Christmas came early for the Civic Dance Center. On Monday, the local group met its fundraising goal, announcing on Facebook that this weekend's production of "The Nutcracker" will feature live accompaniment from the Shafter Symphony Orchestra.

A 30-piece orchestra, playing a pared-down arrangement, will perform alongside alternating casts of dancers at the shows at Mechanics Bank (formerly Rabobank) Theater Friday through Sunday. 

In its 42nd year, the ballet has become a local tradition. For decades, it was one of the few remaining smaller ballet companies to perform with live accompaniment, mostly provided by the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra. Cost concerns, and the departure of BSO conductor John Farrer, led to the end of the partnership. Funds subsequently raised through private donors went toward costumes and other necessities and so musical recordings have been used the past two years.

Stephen Penner, conductor of the Shafter Symphony and a former student of Farrer’s, reached out to Civic Dance Center this year about bringing live music back to the show. A major fundraising effort began, and with help from legacy sponsor Don C. and Diane S. Lake Family Foundation and many others, the Shafter Symphony will perform for the ballet this year.

Any additional funds raised now will go toward securing the orchestra for next year and later productions.

People who would still like to contribute can attend Friday's wine reception before the opening night performance. From 5 to 7 p.m. in the theater's reception room, there will be wine and beer and appetizers from Lengthwise Brewing Co., Wiki's Wine Dive & Grill, Flame and Skewers, and Chef's Choice Noodle Bar.

Cost is $50 and tickets are available at or by calling fundraising chairwoman Lizette Swanson at 664-6718. Donations can also still be made through the symphony's website.

Performances of "The Nutcracker" will run 7:30 p.m. Friday, 1 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available at

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter: @realstefanidias.

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