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Menus with Meaning

Food and frolics combine in two first-time fundraisers

Compliments to the chefs — and the waiters.

About 500 people tasted some of the best of Hood River cooking last weekend in two dinner events that raised money for local causes.

Friday’s “Notables Dinner” drew 150 diners at Divot’s Restaurant. Saturday’s “Bite of the Gorge” brought in about 325 people at the Hood River National Guard Armory.

Both dinners were first-year events and both sold out.

The Notables Dinner raised $5,000 for New Parent Services, a non-profit organization that provides health and development programs to local families with young children. “The Bite” raised $8,000 for Columbia Gorge Arts in Education. Food and music was donated at both events; Larkspur played Friday and All Night Station Saturday.

The Bite raised more than $8,000, according to Leith Gaines of Arts in Education.

“We exceeded our goal, and I was really impressed with the restaurants. They were incredibly easy to work with. Everyone raved about the food,” she said.

“We had to turn people away at the door, which was good and bad,” she said. “The only snafu was the line was very long and very slow. But that’s how it goes with a first time event, figuring out how to make that work.”

Gaines said people remarked that they had “never seen so many people in the Armory in their life.”

New Parent Services board member Melissa McElderry said the “Notables” dinner went smoothly with “a few glitches,” and that the organizers learned from the experience.

“We were pleased with how it went for the first year and really pleased with how much money was made,” she said.

“We want to give a huge thank you to our servers,” she said of the local “notables” who waited tables and engaged diners in antics to generate tips for New Parent Services.

“They were just awesome. In and of themselves they raised $2,000 in tips money,” said McElderry, who organized the event with Carolyn Zuck and Tood Douglass.

McElderry’s husband, Andrew, donated two bottles of vintage wine that sold for about $60 each during the “Notables” auction.

Two “notables,” Mark Nilsson of Yum Gallery and City Council Member Scott Reynier, sang a duet at the behest of Council Member Linda Rouches, who had asked fellow diners, “How much will you pay for Mark and Scott to sing a duet?” Their version of ‘Pretty Woman’ netted $510.

Dinner proceeds will go to New Parent Services’ endowment fund.

“We want to give thanks to servers and numerous businesses who donated everything from linens to auction items, chocolate to asparagus,” McElderry said. She added, “Divots was so behind us, it was terrific. It was a huge coup to have them.”

For the Bite, restaurants donated all the food, and many created special menus for the event, according to Gaines.

She said next year’s “Bite” will attempt to get the restaurants even more involved in the event.

“The event is a showcase for Arts in Education and also for the restaurants, to give them more of a chance to shine,” Gaines said. She said the event was an important fundraiser for the arts group since it lost all funding from the Oregon Arts Commission this year.

“Rural arts programs are the first to go, so fundraising on a local level is so important right now,” Gaines said. Hood River County School District does not have any paid art teachers at the elementary level. Arts in Education pays half the cost of artists-in-residence in the schools, and the district picks up the rest.

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