Saint Paul Garden Club

Family Fun and Fundraising


Thirty-plus years since the first Tea Dance, the event’s hallmarks continue to delight: Jerry Mayeron’s Orchestra plays the Bunny Hop; the dance floor is graced with dancing Christmas trees; and Santa makes an appearance, hearing last-minute wishes from flush-cheeked children sporting balloon animals and sticky fingers.

The primary fundraiser of the Saint Paul Garden Club has taken place the Sunday before Christmas since 1980. The Tea Dance was initially conceived as “a way to socialize my children,” said co-founder Susan St. John. She recalled growing up outside New York City, learning company manners and how to dance. 

Susan wanted to provide an opportunity for multigenerational families to get together. The primary focus for Susan and the other tea dance founders, Joan Gardner, Twinks Irvine and Judy Diedrich, was a coalescence of community in Saint Paul. 

The first tea dance, attended by 650 people, was held in 1980 at Landmark Center in Saint Paul as a benefit for the center’s ongoing restoration. Arthur Murray taught dance lessons; food was generous; table decorations were lush and seasonal; and, above all, the focus was “on first-rate fun,” commented Susan. 

Although the Tea Dance didn’t begin as a Saint Paul Garden Club event, it soon became one. In 1981, the three founders who were members of the garden club – Joan, Twinks and Susan – decided their organization was the best fit for the event.