By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — The spirit of their New Year hats took over Maureen Smith and Alice Hadley Monday afternoon at Laurels Edge. They couldn’t resist picking up their noise-makers and giving ’em a blow.
“That’s louder than I thought,” Smith said. “There you go. We get to be little kids now.”
Residents of the assisted-living facility on Stadium Road had come down to the gathering spot on the main floor where a party had just started to ring in the New Year (symbolically, that is, at about 3:30 p.m.). Live music, courtesy of The Frye, had kicked off up front, inspiring Paulina Camacho, Laurels Edge therapeutic program director, to dance with resident Bob Ikier.
Camacho said Laurels Edge is always jumpin’ this time of year. For the Christmas party, residents invited guests, and 120 people were there to celebrate.
Monday, for the rockin’ — albeit early — New Year’s Eve party, live music was just part of the festivities. The wine was flowing, the hors d’oeuvres were plentiful, and masses of balloons hung in bags throughout the room, ready to be unleashed over the party below.
“I think it’s kind of nice to say goodbye to the old one and say hello to the new,” Smith said. “Even though we are early. We’re not going to stay up till midnight, you know.”
The Frye has played numerous shows at Laurels Edge over the years. Singer Ann Fee, along with colleague Suzanne Bunkers, had been going to the assisted-living facility routinely years ago to see Jim Nickerson, former president of Minnesota State University, and help him with his memoir “Out of Chaos.”
Nickerson showed interest in having the band come perform at the monthly happy hour at Laurels Edge. Fee said staff created a true lounge environment in the lobby for the event, equipped with a beverage cart.
“It was really beautiful,” Fee said. “(Residents) pulled up, they had a drink, they relaxed, they chatted. These are people who just wanted to socialize as if they were at the Wine Cafe.”
The duo, which also includes Joe Tougas, started performing at the facility regularly.
Camacho said The Frye helped to make the New Year’s Eve party, as well as previous events, special for guests.
“We try to make it a big deal for the tenants,” Camacho said. “All of them can’t always go out. ... We try to make them feel really loved during the holiday season.”
Smith said Camacho’s efforts are appreciated.
“She just really goes the extra mile — always,” Smith said. “It’s a real nice place.”