The parents attending Crane Country Day School’s annual fundraising gala have established a solid tradition of putting their creative skills to good use when it comes to finding a costume. This year’s “Come As You Were” party did not disappoint.

Wedding gowns, punk rockers, tennis short-shorts and Madonna look-alikes were just a few of the ways that parents had fun channeling their past selves for the event.

“Everyone went all out with their costumes,” said Ella Brittingham, who with her gala co-chairwoman, Suzanne Deardorff, wore matching pink satin prom dresses, complete with wrist corsages. “There were people I didn’t even recognize.”

Another way the Crane gala followed tradition was its success as a fundraiser, which exceeded the committee’s goal.

“Every dollar raised at the May 7 event goes directly to the school,” said Brittingham, who explained that sponsors had underwritten the entire cost. Brittingham also found creative ways to save money, such as using the school’s hot lunch plastic plates for dinner.

The only change this year was the venue: Crane’s bucolic 11-acre campus at 1795 San Leandro Lane has served as the setting for the past five years, but this year the committee staged the gala for the 250 guests just up the hill from the school, at QAD’s Ortega Hill Road campus, which has stunning views of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean.

“We decided to mix it up this year and change locations,” said Deardorff, who noted that a side benefit was that parent volunteers had much less decorating work to do this year since QAD’s majestic setting was so breathtaking.

The evening’s festivities included a special tribute to Upper School history teacher Dan McCaslin, who is celebrating his 31st year at the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school. A heartfelt video featured parents, colleagues and current and past students.

“To be at a school for 31 years and still vitally connect with middle-school students is extraordinary,” said Joel Weiss, Crane’s head of school.

Crane parents also showed their creative talents during the live auction, when nearly 30 parents surprised and delighted the audience by recreating popular television and musical acts from the 1970s. Crane parents Kerri and Kevin and Sanford set the tone by impersonating Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers singing “We’ve Got Tonight.” Their performance was so convincing that one guest asked Brittingham, “Did you really get Kenny Rogers?”

Wearing unbuttoned gold sparkling shirts, three Crane dads strutted their stuff as the Bee Gees, lip-synching “Stayin’ Alive.” Other skits included scenes from Charlie’s Angels, The Brady Bunch and Fantasy Island. Crane parent Ted Simmons led the live auction by playing the role of game show host Chuck Velour, while his wife, Kelly, ended it with a hilarious impersonation of Edith Bunker from All in the Family.

In addition to the live auction, there was a silent auction with more than 100 items, two raffles and a special auction of students’ art projects. Silent auction items were available for bidding online for the first time this year, enabling the school to raise nearly half the silent auction revenues prior to the event. The evening ended with wild dancing to the sounds of King Bee, featuring Crane’s own staff member, Joel Jamison.

More than 50 parents served on the gala committee, but the key players included Elizabeth Gabler and Rachael Stein (live auction), Kelly Simmons and Melinda Werner (silent auction), Diane Brown and Debbie Mackall (sponsorships), Susan Jackson and Jennifer Markham (raffle) and Tiffany Gordon (volunteers). Tamara Jensen of I.D.O. Events and Crane’s development staff — Katy Berrey, Molly Green and Rhoda Lauten — also worked hard to make the event a success.

Top sponsors included Ella and Scott Brittingham, Diane and Tim Brown, Randi and Terry Cunningham, Alex and Bill Daugherty, Elizabeth and Lee Gabler, Anne and Houston Harte, Debbie and John Mackall, Montecito Bank & Trust, Lynda and Mark Schwartz, Laura and Craig Shelburne, Whale Beach Foundation and Leslie and Robert Zemeckis.

Click here for more information about Crane Country Day School, or call 805.695.0536. Click here to make an online donation to Crane School. Become a fan of Crane School on Facebook.

— Julia Rodgers is a Noozhawk contributing writer and Crane Country Day School parent.