Pair make annual Holiday House happen in downtown Little Rock

Posted: November 5, 2017 at 1:34 a.m.
Updated: November 6, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Shannon Fratesi (left) and Katie Watson are heading up special events for the Junior League of Little Rock’s Holiday House, with events beginning Wednesday. New events this year include a silent auction and a beer tasting for the guys.

Every year, a committee of about 50 members of the Junior League of Little Rock puts on a giant Christmas shopping event -- Holiday House -- at the Statehouse Convention Center.

It's the group's largest fundraiser and averages 13,000 to 15,000 shoppers over four days. And while businessman and inventor Charles Kettring once famously said, "If you want to kill any idea in the world today, get a committee working on it" -- this one has raised more than $5 million over 25 years benefiting Little Rock.

The large Holiday House committee is divided into various subcommittees and this year Katie Watson and Shannon Fratesi are heading up Special Events. This committee plans and organizes all the parties that happen around the shopping event.

The chairmen have added to the fun this year by providing a little something extra at some of the parties and creating a new party. "The new event is on Friday night. It's Jingle and Mingle sponsored by Lumber One. It will be a beer tasting," Fratesi says.

"We finally got one for the guys," Watson says. Local brewery Lost 40 will bring some of its holiday brews for sampling and Whole Hog will provide barbecue. It takes place in the Wally Allen Ballroom where guests will find lounge furniture and music. Lost 40 also will have a pop-up shop in the ballroom where partygoers can buy beer and gear.

The first party, though, is the kickoff to Holiday House. There will be a preview party before shopping opens to the general public. "The thing about the preview party," Watson says, "is that you get the first glance before everybody else."

New this year to the kickoff party is a silent auction.

The ladies night event -- Tinsel and Tapas-- revolves around shopping with friends and eating. "Gina [Gina's Catering] is doing her famous Mexican buffet that is so good," Watson says. Belk department store will offer a makeup bar and demonstrations as well as a drawing for a basket of merchandise worth $1,000. Everybody who buys a ticket to Tinsel and Tapas will be entered in the drawing.

An all-time favorite event, Watson says, is A Very Merry Christmas, which offers private shopping and a brunch. Seating is limited. Florist Tanarah Haynie, who is doing the table decorations for the events, will demonstrate how to decorate a Christmas tree, design a wreath or make a swag for the front door, Fratesi says.

The last event of the shopping weekend is a favorite with the kiddos, Cookies With Santa. Photographer Sydney Rasch will take photos. Children can color, decorate cookies and listen to stories by Mrs. Claus.

When the last party is over and it's the end of Holiday House for another year, will the chairmen stick with it and continue to be part of committee?

"We'll stay on the committee," Fratesi affirms. "Our hearts are in it."

"I think it's kind of like a family," she says. "You're with these people so much and you're all working so hard together for hours on end and then you get to see it actually come together."

Watson agrees and says they've all become close friends. She says, "It's also great to provide funds for the league and support their community service." Projects of the league include the Nonprofit Board Institute, on-campus Nonprofit Center, Little Readers Rock and Boosters & Big Rigs.

To learn more about the Junior League, its community projects or to buy Holiday House tickets, visit the website:

Preview Party: Twas the Night Before Wednesday 6-9 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets $45. Includes heavy hors d'oeuvres, beer and wine and music by Adam Dell.

Private Shopping: A Very Merry Morning 9 a.m. to noon Thursday. Tickets $30. Brunch and crowd-free shopping.

Ladies' Night: Tinsel and Tapas 6-10 p.m., Thursday. Tickets $30. Tex-Mex favorites from Gina's Catering including full meal from 6-8 p.m., and small bites offered from 8 p.m. to close, complimentary beer and wine. Free beauty demonstrations and photo booth.

Jingle and Mingle 6-9 p.m. Friday. Tickets $30. Music, samples and full pours of Lost Forty beers, wine, barbecue from Whole Hog and a dessert bar.

Cookies and Milk With Santa Claus 9 a.m.-noon Saturday. Tickets $10. Held in the Statehouse Convention Center Atrium, it includes a photo with Santa.

General Shopping noon - 10 p.m. Thursday; 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Saturday. Tickets $10 or $20 for a three-day pass.

Shannon Fratesi (left) and Katie Watson, who are heading up special events for Holiday House, sponsored by the Junior League of Little Rock, have coo...

High Profile on 11/05/2017