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South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Businesses Cashing In Big On Quince Craze

By Kenneth D. MacHarg
Special Correspondent

October 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

A quince celebration for a Latin American 15-year-old girl is a culturally significant and a highly anticipated event.

It can also be very expensive."If it is an elaborately produced affair, it can run anywhere from $15,000 to $45,000," said Mayra Etayo, a Miramar resident who operates Not Just Calligraphy, an event-planning organization that is developing a regional specialty in producing quinces (pronounced keen-say).

Etayo runs one of several businesses that help South Florida parents navigate through the quince process like a wedding planner helps a young couple plan for their nuptials.

"It's the Latin tradition of a debutant, an introduction and coming out into society," said Jeff Greene of Pembroke Pines, who operates Party Time DJ's in Davie, a business that provides disc jockey and photography services to quince celebrations. "It's more than a party, it's a milestone where a girl is in transition from being a little girl to a young lady."

Such an elaborately planned event can be very costly and often mounts up to more than the cost of a formal wedding, which can amount to $25,000.

"Families are moving to spending more for a quince than for a wedding because it's for `my daughter,' while a wedding is a shared event between two families," Greene said.

Etayo agreed. "Parents say, this is my baby and I'm going to give her her dream."

"A few years ago, I prepared flowers for a lot of weddings," said Ana Cappelossa of Fort Lauderdale who operates Fiori Events Designs in Pompano Beach. "Now, people are putting more emphasis on quinces and bar mitzvahs."

Costs for a typical gala quince include the rental of a hall, caterers, formal dresses, flowers, photography and videography, jewelry, keepsakes, a DJ or band, decorations, hair styling, makeup, invitations and a choreographer to plan the entrance and dancing.

"You might be surprised, but some families even take a second mortgage on their home to finance their daughter's quince," Etayo said.

Some families are opting for less costly alternatives.

"We have been offering quince cruises for 20 years," said Beatrice Mompoint of Happy Holidays Travel in Miami. "We take 24 teens and their families and friends on a seven-day cruise."

Mompoint said that in lieu of a $25,000-$50,000 dollar event, a girl gets an extended trip with her family and friends at a cost of $4,000 per person.

Others choose a European tour to celebrate their coming out.

"We offer 17 day packages for 24 girls at $3,000 each," said Maria Machin of Miramar, who works at Viajes Principal in Hialeah. "Just the girls go and they have 17 days to celebrate their birthday."

Planning for such a large event, whether a party or a cruise, begins a long time before the occasion.

"Some people start planning two or three years in advance," said Etayo who serves as a quince event planner, negotiating contracts with banquet halls, designers, choreographers, caterers, photographers and others on behalf of the family. "They are rarely planned in less than a year."

Many of the quince service organizations and business are in Miami-Dade County because of the higher Cuban population there and a longer tradition of quinces than in Broward County.

But, according to Greene, there is a growing interest and participation among Broward County girls, even though the majority of the parties are held in banquet halls and other similar facilities in Hialeah.

For those who can't afford the more expensive quinces, or choose to celebrate in an alternative way, an option is to hold a quince at home or in a church hall with family members and friends pitching in to provide the services.

"Many of my cousins in Puerto Rico had a quince party," said Cathy Rodd of Miami. "In those days, their mother or grandmother made the dresses and other people brought in the food."

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