ALAMEDA -- Gowned girls and a royal prince mingled with ice cream diners at Tucker's Ice Cream shop to celebrate the upcoming opening of "The Nutcracker" at Kofman Auditorium.

While regular civilians of all ages lined up Nov. 30 to order a cold, sweet treat, Alameda Civic Ballet performers posed for photos and played with children who hunkered over a table to color pictures of characters from the ballet.

Rachel Falkner, 17, a Saint Joseph Notre Dame student, sat with the little ones as they created their artistic works. Though she was dressed as a Sugar Plum Fairy for the Tucker's event, she will play other roles in the production, including a snowflake and a maid. She has been learning ballet for 14 years.

"The Nutcracker" story is an adventurous one. A girl named Clara (Lincoln Middle School eighth-grader Yingru Huang) meets a prince who had been turned into a nutcracker, (Alameda High School junior Justin Modeliste), helps rescue him during a battle between gingerbread men and mice and he is transformed back into his human self. The two head off to the Land of Sweets to celebrate.

But that's just the big picture. Characters of all stripes abound scene after scene including a quickly-growing giant Christmas tree, dancing snowflakes, sugar plums, toys, candy, pastries and more dreamlike creatures that keep the stage humming in this 100-plus year-old ballet.

Huang, who has been learning ballet since age 5, said she feels playing Clara is the chance of a lifetime.

Performances will be held at 2 p.m. Dec. 15 and Dec. 16 at Kofman Auditorium, 2200 Central Ave. Tickets are $28 for adults and $18 for attendees under 18. To order tickets, go to AlamedaNutcracker.com or call 510-337-1929 or 1-800-838-3006. For an additional $7, audience members may attend the Sugar Plum Party after the show meet cast members, take photographs and have treats.

The production's artistic director, Abra Rudisill, is also Alameda Civic Ballet's founder. The nonprofit school on Park Street is 10 years old and has students from 3 to 70, she said.

Tucker's owner Kate Pryor said she sponsored the promotional event because it's a great way to let people know that a high quality production of "The Nutcracker" is right here in town. She also held a flavor-naming contest for her latest holiday ice cream. Three winners will get free tickets to the show and gift certificates for ice cream.