Zoom Party
Left: Janice and Richard Cherkasky with a food package. Right: Ruth and Alvin Kwaselow go over their scavenger hunt list.

Couples got creative to keep their New Year’s Eve traditions alive.

Janice Cherkasky has been able to immerse herself in parties. Besides hosting them for family and friends, she plans them for others through her business, Gourmet Parties.

Over the past 15 years, she and her husband, Richard, have invited about 40 guests to their Franklin home in celebration of New Year’s Eve. Beyond traditions, annual partygoers have found fun activities by going along with different themes, from Motown to cowboy territory.

With 2021 on the horizon, the Cherkaskys refused to let pandemic confinement stop their get-togethers. Using the Zoom platform to replace at-home gatherings, Janice came up with ideas that would connect guests while keeping them socially distanced.

“I just wanted everybody to feel a little bit normal, relax and have a good time,” said Janice, who, for the very first time, hosted a party wearing slippers because nobody would see them. “It’s been a rough year being apart, and we wanted to connect with people we enjoy.”

Of course, food had to be part of the planning, and Janice picked up on the ideas of variety and homemade favorites. Each participant or couple was asked to prepare something tempting with two big bites for everyone. The Cherkasky porch, outfitted with a table, kept guests distanced as they dropped off their foods and later picked up the inclusive packages.

“We hadn’t seen these people for a while, so it was great to watch for them and wave through our windows,” said Richard, who joined his wife in setting up an assembly line in their kitchen to sort and divide the foods. “The experience made me feel very New Age.”

Andi Sklar, a longtime Cherkasky partygoer, was especially appreciated for her decision to bring a Jewish sense to the party menu.  Because the new year began on a Friday, she made little challah rolls for everyone.

“Back in July, I started taking Zoom challah classes, and I’ve given away hundreds of challahs in different shapes,” said Sklar, known for creating tempting confections sold through her former business, Andi’s Candies. “Making challahs is something I can do and share with other people. For the party, it was fun sharing and being together.”

Mixologist Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings in Ann Arbor was asked to demonstrate how to prepare three special beverages — one nonalcoholic. In advance of the party, each guest was emailed a list of the drinks and what ingredients would be needed so they could learn and prep simultaneously.

Scavenger Hunt

Ruth and Alvin Kwaselow, who have joined in the new year parties since the beginning, had fun with the home-based scavenger hunt thought out by their hosts. The Kwaselows divided up the list and hurried around their house.

Ruth Kwaselow had entered into the party mood earlier by preparing seafood phyllo tartlets, which her husband drove to the Cherkasky porch, and returned to pick up one of the combination packages. Among the treats were tomato basil soup, chicken wings, vegetable lasagna, lemon squares and brownies.

“We especially loved the stuffed mushrooms, and I’m going to make them,” Ruth said. “Janice asked that we provide recipes, and I thought that was a great idea.

“I’ve attended a Zoom bar mitzvah party, but this was very different because it was so interactive. Janice is always creative and thought of a great way of bringing people together.”

Janice, who does scavenger hunts with grandchildren, thought an adult version could get everyone engaged and laughing a little bit.

“I picked silly things normally in a home,” she explained of the items that included a bandage, candy bar, mother’s picture, newspaper and hand sanitizer container. The ones who got the most items in 10 minutes — Wendy and Howard Hertz and Suzi and Hal Muskovitz — will get prizes to be delivered soon.

Because of the digital platform, the Cherkaskys were able to include people out of town, who developed their own menus but participated in watching the mixologist and taking on the scavenger hunt. Reunions were welcomed with participants based in New York, California, Illinois, Arizona and Florida.

As a hosting bonus because of Zoom, the larger guest list did not mean extra work.

“Richard and I haven’t yet decided what the scavenger hunt winners will get — maybe a gift card, maybe something else,” the party planner said.

“Whatever it is, I hope it keeps a party feeling for them and for us as we leave 2020 behind.”

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