The 2014 Dinner under the Stars on Saturday 1 March was forced undercover for the second year in a row - but, was anyone complaining?!
The stars were nowhere to be seen as rain fell softly on the outdoor dining area at two eight two eight. The committee waited until 9am on Saturday morning to decide where to set up, and, once the decision was made to move indoors, did not let the long overdue rain dampen their spirits. In fact the reverse: the farmers smiled, the district heaved a collective sigh of relief and everyone’s mood instantly lifted, setting the tone for a fantastic night out!
The logistics of organising an event like this in a town the size of Gulargambone where we have limited resources at our fingertips are enormous, and there are many people to thank for the success of the evening. It was a magnificent team effort spread over several months. Dividing up the jobs meant everyone ‘did their bit’ and made the whole event manageable. Thank you to our enthusiastic and dedicated sub-committee members who made it all happen: Bettina Spora, Sally Beveridge, Sara Roche, Annie Haling, Deidre Walker, Katie Rowe and Greg O’Brien who were joined this year by several more volunteers: Pauline Meers, Bianca Williams, Toni Fuller, Colleen Ower, Melanie Ferguson and Alison Tancred, and their combined talents took the organisation of the dinner to a new level.
Other people who helped in many different ways pre and post event (setting up and/or cleaning up, loading or unloading Adors equipment, hanging lights and making bon bons) included Paul Ower, Hugh Beveridge, JB Tancred, John Dent, Sam Hunt, Paul Fisher, Chris Roche, Mick O’Brien, Alex Oligschlager, Michele Hegarty, Penny Hassall, Valda Glen, Marg Hourn, Carole Spora, Keiley O’Brien, Annette Fisher, Mary-Kate McCormick, Penny Zell, and the irrepressible and always on-the-go Jonathon Thearle, Sally’s cousin from Brisbane. Roz Zell and Annette kept the workers sustained with coffees, morning tea and lunch on Saturday, several others helped on the night and Cath Peart cooked ‘all day breakfasts’ on Sunday morning for guests and workers alike and is also donating her services to cook for the Wine Appreciation Dinner later in the year.
338 guests, who travelled from as far away as Brisbane, Bribie Island and Balmain, attended the black tie event. The Memorial Hall was transformed with fairy lights and beautiful table lamps designed and created by Pauline using champagne glasses sourced by herself and Annie who must have called in to every op shop between here and Toowoomba! MC for the evening JB Tancred welcomed everyone and later joined forces with local filmmaker Hugh Beveridge to star in a very funny short movie which was screened before the main entertainment. Hugh’s wife, Sally, was responsible for organising the surprise ‘undercover’ entertainment for the evening. Singers for Hire, Australia are a group of talented singers who pose as waiters or chefs at an event before unleashing a dynamic vocal performance.
For our event, two of the performers disguised themselves as Farmoz reps handing out lucky door tickets as guests entered the hall. During dinner the two ‘Farmoz reps’ went up on stage to announce the lucky door prize winners but were interrupted by an ‘italian chef’ who leapt up on stage and said his name was Mario Lasagne who was working with Relish the caterers. The three performers, all professionally trained opera singers, then spontaneously broke into song, completely surprising everyone as they continued to entertain for the next thirty minutes with a sophisticated performance that added a real wow factor to this year’s dinner. The singers blew everyone away with their ability to crossover seamlessly between opera, contemporary and musical theatre whilst playfully intermingling with the guests. As we listened to a range of well known songs that included ‘Shuddupa youface’, light opera and ‘I still call Australia Home’, one guest was heard to comment “I cannot believe this is happening in Gulargambone!”
The entertainment was co-sponsored by Dubbo Regional Livestock Markets who unfortunately were not able to attend, and Farmoz who brought a table of 8 guests. We were very grateful that many of our major sponsors were able to join us for the night: Platinum Sponsor Vittoria Coffee represented by Marketing Manager Garth Douglas and his wife Kristie travelled from Sydney and brought three staff members who also worked all night - thanks guys we could not have staged such a professional event without you!
Gold Sponsor GrainCorp represented by Regional Manager Wayne Earl from Dubbo brought a large contingent of guests (22) including two who flew up from Melbourne that afternoon especially for the dinner and flew back again early the next day. GrainCorp guests were also noticed bidding heavily on the live auction items! Silver Sponsors Rabobank were represented by Peter D’Esposito and nine guests and AgLink by Justen Schofield and his wife Jacqui. We had some new sponsors come on board this year mainly thanks to Bianca’s new look sponsorship package, Toni’s powerful ‘Our Story’ powerpoint and Annie’s amazing negotiating skills. Twilight sponsors Dubbo City Toyota and Gilgandra Toyota were represented by Mark Walker and his wife Jodie, while Justin Taylor from Taylors Wines donated the wines for the Wine Appreciation Dinner - one of the auction items. Other major sponsors who weren’t able to attend the dinner were: Tyreright, Western Farm Machinery, GK & LH Rohr t/as Gulargambone Rural Supplies and Elders Insurance.
MH Thomas, Gilgandra donated the printing of the auction catalogues which Melanie designed and created. Our other sponsors who donated some very generous products for the auction were: Sebel Kirkton Park, Kings Hall Jewellers, Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Armatree Hotel, Australian Wool Network, Deidre & Alan Walker, MJ Bale, Alison Dent, WJ Matthews, Moree, Elk, Louenhide, RB Sellars, Central Stores, Jenny Bradley, Tooraweenah Crossroads Olive Oil, Ochre Hair, Collective, Melanie Ferguson, Jen Cowley, Joe & Judy Shalhoub, Neil & Jenny Anderson, Tingles Beauty Salon, Funky Trunks, Harvey Norman, Bunnings, Gorgeous Gingham, Gordon Scutts, Mary Kennedy, Anneka Manning, Indulgence Hair Studio, Orange, Ramiens 5 Star Supermarket, Gulargambone, Dan Murphy’s, No CSG Gilgandra, Trish Phillips & Peter ‘Chooky’ O’Brien and John Rainsford, Antiques & Old Wares Gulargambone. The auction items were co-ordinated by Sally while Katie designed the rolling powerpoint presentation acknowledging all sponsors.
The committee really appreciated the fact that both our local politicians were able to attend. Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton and his wife Robyn travelled from Warialda while State Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries and his wife Lindy travelled from Moree. Coonamble Council was represented by Mayor Al Karanouh, Deputy Mayor Danny Keady and Councillor Tom Cullen, and we thank Council for their ongoing support of our project.
Most importantly thank you to everyone who bought tickets and came to the dinner! We were pleased to see all our regular supporters from Warren, Coonamble, Gilgandra, Dubbo, Moree, Burren Junction, Cowra, and Mudgee and thanks to Toni who co-ordinated the bus from Dubbo. It was great to see several former residents back in town for the dinner: Tina Orellana (nee Morris), Jeannie Boyce (nee Waugh), Tom & Sue Ryan (nee Shepherd), Gill & Bill Waugh, Josh Connell (GrainCorp), and Mary Roche (nee (O’Brien) who brought four friends from Sydney. Also spotted: Lucy Kerr (nee Kennedy) from Walgett, Charlie Walker from WA and his sister Georgia currently living in France, while the international flavour continued with Andrew O’Brien and his wife Joan visiting from Ireland (via Mudgee). Many thanks to Ash & Lib Walker for accommodating all the Mudgee guests and organising transport for them and to Hugh & Sally for hosting the representatives from Vittoria. It was also good to see regular guests Gordon Scutts, his wife Robyn and their friend Ann Crowhurst from Taree. This year they brought friends with them and plan to come again next year!
Over 200 volunteers have been involved with two eight two eight since the beginning, and a quick head count showed that 60 of the guests at the dinner have volunteered with the project at some stage, so thanks to all our local Gulargambone friends and supporters! Each table received a gift of 2 bottles of Vittoria wine. Guests enjoyed a two-course meal prepared by Relish Catering from Cryon. The meat cuts for the meal were donated by Roger Fletcher of Fletcher International. The meal featured an entree with a choice of Peri Peri Chicken with Chargrilled Corn & Avocado Salsa Served in Glasses or Smoked Trout Asian Salad Served on Spinach Leaves with Nam Jim Dressing. The main course was Za’arta Crusted Lamb Rump with Warm Tabouleh Salad topped with Marinated Feta & Vine Roasted Tomatoes Slow Cooked Moroccan Beef Cheek with Orange & Herb Cous Cous with Minted Yogurt & Pomegranate, the Dessert Tasting Table featured Upside Down Passionfruit Cheesecakes, a Selection of Homemade Fudge and Chocolate Caramel Tarts. All followed by Vittoria Coffee made by Simon one of Vittoria’s baristas.
Pauline Hammond, Lee Hamilton & Leah Hammond very capably co-ordinated the delivery of the meals to the tables. Congratulations and thank you to Kiara Reid, Brooke Chatfield and Becc Jordison, the student waitresses from Gulargambone Central School. You were a credit to your school and to your families!
Local auctioneer Paul Alchin did a brilliant job encouraging all to dig deep to support our small community project. Paul’s daughter Kathryn, assisted by mum Carol, also did a fantastic job overseeing the bidding sheets - the auctions and bon bons alone raised over $21,000. Bettina co-ordinated the making and selling of the bon bons, a winning idea initiated a few years ago by Michelle O’Brien. The winner of the major prize, a $400 Gift Voucher to the Sebel Kirkton Park, Hunter Valley was won by Ros Ruskin-Rowe from Dubbo.
Guests enjoyed disco music courtesy of Vittoria’s IT specialist Jodan (JT) Tran who was DJ for the night. We made a total profit of just over $30,000 (our best result ever!) which will go back into the project so we can continue to offer services to the community and employment for four local people. The injection of ‘outside’ dollars into the Gulargambone economy was our aim when we started two eight two eight. One of our proudest achievements is the establishment of two Indigenous Student Traineeships in Hospitality with boys from the local central school. One of those boys, Brandon Hammond, is now employed as the cook at two eight two eight and his mother, Pauline, is employed as our Adult Hospitality trainee, a significant achievement in a town with limited employment opportunities. Thanks, everyone!