Roots’ gala finds deep pockets

November 9, 2005

The Fruit Foundation Historical Society’s gala auction on Friday night raised an estimated $35,000 toward the establishment of a museum dedicated to the fruit industry of the Hood River Valley and Mid-Columbia.

The gala, held at the site of the future museum in the former Diamond Fruit cold storage facility in Pine Grove (now owned by The Fruit Company, which has donated space for the museum), drew about 175 people for an evening of food, entertainment and bidding in both a silent and live auction.

Rod Hill, the weatherman for KATU Channel 2 News in Portland, served as emcee for the evening. Wearing a tuxedo, Hill broadcast Friday’s 6:30 p.m. weather from the gala site, talking briefly about the event and the future museum.

“I’m really excited about the outcome of the event,” said Connie Nice, executive director of The Fruit Foundation. “Not only did we raise funds that are needed for the project, but from my standpoint as museum coordinator (for the Hood River County Historical Museum, which will own all artifacts in the future fruit heritage museum) and executive director of the foundation, I feel like we raised people’s awareness of the purpose and mission of heritage and how it relates to our community.”

Auction items ranged from small art pieces to a cruise in the Sea of Cortes. Renowned auctioneer Steve Talbot served as auctioneer for the live auction.

“I’d like to thank all the people who came as well as the individual donors and businesses who donated items for the auction,” Nice said. “This first year we were novices and the community was gracious.”

The Fruit Foundation has already set up an exhibit in the Pine Grove building that is open to the public. It includes an authentic picker’s cabin, a vintage tractor and sprayer, and several other notable items ranging from historic packing house equipment to orchard ladders. Text panels and historic photos from around the Hood River Valley give a brief history of the fruit industry. The exhibit, which will eventually be incorporated into the future museum, is designed to give visitors a taste of what the fruit heritage museum will be like.

“We’re already kicking around ideas,” she said. “The foundation will be meeting in January to look at short term and long term goals, then we’ll determine when to do the next event.”

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