The Lesher Center for the Arts’ annual gala was all about the numbers as On Broadway took over half of Walnut Creek’s Locust Street on Saturday night.
Nearly 600 arts patrons filled the 50-by-150-foot tent, seating themselves in 574 ballroom chairs at 55 round tables, decorated with 1,374 orchids and 1,600 napkins. A gourmet dinner served by Barbara Llewellyn Catering & Event Planning arrived on 600 dinner plates accompanied by 1,200 glasses brimming with fine wines chosen by Wente Vineyards. Dessert came in 560 canning jars: Some diners were noted for consuming two or three of the fruity, whipped cream topped confection.
During the silent raffle and cocktail hour, guests clustered together, studying the blue, handheld “Bidpal” devices distributed for bidding.
“Hey! I just got outbid — I bet that’s my wife!” exclaimed Steve Lesher, co-chair for the evening.
The purpose might have been raising money for the arts, but the party was all about fun.
“We like the musicals,” was the the response of 25 visitors asked what they like best about the Lesher. “NEWSMAKERS” was the unofficial runner-up, with a surprising 18 people mentioning Colin Powell’s visit in 2009.
The live auction, served up during dinner, raised decibel levels inside the tent to well over 110. A dinner on stage, then a chat with Laura Bush, November’s NEWSMAKERS speaker, capped off at an astonishing $10,500.
Seven days in a four-bedroom farmhouse in Umbria, Italy, went for $13,500, the top auction item.
With the bidding and outbidding completed, four trumpeters signaled the evening’s featured entertainment. The 560 well-fed party-goers filed into the Hoffman Theatre for comedienne Rita Rudner’s performance. Extending the numerical theme, the band Take 2 played top hits from the '70s, '80s and '90s at the Encore Party.
The Lesher Center made its debut 21 years ago, fulfilling Dean Lesher’s vision of a cultural and artistic “hub” in the East Bay. Some 350,000 people, including 4,500 underserved students who participate in the Arts Access program in 2010, attend close to 900 arts and entertainment productions each year.
The gala raised $238,000 in 2010 and early figures for Saturday’s party put the total at at net of $250,000 — a quarter-million — which would be a record.
Magically, at the end of On Broadway’s fundraising rainbow, this miscellaneous mass of numbers will become more than a pot of gold, with a purpose beyond mathematics. Funds from the gala will support theater, dance and music groups based in or visiting the Lesher during the season.
This means that people — actors, dancers and musicians — will work and thrive in the community. Thousands of children will experience what is often their first, live performance. Local businesses and restaurants will benefit from people coming to Walnut Creek for entertainment. At the highest level, imaginations will be fired and dreams fulfilled. Therein lies the power of numbers.