Monday, April 15, 2024

Coronado Witches Tea Conjures Up Fun & Mischief

Organizer Becky Geiss says that “embracing the creative spirit and imagination of women is my passion”

On Saturday, October 28 2017, a coven of 200 witches gathered for the 17th Annual Coronado Witches Tea.

Truly embracing the Coronado community-oriented ethos, women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s shared the opportunity to dress-up and dance-on-down to Halloween inspired “Funkadelic.” Original organizer, Becky Geiss commented: “I think my very favorite year was when the majority of the group was made up of mothers and daughters, generational witches, what a hoot.” It should be noted that it is a 21 and older event.

Coronado Witches Tea, Becky Guisse
Becky Geiss, the original organizer (on the right) is joined by her friend and teaching partner, Elma, at the 17th annual Witches Tea.
Marla Wray Hovland, co-organizer, leads the witches on to their next destination.

Marla Wray Hovland, fearless leader of the 200, reminded the gathered that senior witches get priority seating throughout the day. To the younger witches she commanded: “No matter how much your high-heels hurt your feet, younger witches” should demur to their elders. Marla also reminded the witches, that with such a large coven, they must put any witch-y cackling aside and exercise patience as they moved through the day.

This year the event started at the Ferry Landing with a spook-tacular dance  – professionally choreographed by Byran Roberson Jr., a popular dance instructor in San Diego.

The flock purchased tickets for a later raffle to support the James Richard Shirley Memorial Garden at Silver Strand Elementary School. As of October 30, over $1,400 had been raised.

After delighting tourists and locals alike with their broom-shaking moves, the witches flew over to the boarding area of the Coronado Ferry.

In the 16th and 17th century, women accused of witchcraft would be tested with a toss in a body of water. If the women drowned, they were deemed innocent; float and they were pronounced witches. Given that all the witches would have gleefully accepted the verdict of “witch” during this once-a-year Halloween party, there was no need for any swims in the San Diego Bay.
The first warlock, Byran Roberson, choreographed the 200 witches. Many dance practices were held in preparation of the big day.

As soon as they docked, the witches performed their flash-mob style dance for San Diego Embarcadero visitors. Ready for some respite, the witches cackled with joy as refreshments appeared before their eyes at the Carintas Snack Shack. Before they knew it, it was time move on to the next stop.

Not sure what to expect next, the witches boarded three double-decker buses. After winding through the Gaslamp District, past Petco Park, they arrived at Social Tap at Petco Park for a feast.

A delicious lunch buffet was conjured up for the ladies; some landed at the bar, some at the lunch tables, and some in the outdoor patios. The tables were decorated with Halloween napkins, candles, and plastic rings to add to their already creative ensembles.

Lunch and fun in the East Village. Witches never know the party route ahead of time. Secrecy is never broken by the organizers.

After a goulishly good time in the East Village with a departing dance performance to express their gratitude, the witches flew over the bridge on the beautiful Saturday afternoon. The witches touched down at Emerald C Gallery. Sophistication was now the name of the game as witches enjoyed a splash of wine, admired the stunning and whimsical art, and participated in the afore mentioned charity raffle.

The enthusiasm never stopped. The witches enjoying the East Village.

Then they descended on Mc Ps Irish Pub for a little down-to-earth fun with one last performance of the flash mob dance, a meet-up with family and friends (warlocks were now most definitely included), and a festive end to the day.

The original ten witches of the Coronado Witches Tea: Quita Nass, Bette Ruzevick, Becky Geiss, Gail Stewart, Pam Hammett, Bridget Plank, Janis Nau, Connie Spitzer and Gayle Welty

The Witches Tea started out as a special lunch hosted by Becky Geiss. Geiss explained that seventeen years ago, she invited nine of her closest friends from various areas of her life, to join her at the Westgate Hotel.

Geiss explained in an email: “The original women were a mix of childhood friends, high school friends, students’ parents (I have been a teacher for 40 years), and PEO friends. The invitation simple read, Please dress like a witch and meet me at the old Town Trolley station at 3pm sharp. What do you know, they all showed up having no idea what I was up to.”

Contrary to local rumor, the event is not a celebration of Becky’s (center) birthday.

That first afternoon, “[w]e rode the trolley downtown to the Westgate Hotel’s 4pm Afternoon Tea . . . finger sandwiches, petit Fours, tea, and champagne. There was a wonderful harpist playing and the staff could not have been nicer, in fact they provided the champagne!!!! We decided it would be a yearly outing.”

Over the past 17 years we have enjoyed multiple modes of transportation such as the Coronado Water Taxi, pedi cabs, Clydesdale drawn wagons, the Coronado ferry, and double-decker British buses to name a few. We continued to add friends to the party as the years went on and sadly out-grew the Westgate. The Horton Grand, Dick’s Last Resort, J Bar, The W, San Diego Marriott, San Diego Wine and Culinary Center, Blush, BUBS, and the University Club have all been wonderful venues throughout the years and very accommodating to the happy-go-lucky witches.”

This is the first year that a flash-mob was added to the calendar of events.

Geiss surmised: “I’m really not sure how the event has become so large, and to be honest, I miss the smaller intimate crowd, but there seems to be great interest in our womens’ pointy hat outing and I find it hard to say no to any fun-loving creative woman who requests an invitation. The sea of black cackling babes on brooms have come from as far as Washington DC. ”

This reporter was struck by the open-heartedness of Ms. Hovland and Ms. Geiss. It gave these organizers joy to see everyone enjoying themselves, even if they didn’t realize the origin of the event or the tremendous amount of work involved.

Geiss noted that, “Marla Hovland has become my right-hand-witch in the planning of this party and I couldn’t do it without her. Little do people know but we decorate each venue the night before in the wee hours of the night because we have to wait until the restaurant closes before we are allowed in to begin decorating. I personally walk the entire route numerous times before the day of the event to assure there will be no hiccups along the way. Timing is everything when moving this many ladies.”

“Just like us!” – Witches checking their social media

The day was so special that it became clear to these enchantresses that the small admission price could not have begun to cover the transportation, the refreshments, the lunch, etc., etc., etc.  Indeed, it was revealed to this reporter that Ms. Geiss underwrites much of the event.

Each year the Tea is different. It’s been small and intimate; it’s been large and boisterous…who knows what the organizers will conjure up for next year? But this year, given the generosity of both heart and wallet, all participants flew into Halloween with their spirits lifted.


Ann Marie Bryan
Ann Marie Bryan
When not writing, Ann Marie teaches World History and Western Civilization at Grossmont College. A job she loves as much as she loves "island life".Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

More Local News