Q&A: Holiday Party Planning with Shannon Wellington

A Chadds Ford-based event planner shares tips to make seasonal events a breeze.


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PHOTO VIA Shari's berries IS LICENSED UNDER CC BY 2.0

Shannon Wellington

Shannon Wellington

The holiday season is a great time to gather with family and friends, and a holiday party is often an ideal way to get everyone together at one time. No matter how joyful, parties come with lots of stress, regardless of the size or amount of help. To ensure it runs smoothly, planning ahead is essential. Shannon Wellington, a Chadds Ford resident and owner of Shannon Wellington Weddings and Events, offers her advice.

How can the host enjoy the party, stress-free?
Plan ahead and outsource. Plan your food and drink menu in advance and order out so that you can heat up and serve quickly. The last thing you want is to be in the kitchen all day and too tired to talk to your guests. Also, let people help you. If guests offer to bring something, let them. If you need to hire help, there’s catering, cleaning, serving and planning services out there.

How do you pick a party theme and decorate accordingly?
A theme is a great way to get your guests in the spirit. Decide on one early and communicate it via your invitation. Use it to inspire your décor and entertainment. An Ugly Christmas Sweater party is a fun way to get all your guests dressed up and is a great excuse to host a Best Dressed contest. You could provide silly props like reindeer antlers and blinking red noses and a wrapping paper backdrop for a fun selfie station.  

What are some classic decorations?
Keep decorations simple. Collections of décor are great conversation starters, whether it’s your vintage ornaments or Santas from around the world. Bringing the outdoors in works especially well this time of year. Green garlands and birch logs are beautiful on their own or dressed up with white twinkle lights.

How can you set the mood?
Turn overhead and task lights off. Create a festive atmosphere with twinkle lights and loads of candlelight. There’s something magical about a room lit by just a Christmas tree. Keep the music playing softly and let the aroma of your hard work in the kitchen set the stage.

What type of activities should there be at a holiday party?
Gift swaps and contests are left best to smaller affairs. For larger events, good food, good music and good conversation are all you need.

How do you tactfully tell guests that children aren’t allowed?
Adding a simple “Adults Only” line to your invitation should suffice. Also keep in mind the time of your party. A cocktail party at 8 p.m. implies that children would not be the ideal guests. Since childcare is tough to find for some, you may have those who assume it’s okay to bring them. The best thing to do is have a conversation with your friends with children. By asking about their childcare options and remaining firm that it is an adults-only affair, you can save on hurt feelings and miscommunications.

10 Party-Planning Tips

Plan space accordingly. “Your kitchen may be the heart of your home, but during a party, it’s too busy for guests to be mingling. Set up food displays and stations throughout the rest of the house to keep the flow moving.”

Make fun food. “Consider offering food and wine pairings or tastings of locally sourced cheeses and meats.”

Prepare signature drinks. “A classic punch never goes out of style. Plus, you’ll spend less time refilling glasses.”

Prepare inventory. “Assign a dish and serving utensil to every dish ahead of time. Be sure that your linens are ironed, the silver is polished and the crystal is clear a few days before your event.”

Mind the music. “A great soundtrack can make your party. Using a playlist or favorite station is a great hands-off solution.”

Set a pretty table. “Whether you’re hosting an intimate dinner party or cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, your table décor should be simple and festive. Groups of branches and berries or vases filled with shiny vintage ornaments would be great statement pieces.”

Un-man the bar. “Unless playing bartender is your spouse’s thing, a self-service bar is the way to go. Buckets filled with ice can house a few wine bottles and varieties of beer. A few different bottles of liquor with your favorite mixers can be displayed, as well.”

Check your list twice. “Three master lists should accompany every party: guest list, menu, and shopping list. Check your cabinets for any ingredient you may already have. Divide your shopping list up among various departments or specialty markets. Most importantly, keep the lists on you.”

Set the stage. “The night before your event, stage all of your food and drink displays. Put out your linens and arrange everything you can ahead of time. Use notes to label platters and dishes so you’ll know exactly where each dish goes.”

Set aside “me” time. “Build in time before the party to get dressed, light candles and have a sip of wine.”

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Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

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Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE ALUMNI INVITATIONAL A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop, Artist talk at 7:30 PM The...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

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THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

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TRANSIT by Maryanne Pollock January 27 - April 26, 2018Opening Reception: Friday, February 2, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop On Art:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | 5:25 - 6 PM Maryanne...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

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THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

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A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

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THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

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The DCAD@20 Art Party will take place in DCAD’s Market Street galleries and on Sixth Street between those two indoor spaces. It will raise funds to support general operations and scholarships at...

Cost: $50

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design
600 N. Market St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: Delaware College of Art and Design
Telephone: 302-622-8000
Contact Name: Renee T. Garnick
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7:30 p.m. Curator Talk | 8:00 p.m. Pyxis Inspired by the exhibition Eye on Nature: Andrew Wyeth and John Ruskin, Pyxis Piano Quartet will perform a chamber concert in the Museum’s magnificent...

Cost: $30 Members, $50 Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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East Coast Garden Center presents: The Spring Festival!  We love celebrating the Spring season, and we invite you to join us! The weather warms, plants break dormancy, and Sussex County becomes...

Cost: free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Sponsor: Cordrey Companies
Telephone: (302)945-3489
Contact Name: Christine Justice
Website »

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Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE ALUMNI INVITATIONAL A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop, Artist talk at 7:30 PM The...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

TRANSIT by Maryanne Pollock January 27 - April 26, 2018Opening Reception: Friday, February 2, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop On Art:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | 5:25 - 6 PM Maryanne...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Mix, Relax, Explore: Live Music and Winterthur Beer Garden Winterthur After Hours on select Friday evenings presents families and adults with an evening opportunity to explore the Galleries and...

Cost: $10 per Member. $15 per nonmember. $5 students. 13 and under are free.

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Friday, April 20, 7:00 p.m. Loudis Recital Hall   The U.S. Army Blues, part of the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” is the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Army. After...

Cost: Free

Where:
Loudis Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

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Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Buddy Guy will perform his Chicago blues at the SugarHouse Casino Event Center on Friday, April 20, at 9 p.m. Guy is one of the most important blues singers and...

Cost: $49-$69

Where:
SugarHouse Casino
1001 N. Delaware Ave
Philadelphia, DE  19125
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East Coast Garden Center presents: The Spring Festival!  We love celebrating the Spring season, and we invite you to join us! The weather warms, plants break dormancy, and Sussex County becomes...

Cost: free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
View map »


Sponsor: Cordrey Companies
Telephone: (302)945-3489
Contact Name: Christine Justice
Website »

More information

Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Join us again this spring and summer for yoga in the beautiful Copeland Sculpture Garden. Beginners, casual attendees, and families are welcome. Bring your own mat or borrow one of ours!...

Cost: Free, $10 suggested donation

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE ALUMNI INVITATIONAL A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop, Artist talk at 7:30 PM The...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

The DELPEX 2018 Postage Stamp Show features stamp exhibits, 20 stamp dealers, a bid board auction, and free stamps for kids.  Come and meet others who share your interest in stamp collecting. 

Cost: $0

Where:
Nur Shrine Center
198 S Dupont Hwy (Rtes. 13 & 40)
New Castle, DE  19720
View map »


Sponsor: Brandywine Valley Stamp Club
Telephone: 130-232-22719
Contact Name: Bill Clark
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

TRANSIT by Maryanne Pollock January 27 - April 26, 2018Opening Reception: Friday, February 2, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop On Art:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | 5:25 - 6 PM Maryanne...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

18-HOLE INDOOR MINI GOLF Skyline Church is committed to building community in the Pike Creek area. We have created a unique event that will build relationships with community members, businesses,...

Cost: $7 | $10 | $125

Where:
Skyline United Methodist Church
3100 Skyline Drive
Wilmington, DE  19808
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Sponsor: Skyline United Methodist Church
Telephone: 302-737-9069
Website »

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Saturday, April 21, 12:30 p.m. Gore Recital Hall   Clarinetist Jeremy W. Reynolds joined the faculty of the University of Denver Lamont School of Music after performing as principal clarinetist...

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

The Newark Symphony Chamber Series presents ensembles featuring NSO members; & will be joined by UD Singin' Hens.    For information, call (302) 369-3466 or email: busmgr@newarksymphony.org....

Cost: $0 - $20

Where:
Newark United Methodist Church
69 E. Main St.
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: Newark Symphony Orchestra
Telephone: (302) 369-3466
Contact Name: Business Manager
Website »

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The next installment in our Inaugural Season of Concerts @ Covenant. Join us as Organist and Musicologist Chad Fothergill, University Fellow at the Esther Boyer College of Music at Temple...

Cost: $15

Where:
The Presbyterian Church of the Covenant
503 Duncan Road
Wilmington, DE  19809
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Sponsor: Concerts @ Covenant Series
Telephone: 302-743-1201
Contact Name: Ryan Pryslak
Website »

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Guest Artist Recital Saturday, April 21, 8:00 p.m. Gore Recital Hall   American classical guitarist, Xavier Jara (1993), is the 1st prize winner of the 2016 GFA International Concert Artist...

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

It's time for a night of music, prizes, and strikes! Join the ladies of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Epsilon Rho Zeta Chapter for their Bowling Extravaganza. On April 21st starting at 9pm, meet us...

Cost: $25 per ticket; $120 per teams of 6

Where:
Pleasant Hill Lanes
1001 W Newport Pike
Wilmington, DE  19804
View map »


Sponsor: Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Epsilon Rho Zeta Chapter
Telephone: 302-715-1920
Contact Name: Michelle Mack-Williams
Website »

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