At 9 a.m. Saturday morning, Jessie Ede ’14 and Connor Smith ’13 huddled in line at Binns Fashion Shop in Colonial Williamsburg to catch a glimpse of their Hollywood idol, Betty White.
The Emmy award winning actress, Golden Girl, and recent Saturday Night Live guest star arrived in Colonial Williamsburg over the weekend in the name of animals. White has frequently endorsed The Pet Set, a collection of European, hand crafted glass pet ornaments created by Joy to the World Collectibles, in support of the Morris Animal Foundation.
Hosted by Binns Fashion Shop, White’s personal appearance involved a four hour autograph session, professional photos with fans and purchasers of ornaments, as well as a black and white gala event in the evening. Part of the proceeds from both events will benefit MAF.
While many of the ornaments were pre-signed, fans like Ede who registered early were able to have their ornaments signed in person by Betty White.
“I am a notorious Betty White fan,” Ede said. “I bought my pug ornament for around $40 because it guaranteed I got to see Betty.”
Many students and adults echoed Ede’s motives for coming out on Saturday. White’s Saturday Night Live skits and Rose Nyland character on “The Golden Girls” were frequently cited reasons for wanting to meet White.
“I love her foul mouth,” Smith said.
By the time White arrived at Binns Fashion Shop in a horse-drawn carriage, the initial 100 people had become a dense throng of close to 1,000 that stretched down Duke of Gloucester Street. After being greeted by city officials, White proceeded down a red carpet, kissing some fan’s animals while the crowd chanted “We love you, Betty” and “Will you marry me, Betty?”
Many brought Betty White fan paraphernalia, or even their own dogs and cats in hopes for an autograph. A young girl donned a sweatshirt from White’s line of hoodies that read “Betty is my homegirl.”
According to the Joy to the World Collectibles website, the Pet Set, is the largest breed-specific dog collection of its kind and offers more than 350 different styles. Those who pre-ordered their ornaments or purchased them Saturday could choose from a catalog of over 200 breeds of mostly dogs, cats and some wild animals. Prices of the pet ornaments ranged from $39 to $42. According to personnel at Binns Fashion Shop, the majority of purchasers were not students.
Debbie Ryan from Virginia Beach had ordered her gingerbread dog bone ornament online before the event.
“My daughter has been watching ‘Golden Girls’ since she was little,” Ryan said. “I didn’t want to miss the chance of seeing Betty White. Plus, the ornaments are for a good cause.”
The MAF fundraising black and white gala event, of which White was a guest of honor, was $195 per ticket. Proceeds from both a live and silent auction during the gala, featuring items from celebrities including Elton John’s Gold Album, will go toward the MAF. Ace of Cakes with the Food Network attended and provided desserts.
White has been an advocate of animal rights for more than 40 years. In 2009, she became the emeritus president of the Morris Animal Foundation. She has served as a trustee for the MAF since 1971, and was president of the trustees from 1982 to 1985. Proceeds from her 2011 calendar and hoodie line will go toward the MAF. In addition, Betty supports the Canine Cancer Campaign, Betty White Rapid Response Fund, and more than 30 scientific studies aimed at helping animals.
“I am thrilled to be a part of an event that is all about the animals,” White said in a press release. “It doesn’t come as any surprise to any of you that I am an animal nut. I love them deeply and dearly, and that is why I am so proud to be a part of Morris Animal Foundation.”
White’s endorsement of The Pet Set has been met with great gratitude on the MAF’s part precisely because of the fans like Ede and Smith that she is able to attract.
“I heard about the event online about a month ago. There was no doubt that I was going to be here,” Ede said.