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Santa Rosa, CA 95406

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The SRHSF Polenta Feed: A Brief History

» 2012 Polenta Feed: Video

The Polenta Feed dinner, one of the Foundation’s major yearly social and fundraising event, was held for the first time at the Santa Rosa Druid’s Hall on Friday, February 21, 1997.

The first dinner, organized by Pat and Ernie Thompson, Pat and Duane Myers, and Carl Johns, was a huge success, creating an all-years reunion atmosphere. In addition to the ambiance, the first Polenta Feed raised over $2000, allowing for the additional funding of worthy programs at SRHS. To provide for the high quality polenta dinner, Ray Lazzini, the celebrated Italian chef at Santa Rosa’s Resurrection Parish, was brought in to do the cooking. Along with Chef Ray, Duane Myers, Herm Baggenstos and Ron Fertitta served as assistants in the kitchen.

In the years prior to the establishment of the polenta dinner, the Foundation directors experimented with a number of other combination fundraising and social activities, including the Annual Dinner Dance held in the spring of each year and the Pasta Feed, organized for the first time in October 1993.

Although the Annual Dinner Dance, with 150-200 in attendance, was a very successful social event in the years prior to 1993, it did not serve as a major fundraiser, with Directors hoping to “break even” financially by the end of the evening event.

The Pasta Feed, put in place to increase the fundraising effort of the Board, was established on October 22, 1993. Organized by co-chairs Diane Kitchen and Karen Uboldi, and supported by Chef Duane Myers, the event attracted 200 people to a sold out Druid’s Hall. The bartenders at the first event were Founding member Doug Pavese and Judge Bob Dale. Others assisting were Ernie and Pat Thompson, Donna Peterson, Pat Myers, Rick Call and Penny Hastings. Profit for the evening was $1300, a good start for a first effort. In 1995, Duane and Pat Myers co-chairs of the event, raised over $2000 for cash-strapped SRHS programs.

In the fall of 1996, the Directors, taking the best aspects of the dinner dance (social) and pasta feed (fundraising), decided to combine the two events, creating the now extremely popular Polenta Feed. Approaching its 17th successful, sold-out year, it’s safe to say that a star was born in the spring of 1997.

For the first four years of the Polenta Feed, the event was held in the Druid’s Hall, a warm, cozy place, with a seating capacity of approximately 200. During those years the comments were always the same according to reports made to President Rosie London. In addition to the great food, “I haven’t seen so many old friends in one place in so long.” That was the goal. Make money for the school and provide a venue for SRHS grads to socialize. If there was an issue during that period, it was the size of the venue. Within a few weeks of releasing the tickets, the event was completely sold out, creating some anxiety for the co-chairs of the event, Pat and Ernie Thompson.

To accommodate the increased demand for tickets, the Annual Polenta Feed was moved, in 2001, to St Eugene’s Becker Center. Held for the first time on March 9, 2001, the venue was able to hold 435, doubling the capacity for the increasingly popular event. The newly created raffle was a huge success as well, thanks to co-chairs Rosie London and Donna Peterson and their crew of “raffle girls” Rocky Call, Paulette Gomes, Diane Keegan, Penny Briceno and Julie Gleason. With the increased capacity and raffle, over $8000 was raised for SRHS programs in that one evening.

After five successful years at the Becker Center, the Board made the decision to move to the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building. This allowed for a capacity of 650 guests, an increase of over 200 for the once humble corn meal and meat sauce dinner. Co-chairs of the event in April 2006, Jacky Schalich and JoAnn MacDonald, made it a smooth transition to the new venue, with over 650 paid guests in attendance.

On April 27, 2012, the SRHS Foundation hosted its 16th annual Polenta Feed at Santa Rosa’s Veterans Memorial Building. Foundation board members Jacky Schalich and JoAnn MacDonald again co-chaired the event, as 675 alumni and friends gathered for a memorable evening of reminiscence, food and wine. The cooks, including Ray Lazzini, Randy Apel, Elmo Rossi, Jim Uboldi, Ron Fertitta and others, worked their magic in the kitchen. Foundation board members Donna Peterson and Paulette Gomes continued to do a super job of ticket sales, coordination of the seating and organization of the raffle. 

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