With its elegant Christmas decorations accented in cream and gold, walking into Ed and Cathy Kangas' New Canaan home was like walking into a fairy tale.
Wreaths made of chiffon ribbons brightened the doors, while dazzling silver reindeer sat atop the hutch in the dining room. The dining room table, set off with opulent candlesticks, offered an array of delectable confections. And in the living room, the beautiful Christmas tree, adorned with angels and organza, was the centerpiece.
You could say the house was fit for royalty.
And indeed it was, as 15 guests awaited the arrival of Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, Sunday afternoon.
Cathy Kangas served mimosas, scones, fruit and finger sandwiches during a tea honoring Ferguson, her longtime friend.
Wearing a subtle blue dress and navy blazer, Ferguson took time to speak with each person in attendance, smiling for photos and signing copies of her new children's book, "Ballerina Rosie," a story about a little girl who dreams of becoming a prima ballerina, but becomes frustrated when she can't hit the steps in class.
Eventually, she overcomes her frustration and continues to practice, realizing she needs to work hard and never give up on her dream.
Ferguson was in town after spending Saturday at the Child Mind Institute in New York City, an organization focused on improving mental health care for children and finding more effective treatments for childhood psychiatric and learning disorders.
She spoke to officials at the institute about the importance of girls' self esteem.
"Then I went to Bloomingdale's for a book-signing event," The New York Times best-selling author said, adding that all of the proceeds from Saturday's event will be donated the Child Mind Institute.
During Sunday's afternoon tea, Kangas, president and CEO of Prai Beauty and a columnist for the New Canaan News, spent time introducing Ferguson to her guests.
Across town at the New Canaan Library, the Adrian Lamb Room was standing room only as parents and grandparents clamored for seats while little girls dressed in tutus, their hair tied in glittery bows, sat quietly in a circle at the front of the room.
Sunday's program wasn't a typical story hour. Sure, it included ballerinas and dress-up, but the highlight of the event was the guest speaker -- the Duchess of York.
When Ferguson arrived at the library, the room hushed and then applauded as she walked up to the podium.
"Children should be expected to dream," she said to the crowd. "They should dare to dream."
She continued by sharing her real-life fairy tale with the princesses seated in front of her.
"I have two princesses," she said. "I married a handsome prince. I wore a big beautiful dress, and I'm a real-life princess."
"We believe in magic," she said, discussing her daughters, Princess Beatrice of York, 24, and Princess Eugenie of York, 22. "We believe everything is about magic and believing that you can do anything you want to do. The fairy tale ends happily ever after."
Since Ferguson was running behind schedule, she didn't have time to read from her book, but she took time to sign copies and take photos with all of her little guests. Some audience members grumbled because the event was slated as an "afternoon tea" rather than just a book signing, but the sheer volume of attendees made that impossible.
"I expected her to read," Moussignac said. "But it was really cool and we were first in line."
Wartinbee shared her excitement.
"I wanted to meet the duchess because my mom is from Ireland and Ireland is near England," she said.
Moussignac's mother, Valerie, thought the event was a good experience for the girls because they'll go home and read a book from an author they met in person.
Wartinbee's mother, Denise, agreed.
"It's very exciting," she said. "The library hosts a lot of very good authors for such a small town, and it's such an intimate setting."
Megan Brunner, 7, of New Canaan was sporting a lavender scarf with specks of glitter and holding her copy of "Ballerina Rosie."
The ballet and jazz student, who studies at the New Canaan Dance Academy, said she was excited to have her book signed.
"I'm going home to read it tonight," she said.
Brunner's mother, Mary, was pleased with the event.
"It was just as exciting for me as it was for her," she said.
Leeza Predovsky, 10, of Weston said she wasn't nervous when she had her book, "Little Red," from a previous series, signed Sunday afternoon.
"She talked to us," she said of Ferguson. "At some places, they just sign the book and throw it at you, but she talked to me and told me I was pretty."
Predovsky attended the event with her sister, Anya, 7, and her mother, Linda.
"She was very personable," Linda Predovsky said. "She made it a very easy effort, like talking to your old friend. She was very likeable."
Linda Predovsky learned of the event online.
"I was happily surprised at the level of speakers they have," she said of the library. "It seems like they have a very sophisticated approach to events and speakers, and I will pay more attention to the New Canaan Library."
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