Oakhurst Community Center plans 50th Anniversary celebration

In addition to a great dinner, the 16th Annual Oakhurst Rib Fest on June 20, will serve as a 50th birthday party for the Oakhurst Community Center. The site of countless events over the years, the center, on Fresno Flats Road (425B), was built by a team of more than 100 volunteers who saw the need for a meeting place benefiting the entire community. The building was built on land donated by Jack and Mary Owens.

As construction progressed and additional funds were required, an “anonymous donor” came forward in December, 1963, and pledged $1,500 if matching funds could be generated. The building committee got to work and put on a fundraiser at The Falls in Bass Lake and the matching funds were secured. Many years later the anonymous donor was identified as Don Ely, who was owner of the Sierra Sky Ranch at the time.

Not long after the building was completed in the summer of 1965, the Mountain Community Women formed with the mandate to raise funds for the operation and maintenance of the center. That organization, now more than 75 members strong, is still working to benefit the community center.

Although the hardwood floor was yet to be installed, the first event held at the center, “Symphony in Fashion,” was held on June 5, 1965, and was attended by nearly 300 people. According to the June 10, 1965, edition of the Sierra Star, the event, sponsored by service organizations wives, grossed about $900.

Co-chairs of the event were Mary Porter, and Sybil Underwood, with Mary Williams serving as commentator for the fashion show.

Models wore the latest styles in clothing from The Pink Penny, Village Department Store, Mar-Nel’s Sewing Center, Stuart’s Tack and Saddlery, and The Men’s Den. Models included Doll Reed, Susan Peters, Gloria Sullivan, Steve Smithy, and Dave Steele.

A hat contest was held that day with Jo Arfwedson winning for funniest hat (rosebud and lace decorated toilet seat), Jane Wiliams for most imaginative (gilded wicker violin), and Mary Williams for most beautiful.

Bragging rights

Doors for the all-you-can-eat Rib Fest open at 5:30 p.m., The community center is one of the most notable landmarks in Oakhurst. The 6,000 square-foot center has served as the social hub of the community for half a century.

The Rib Fest pits service clubs against one another for the title of “Best Ribs in the Mountains,” and is the sole annual fundraiser for the upkeep and improvements of the community center. More than 400 pounds of pork ribs will be prepared for the dinner.

The current title holder is the Rotary Club of Oakhurst Sierra (noon), who won last year with the team of Dr. Robert Brosi (and his ‘top secret’ barbecue sauce recipe), Doug Macaulay, George Sitts, and John and Fern Facchino.

Although not divulging all the ingredients, Brosi did acknowledge that last year he used garlic, garlic, and more garlic in his sauce.

“We wrapped the ribs up in tin foil and placed them on the grill high from the fire to imitate baking, “ Brossi said. “Then we unwrapped the ribs, sauced them up and let them finish on the grill.”

Other clubs vying for “Best Ribs” bragging rights are Oakhurst Kiwanis, Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary, Elks Lodge, and the Sierra Lions Club.

Dottie Lee, rib fest chairperson, hopes to see a large crowd at the event.

“We are looking forward to a big night to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Oakhurst Community Center,” Lee said. “The center has been serving the community for 50 years, so if you have ever been to an event at the community center, or belong to a club that uses the center, please consider coming out and supporting this wonderful event, while raising funds for the upkeep of the center. In the spirit of the former volunteers, the community now has the opportunity to come out in force to support the center.”

The Rib Fest menu will also include baked beans and coleslaw provided by the Soroptimist International of the Sierras, garlic French bread prepared by Nora Hunting, and cookies and ice cream provided by Mountain Community Women.

In addition to ticket sales, a 50/50 raffle, and a live and silent auction offering a variety of goods and services for attendees to bid on to raise funds. Live auction items will include four tickets to Disneyland, a digital electric smoker, a half day party barge on Bass Lake from Miller’s Landing Resort, and a field trimmer/mower.

During the evening, the Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary Club will draw the name of the lucky person who will go home from the Rib Fest in a 1982 Porsche 928S. The club has been selling $20 raffle tickets for the sports car, donated by an anonymous donor, with proceeds going to the community center, Oakhurst Senior Center, and the library. For tickets, call Tim Madden, (559) 283-4731.

The community centers board of directors is made up of representatives from many area service clubs as well as the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce. The Rib Fest, which raised $14,000 last year, is the only community center sponsored event that raises money to continue to run, maintain, and improve the center.

Details: Doors open 5:30 p.m. - Dinner served at 7 p.m. - Tickets cost $25 per person, $12 for 10 and under. Tickets available at Yosemite Bank, Dorsey’s Hallmark, and Oakhurst Giftworks & Framing, and Dorsey’s Hallmark. Sharon Smith, (559) 683-2290.