Themed, “Midnight at the Oasis,” this year’s incarnation of the annual event was held on Saturday, Apr. 9 at Tenaya Lodge, with nearly 200 people in attendance — ready to party and pitch in for the only fundraiser that supports all annual expenses for the park.
From the moment guests ducked under the sunset-colored tenting at the entrance to the ballroom, through the belly dancers who performed later on, the oasis theme prevailed. Lavish, brightly colored decorations elevated the evening’s mood, and guests did not disappoint either, coming out to play dressed in their extravagant best. The soiree is attended by foothill residents and park-supporters, along with guests who come from the city for a night of incredible food, great entertainment, and terrific deals.
A friendly and talented Tenaya staff passed tasty hors d’oeuvre and champagne flowed freely throughout the evening. A no-host bar added to the fun, while many of those who parked their cars before the night started had booked rooms to stay overnight at the lodge, and others engaged sober drivers.
The point of the evening is to raise money and have fun, and the silent auction tables and live auction antics were extremely successful, but it’s hard to not talk about the food a little while longer.
For the cost of $45 per person this event is one of the best bargains around. Tables and trays in the center of the room were laden with fresh-stocked deliciousness all night long, with starters including coconut shrimp, sushi, generous displays of cheeses, fruit and meats, and a chef-driven pasta bar that had people returning multiple times. For meat lovers, a carvery, and for chocolate lovers… it was heaven.
Okay — onto the goodies! Anyone who’s ever been on a committee to produce an event like this knows it’s a mammoth undertaking not for the faint of heart. The amount of time and energy that goes into pulling together packages for both a silent auction and live auction of this caliber are nearly inestimable.
That dedication to detail and the generosity of the sponsors showed in every single item that was available for bidding all night long — and that includes the raffle. More than thirty items were live-auctioned by super-pro Gary Colon, with hundreds of items on the tables for silent bid.
Music for the evening was provided by Eddie Guzman and Wild Hare. Eddie played guitar and sang from the moment guests began to arrive, and after the auction the band played inside the ballroom (last year guests had to migrate to another part of the lodge — this was way better) so people boogied until, reportedly, they could boogie no more.
In addition to all the donations of goods for the auctions, many people on and off the committee donated their time. Andrew Pence is Chairman of the Oakhurst Community Park Committee and spoke from the heart about the history of the event and offered thanks to all who came to celebrate another year of park funding. Also on the Park committee are Dave Nickel, Teri Gambril, Susan Macaulay, and Betty Linn.
The Elegant Auction Committee is also chaired by Andrew Pence, with equally eloquent Master of Ceremonies Eric Wood. Also on board the committee are Susan Macaulay, Tami Michel, Maria Miller, Gina Mims, Laura Norman, Amy Paine, Erica Pence, Mary Pence, Rima Runtzel, Christine Smith, Donna Smith, Cynthia Sobel, Heather Stieler, Paula Trappen and Tammy Von Rossen.
Many were credited with stepping up this year especially, not the least of whom was Paula who lifted the ambience and decor to a new level of crazy chic.
The fundraising portion of the event wouldn’t be possible without the table closers and raffle ticket sellers, including Liane Daniels, Amanda Ades, Amber Daniels, Marisa Daniels-Frank, and Kristin Kernaghan.
Auctioneer assistants and floor persons included Michael Cook, Chris Poffenberger, and Gary Williams. The committee thanks Yosemite Bank Cashiers, Sierra Telephone Operators, Paul Ratchford, Charlene Kelley and the entire staff of Tenaya Lodge.
Major sponsors of the event include Sierra Tel, Tenaya Lodge, Vulcan Materials Company, Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, Ameriprise Financial, Inspiro Brand Strategy, Local Social, and Virginia Lazar Photography.
Other area businesses and services made cash contributions to the event, including Andrew’s Electric, Dr. Barbara Kelly Dental, Marilyn Rigg, State Farm Insurace, Alternative Septic Systems, John Reed, Dr. Michael Horasanian D.D.S, Dr. Rodney Peter, D.D.S., James Watkins Attorney at Law, Century 21 Golden Chain Realty, McGoldrick & McGoldrick, Brian Harper Farmer’s Insurance, Eco Strike Pest Control a nd the Attorney offices of Leah Zabel.
Clearly, for a community park, it takes a community.
When I first heard about the Elegant Auction, it seemed counter-intuitive and initially, the premise didn’t compute — I thought, why would you have a fancy evening to celebrate a simple park where you run barefoot and kids play on the swings?
That impression was corrected when I learned the history of the Oakhurst Community Park and how a group of people came together long ago to create a safe, recreational public space out of a big empty lot in the style of “if-you-build-it, they-will-come.” When these early organizers completed all the intensive work it took to put an entire town park together, they wanted to dress up and celebrate. Now, the event makes perfect sense.
A smashing success would not be too strong a term for the Saturday night excitement of Elegant Auction — supporters came out in droves, groups of friends mingled and people made new friends. The mood in the ballroom was upbeat and excited and the evening rolled out seemingly seamlessly.
One of the best parts of the whole shebang is seeing all the happy people walk away — women often heels in hand — carrying all the fantastic merchandise and service certificates they’ve won during the night.
The first Elegant Auction was 31 years ago, and planning for next year’s event is already underway. I won’t spill what the theme is for 2017 but, the committee will get by with a little help from their friends.