The Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center will host the AbsenTea, the museum’s 3rd annual tea-themed fundraiser, Thursday, September 24, from 6:30-8 p.m. on Zoom. The AbsenTea will celebrate the culture of tea in a convivial atmosphere with several activities and competitions for participants. The fundraiser will feature a short presentation on tea history and culture, a quiz on the history of tea, and playful competitions including “Most Ridiculous Hat” and “Most Beautiful Tea Pot.” LeAnne Johnson, the museum’s new executive director, will be interviewed, and a raffle will take place with door prizes including a Charleston Tea Plantation gift basket, pottery from a Black Mountain artisan, and a tea sampler from Black Mountain tea shop Spice It Up.
The AbsenTea is the third tea-themed fundraiser held by the museum in so many years. The teas have traditionally taken place in the spring in elegant atmospheres with rich food, local music, and programming that celebrates valley heritage. The first tea, held in 2018, took place at the Whitemont Lodge in Swannanoa. In 2019, the tea took place at Far Horizons, the historic home of Dr. Willis D. Weatherford, founder of the Y.M.C.A. Blue Ridge Assembly. For 2020, museum volunteers had made plans to host a “Tea with a Twist” at the historic Black Mountain College Dining Hall, now Camp Rockmont for Boys. The tea, set for late April, was going to feature Southern cuisine, improvisational musical performances, and tours of “The Ship,” the College’s historic Studies Building. However, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic forced the museum to cancel its plans to host the tea, postponing it until 2021. In its place, the museum is now hosting the AbsenTea, which replicates the social atmosphere of the in-person teas of past years.
Since the pandemic arrived in western North Carolina, the Swannanoa Valley Museum has not been able to open its doors to the public. As of April 2020, the museum has been hosting a new, traveling exhibit, Unearthing Our Forgotten Past: Fort San Juan, on the Juan Pardo expedition of 1566, as well as its revamped Our Pathways exhibit on the Swannanoa Valley.
“We want to show our supporters that we are still here, and that we’ve been continuing our mission of promoting the history of this valley through less than traditional avenues. More than anything though, we want attendees to have a fun time at this event, and experience the kind of warmth, humor and delicious tea that they would if they were out at an afternoon tea with friends,” says Saro Lynch-Thomason, assistant director of the Swannanoa Valley Museum.
Tickets for the tea are $35 for an individual (1 door prize entry), $65 for a couple (2 door prize entries) and $150 for a supporter ticket (5 door prize entries). Taxes and fees apply. The supporter ticket counts as a ticket for one individual and serves as a generous gift to the Swannanoa Valley Museum. Tickets for the AbsenTea can be purchased at swannanoavalleymuseum.org/event/absentea. Registrants will receive a link to the zoom event.