop and tickets go toward set production and costumes for the ballet. The other half goes to the Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts scholarship, an organization that the center is affiliated with.

Megan Lynch, 13, dances the part of the main character, Clara. “I was really excited when I found out,” Lynch said. “The tea party is fun and is a good fundraiser.”

Longtime dancer Nancy Harms will reprise her role as Mother Ginger in this year’s production. Harms started dancing ballet in college and she has held the role of Mother Ginger since 2002.

“I’ll be standing on a platform, about 12 feet high, and the skirt I am wearing is about 20 feet in diameter. The ginger kids enter the stage from under the skirt and platform,” Harms said.

Harms said she can remember when some of the cast members started out in the younger roles as Ginger Kids.

“It’s been fun to see them grow up,” Harms said.

Tabitha Hanson will dance the role of the Dew Drop Fairy in the production. Hanson has been dancing since she was 4 years old. She is now a freshman at Saint Mary’s University and previously held the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Minn.

“There’s a magical feel to it and it gets everyone in the mood for Christmas,” Hanson said. “I love doing this with kids. They get more excited about it and that makes you want to do it even more.”

Performances for “The Nutcracker” will be at Saint Mary’s University Page Theatre on Dec. 3-7. The Dec. 3 performance is an abridged version for younger viewers, starting at 4 p.m. Dec. 4-6 performances will be the full-length versions, starting at 6:30 p.m. and the Dec. 7 performance will also be full-length and start at 3 p.m.

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