When Mary Spryer first moved to Clayton several years ago, she thought the Camellia Tea was an event for Joel Clayton's descendants.

Through the years as a volunteer and curator of the Clayton Museum, Spryer has helped spread the word that the annual event, which takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 10, at the museum, welcomes everyone.

"When I realized that it's an event for everybody, then I started to attend the tea regularly," she said.

In its 36th year, the Camellia Tea will be honoring the founding father's descendants, who still live in the Bay Area, as "honorary tea pourers," Spryer said.

"It really honors the pioneering families who have stayed here," she said.

In 1977, the Clayton Historical Society hosted the first Camellia Silver Tea, which honored those pioneering family descendants and also had the "aim of adding members to its roster," Spryer said.

At that first tea, Edna Laurel Calhan, Joel Clayton's granddaughter, was one of the "honorary tea pourers," along with descendants from the Galindo, Bloching, Easton, Wright, Frank, Duncan, Morgan, Graves, Keller, Viera, Aiello, Garaventa and Atchinson families.

The first tea hosted more than 150 guests; in recent years the attendance has ranged from 30 to 100, a combination of both "old-timers" and "newcomers," Spryer said.


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"The tea is free of charge and was never expected to be a fundraising event, however the costs are usually covered by donations of tea-goers," Spryer said. "As with all of the past Camellia Teas, volunteers bake delicious bars and cookies which are beautifully presented on silver trays. Coffee, tea, and museum punch are also served."

Each year, the society selects "tea pourers." Because the society and museum recently celebrated Joel Clayton's 200th birthday and is currently featuring his life in a special exhibit, descendants of Joel Clayton will have that honor this year, Spryer said.

Pioneering families often use this day at the museum as both official and unofficial family reunions. As in past years, society members and other guests have the opportunity to meet and talk with pioneer family descendants, Spryer said.

Barbara Allen and Barbara Fogerson are co-chairmen of the 2013 tea, which will be held rain or shine. Children are welcome with an adult.

Given the time of year and the blooming of camellias, Clayton resident Edith Mazzei often provided them for the tea before her death in September 2010. Mazzei became involved with camellias in 1972 and joined various groups like the American Camellia Society.

Mazzei's friend, Frank Purcell, grafted and documented a camellia in her name as a legacy to her contribution to the camellia societies, Spryer said.

Now, volunteers like Linda Cruz of the Clayton Garden Club and local Walnut Creek camellia grower Bob Erhardt, have stepped up to adorn the museum with camellias from their own gardens, Spryer said.

"It looks like we should be having some special prizewinning camellias on display this year," she said.

"Some people have never seen the museum before," said Cruz, who, with her fellow garden club members, poured tea one year. "People come from out-of-town ... to enjoy the tea served in old-fashioned teacups. This is a time for sharing warmth and tradition."

If You go
WHAT: Annual Camellia Tea
WHEN: 1-4 p.m. Feb. 10
WHERE: Clayton Museum, 6101 Main St.
INFORMATION: Free, donations welcome. Visit www.claytonhistory.org