CANNON BEACH - Kick off the holiday season early with some ballroom dancing and a chowder dinner.

The Cannon Beach Gala 2003 is set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce ball room, 207 N. Spruce St.

"This event aims to provide a festive activity for the community to take part in, but more importantly, jump-start holiday donations and awareness for individuals and families in need," event sponsor Nikkol Nagle said. "While our community is small, the number of people in need is great. I hope this event will help serve our local philanthropies and become a tradition folks look forward to."

About 100 people are expected to gather for the evening, which will double as a community food and gift drive. Donations of canned and boxed food will be given to the South Clatsop County Food Bank in Seaside, which serves approximately 890 people per month. Donations of women and children's clothing, toys, blankets and toiletries will be given to the Women's Resource Center in Astoria.

"New items are best, although we will accept used clothing in good shape," Nagle said. "We want to help give battered women and their children a Christmas. These women have usually left everything they own to escape a crisis situation and are not able to provide a Christmas for their children."

Specialty items such as candles, bubble bath, lotions and other "girlie" things are also needed at the Center.

"Things like this help them relax, feel like a woman and get their confidence back up," Nagle said.

The evening will feature wine tasting, with Riesling, Pinot Noir Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay provided by the Nehalem Bay Winery. Chowder will be served for dinner, donated by Doogers Seafood and Grill, Mo's Restaurant, Wayfarer Restaurant and Ecola Seafood Restaurant and Market, all located in Cannon Beach.

But the highlight of the evening will be a chance to give ballroom dancing a try. After a demonstration, guests may participate in a waltz and two-step dancing lesson before the real dance begins at 9:15 p.m. Don't worry if ballroom dancing is not your thing. Nagle assures guests that they may dance "any way you like."

Reservations must be made by calling the Van Buren Lighthouse Inn at (503) 436-2929. Attire is Sunday best. Cost is $7 per person or $5 with a gift or food donation.

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