There was free punch and lemonade to drink and cookies to munch Sunday on the second-floor lobby of the Gallo Center for the Arts.
About 50 folks gathered there, many dressed in their Sunday best, for an arts center mixer. But they weren't looking for a love connection.
These art lovers were in search of theater buddies, someone with whom they could attend a concert, musical or other event.
By 2 p.m, Helen Engstrand, 65, and Nancy Osterli, 67, had nine names and phone numbers of people they had met. The two Modesto friends planned to have dinner with one woman soon to get to know her better and perhaps invite her to an outing at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.
The Gallo Center launched Duets on Sunday to give "mature adults" who are single, divorced, widowed or caregivers for a spouse who can't get out an opportunity to meet like-minded people.
Engstrand, who is divorced, and Osterli, who is widowed, said they appreciated that Duets is not about finding a date but about expanding their social network. The two are regulars at the Gallo Center.
"I'm so glad this is not a dating service but a group of people who want to make friends," Osterli said.
Chief Executive Officer Lynn Dickerson said the arts center hopes to hold three or four of these events each year for people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and older.
"We've learned that there are many mature adults who would like to attend events at the center more often but do not have anyone to go with," Dickerson said.
Sunday included a tour of the Gallo Center. Mother and daughter Betty Gary, 79, and Bernice Smith, 50, were among the dozen or so who took the tour.
It was the first time the two had been to the downtown arts venue, which opened in fall 2007, but they were impressed and signed up to get information about upcoming shows.
"I'm coming back," Gary said.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2316.