Unique table setting event raises money for American Cancer Society

HARLINGEN — Pat and Sue Thomas of Twinkets & Friends in downtown Harlingen sat comfortably and joyfully in their store talking about their plans for tomorrow’s Dining by Design.

Happy to say it out loud, their table will portray a garden party in the 1950s. They admit it may not be their best or most creative table setting effort. It certainly isn’t their most planned out. But, it will be fun. And they’re mindful, Dining by Design is not about competition or winning.

“It’s about people just coming together to have fun and raise money for the Cancer Society,” Pat said.

For years, Dining by Design has brought together hundreds of people to see classic, whimsical, creative, colorful and dramatic table settings. About 500 people attend the sold-out evening gala each year.

But, it is during the day, where anyone can stop by and check out the decorations.

The Thomas sisters are the designers of one of about 50 tables on display at the annual fundraising event tomorrow.

There may be tables filled with fine, vintage china, or maybe some with some funky materials with a creative theme. There have been table settings using tools, unfinished boards, beach toys, construction zone materials, movie memorabilia and many other ideas.

“Every year, there is a table that I always say … I never thought of that,” Pat said. “Somebody just goes in some direction that is just way out there. That is what makes it fun. It used to be more exquisite and now it is more themes and fun. It is more about everybody doing their own thing or creation.”

Because Pat and Sue have their store, they have many ideas and items to choose from to come up with their unique table setting.

The pair admits they typically pull items from their home to create the table settings. This year, they had flooding in their home, so many of their decorations and items are stored in boxes.

“Most work on it all year round,” Pat said. “The minute one is over, everyone is walking out asking what the theme is for the next year, so they can start thinking about everything.”

The two have been involved in Dining by Design since 2011. At that time, they filled in for a late pullout and were asked to create a high end, designer table. They did and loved every moment of it, despite some stress pulling things together.

They have some specific reasons why they continue to be involved.

“It is a way of paying respect for someone who is no longer there, hoping it won’t happen to someone else,” Pat said.

When the pair was in their 20s, their stepsister died. She was in her 30s.

“It was the first time we saw how devastating it could be — how permanent it was as a disease,” Pat added.

This makes it easier and as a way to help and make a difference.

With each table, there are guests that attend and eat at the gala. Each table designer has their own guests, who typically dress up as part of the entire theme of the table.

For the Thomas sisters, their group of individuals has become bonded as friends.

“It is like Christmas, the one time of the year they all come and see each other,” Pat said. “Each has a cancer story. Everybody uplifts and celebrates where we have come on the cure.”

At first, Pat and Sue agreed, selling the eight to 10 tickets at $100 each may be difficult.

It was the opposite. The event is so loved and anticipated, Pat said “the tickets sell themselves.”

“It is a one-of-a-kind event and if you miss it, you miss it,” Sue said. “And so, but it is art. It is full of ideas and thoughts and when you go to it, it is just a wonderland of things and ideas.”

This year, Pat and Sue will just have to see how their idea measures up … more than likely, they’ll just enjoy everyone else’s talents.



WHAT: Dining by Design Daytime Preview

WHERE: Casa de Amistad, 1204 Fair Park Boulevard

WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 2, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

WHY: To see some creative, colorful and great table settings all while raising money for the American Cancer Society.

HOW: Tickets for the daytime preview are $25 in advance, $30 at the door.


Since 2001, the organization has donated more than $660,000 to the American Cancer Society

Last year, the event raised $85,000 in one day