More than 175 people raised about $43,000 last Saturday to support the Oakhurst Community Park during the 28th Annual Elegant Auction at Tenaya Lodge in Fish Camp. The park receives no government funds or grants and the auction is the park's sole annual fundraiser that supports park equipment, supplies, upgrades, maintenance and security.
Before the live auction got underway, a special presentation was made to David Linn, who stepped down last year after 28 years as the Oakhurst Community Park Committee chairman and Oakhurst Community Fund president. Mary Pence, who is credited along with Linn, for coming up with the idea of the Elegant Auction,thanked Linn for his years of service and announced the park gazebo will now be know as the David Linn Oakhurst Community Park Gazebo. Pence and her son Andrew, unveiled the sign that will be placed on the gazebo in honor of Linn.
Linn was one of many community members who were instrumental in the creation of the park, located behind the Oakhurst Library and adjacent to the Fresno River. The park became official when the Madera County Board of Supervisors approved a 25-year, $1 a month, lease agreement between Sierra Telephone Company owner Harry Baker Jr. and the county for the 4.5 acre site in 1987.
The Oakhurst Community Fund was established in 1981 through which tax deductible donations could be made for the park.
Under Linn's leadership, an old junkyard that used to exist at the park's current location, was removed, a sprinkler system was installed and the park was landscaped. Linn, working closely with Coarsegold engineer, John Reynolds and the local Pacific Gas and Electric Office, then headed by Joe Giebel, built the park bridge across the Fresno River during the winter of 1976.
During Linn's tenure, playground equipment was installed, the walking path was developed, the gazebo constructed and restrooms were built, the well and on half of the park acreage were purchased from Hillview Water, the lease with Sierra Telephone was extended and the park has continued to be a gathering spot for the young and old alike in the community.
At the opening ceremonies on Aug. 8, 1988, Linn stated, "that while building a community park has been our primary purpose, mountain people working together for their common good has been no less a goal."
"We have all benefited from you realizing your dream," Mary Pence told Linn.
Linn thanked everyone at the auction and those in the community for their 28 years of support of the park.
"The people in this room and others in the mountain community built this park and you will be the ones to keep it going," Linn said.
Andrew Pence, sales manager with W.J. Bradley Mortgage Capital Corp., has stepped into the role of park committee chairman and Oakhurst Community Fund president and he served as master of ceremonies of the event.
"This is always an amazing event and for those who missed it, please plan on joining us next year because we need your support and it's your park too," Andrew said.
Pence said he is honored and humbled by his appointment as the new park committee chairman.
"I have some large shoes to fill and lots to learn, but in my heart, this community and the park are all that matter," Pence said.
Other members of the park committee are Dave Nickel, treasurer, Teri Gambril, Susan Macaulay and Betty Linn.
Of the more than 250 silent auction donations from area businesses and individuals and 46 live auction items, the night's highest bids came from a Chef's Holiday package for two at the Ahwahnee Hotel ($2,300), a 6-foot carved bear and cub by Jim Smith ($2,000), seven-night Hawaii vacation donated by Barbara Miller ($1,400), a Disneyland trip ($1,200), a Sierra Tel package including a smart plasma 3-D television and a year's internet service ($1,300) and a granite-top 24-bottle wine cabinet donated by Dr. Bob Brosi ($1,050).
Other big-ticket items were an elk dinner for eight served with hand crafted beer from the soon-to-open South Gate Brewing Company, donated by Supervisor Tom Wheeler and Casey and Lindsay Hawkins ($1,000), set of four Cooper tires from Sullivan Tire Pros ($900), gourmet dinner for eight with selected wines donated by Marilyn Rigg, Doug Reeves and Jim Watkins ($900), a Pismo Beach escape donated by Rick and Teri Gambril and a half-page display ad in the Sierra Star ($800).
Russ and Sunny Duncanson, owners of Walt Bannon Drilling, bid $600 for the annual "Dash for Cash" event sponsored by Yosemite Bank. Participating in the event on their behalf was Bobbie Evans and Ericka Young. Evans ran to transfer as much of the $500 in one jar to another jar in less than a minute with Young and the crowd cheering her on. In addition to the initial $600 bid, the Duncanson's donated what was collected of the $500, back to the auction.
Artwork that fetched funds for the park included "Rock a Buy," an 18 X 24 inch painting by Oakhurst artist Stephen Stavast, "Welcome Committee Kitty" by Leislie Dearing and paintings by Micki Hart, Jane Burman and Rona Adler.
The auction has been the source of $1.6 million in donations for the park over the past 28 years.
Susan Macaulay served as auction chairwoman for the 18th year. In addition to Macaulay, auction committee members are Sandy Brinley, Christy Fullmer, Michaela Edwards, Tami Michel, Maureen Otterson, Anna Ressler, Rima Runtzel, Donna Smith and Susan Smith.
Doug Macaulay served as auctioneer for the 11th year.