Celebrity waiters hold up the sky By McKibben Jackinsky

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chicken Little was right -- the sky is falling. At least that’s how it looks at the Kenai Peninsula State Fair, where the ceiling of the 4,800-square-foot Carol Bock Hall is in desperate need of repair. At the Ninilchik fairgrounds Saturday night, the fair’s biggest fund-raising event of the year will help raise money to keep the sky, or rather the ceiling, from crashing down.

The evening begins at 6 p.m., with a dinner kicking off the fun. The main course features poached salmon and ribeye medallions prepared by Anchor Point Seafoods. Homemade desserts, including those prepared by Ninilchik Domestic Engineers, are the focus of a silent auction.

A call-out auction offers numerous items donated by businesses from one end of the peninsula to the other. There’s a “Homer Getaway” package consisting of a one-night stay at Land’s End and dinner at Fat Olives, presented in a bag donated by Homer Jeans. There’s a “reader’s corner” package with books donated by the Homer Bookstore. There’s art from peninsula artists, digital cameras and a fisherman’s dream package that includes reels and XtraTufs from Kachemak Gear Shed. There are donations from Sweeney’s Clothing and jewelry from Bead It, both in Soldotna, and several vendors of the Kenai Peninsula State Fair have donated items such as stained glass and chainsaw-carved salmon. Some items have been specifically set aside for door prizes.

The theme for this year’s fair, “Barn To Be Wild,” also is Saturday’s theme. Diners will find fair manager Lara McGinnis, board members, waiters and a group of youngsters dressed to fit the occasion.

And what’s a fair-related event without barns and animals? One corner of the hall is decorated like a barn and will serve as the backdrop for a petting zoo complete with baby pigs, a lamb and a miniature goat.

To spur the waiters and diners toward fundraising success is a little friendly competition to see which waiter can pick up the most tips during the evening. The waiters don’t keep the tips, but the winner will be recognized with a one-of-a-kind crown designed and made by Steve Belden of Hammered Wombat in Ninilchik.

Last year’s winning waiter was Steve Rouse, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Housing Initiative, whom diners tipped $600. Dan Leman, coach of the Ninilchik Wolverines girls basketball team, came in second.

“His (Dan’s) whole table anted up the money and were going to keep writing checks until they realized what Steve had and they said, ‘Sorry, Dan,’” McGinnis said.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor John Williams in on the list of this year’s celebrity waiters.

“I plan on being there and if my services are needed, I’ll help,” Williams said, adding that Chief of Staff Tim Navarre will be part of his wait team.

Joe Gallagher of Homer Electric Association also is pulling in some help, namely, his daughter and her friends.

“It’s a two-pronged approach. It cuts down on insults I receive from my table because they don’t want to hurt the feelings of the young servers and it definitely works toward people being more generous with tips. They’d rather give tips to nice, young, generous girls who are very polite,” Gallagher said.

Taking advantage of the opportunity and in keeping with the theme, the Carol Bock Hall will be decorated with numerous quilts currently being raffled by Ninilchik organizations.

“Rather than just use decorations, we’ll have quilts hanging on the walls,” McGinnis said. “We’ve invited the (Ninilchik Community) library to come in and sell raffle tickets. Ninilchik Emergency Services will be selling raffle tickets. Ninilchik Senior Center is selling quilt tickets, too. It’s a community fund-raiser as opposed to just us,” McGinnis said.

As of Tuesday morning, all 220 tickets for the dinner had been purchased.

“We’re sold out,” a very excited McGinnis said.

Donations for auction and door prize items are still being accepted. For more information, call the fair office at (907) 567-3670.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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