There was an abundance of food and wine was bottomless. Entertainment was loud and lively. But this was not your typical gala.
The Las Positas College Foundation held the 11th annual “Best of the Best” gala on April 26. Run solely on donations and sponsorships, the gala is the one fundraising event held by the LPC Foundation every year.
This year, “Best of the Best” welcomed over 200 guests to wine and dine in the Mertes Center for the Arts’ lobby as they enjoyed the Night Hawks live jazz combo and viewed the exhibition of student artwork in the building’s gallery. Performances showcasing the best of the school’s performing arts department followed after the cocktail hour.
“The event started really as a showcase to the community of the wonderful things that students can do in the arts. That’s where it got its name from. ‘The Best of the Best,’” said Dr. Ted Kaye, Chief Executive Officer for the LPC Foundation.
Kaye had previously been an attendee to the gala, accompanying his wife Dale before he took over the foundation the following year.
When it first debuted in 2003, “Best of the Best” took place in the 800 building of Las Positas. LPC provided foods and wine were poured out by admins in the courtyard and with the showcase taking place in what is now the 800 building lecture hall.
From there, according to Kaye, the gala had evolved to the entity that it is now and continues to help students get the best opportunities.
“The typical format for a gala,” Kaye said, “is to go to the Hilton or another hotel. You have a nice dinner, you give out an award, maybe dancing. And (then), ‘That’s our show. Drive safely, ladies and gentlemen’ sort of thing.”
But “Best of the Best” was, and is always planned to be held on the LPC campus. Instead of a three-course meal, the event followed the structure of heavy hor d’oeuvres with wine first, followed by the student showcase, then desserts and champagne to conclude the night. It is done this way to minimize costs and for guests to see the school and witness its community-like atmosphere.
It was also to remind guests what the purpose for the gala was.
“Remember,” Kaye said, as guests mingled with each other while tasting hor d’oeuvres, “This is a fundraiser, not a wine and cheese event.”
Guests were encouraged to participate in the silent auction that took place on a table in the center of the crowd. Donated items such as having a dinner for five with the president or having the chance to be a guest conductor at an LPC concert were among the many different choices for bidding.
An online auction was also held from April 21 until April 30 that featured additional items such as VIP tickets to sporting events and vacation packages.
Food and wine was provided and served by 10 restaurants and 12 wineries. Most vendors were returning participants for the gala.
Eduardo Posada from Posada restaurant returned to “Best of the Best” for his sixth year. Being a former LPC student himself, Posada incorporates a lot of Las Positas into his business, including having his website and logo designed by the Visual Communications department. Once the Viticulture and Winery department receives the proper funding, Posada hopes to sell Las Positas College Cellars wine exclusively in his restaurant.
“I love doing this. It’s part of giving back to the community,” Posada said.
For LPC President Barry Russell, who also serves as secretary for the LPC Foundation, this was his first time attending “Best of the Best.” He noted that not only was the gala about raising funds for the school, but it was also about making friends.
“We put out our best foot to make sure that everybody has a good time. And that when we do make a plea for them to support us, they’re ready to come back and help us out. This is not the only event we want them to get to,” he said.
Officers and senators from the Associated Students of Las Positas College also attended the gala, donning their “We Choose Las Positas” collared shirts. They helped with welcoming guests and also with the setup and cleanup for the gala.
“The ASLPC was proud to staff the gala,” said ASLPC President Christopher Southorn in an email with the express.
According to Southorn, he also had the chance to mingle with guests and discuss how the LPC Foundation helps out with programs such as the student senate’s “Textbook Loaner Program.”
The showcase took place in the Main Stage theater with host Faith Alpher. It featured student-performed musical numbers, speeches and dance numbers. Faculty member Titian Lish served as the program director this year.
“The performers are chosen by the faculty members for that program (e.g. I chose theater, Jim [Dobson] chose speech, etc). We ask for the best, top of the line, performances from their programs, within a certain time limit, and then try and coordinate the acts and mood of the evening in such a way to keep the audience engaged in the performance for the evening. It is a wonderful collaboration between all the departments,” Lish said.
President Russell caught the audience by surprise as he emerged from stage right. Muted gasps and “whoo’s” filled the theater when he sat down at the provided piano. He acted as “guest pianist” — as stated in the program — to accompany student-vocalist Jessica Luchetta for her performance of the song “Crazy Dreams” by George Barry Dean, Troy Verges and Carrie Underwood.
After the third performance of the night, the monologue “A List Full of Smiles” written by Stacy Shaw and performed by student Erica Efigenio, Jim Ott took the stage to head another “surprise” auction. This time the auction was to raise funds for programs surrounding the Child Development Center to help give more opportunities for parent-students of Las Positas. Guests were invited to donate $25 to $2000+ to aid the programs.
The showcase concluded with an encore performance from the cast of the Performing Arts department’s adaptation of “Spring Awakening.” They performed the play’s musical number “Song of Purple Summer.”
“I had a number of people tell me last night in the dessert reception and today (Sunday) that this was by far the best show we’ve had. And I lay that not just on the students who were terrific, but also on the director who is Titian Lish, ” Kaye said.
The first year of “Best of the Best” the foundation was able to raise $12,000. The second year the foundation raised $24,000 and hovered around $75,000 for the years that followed.
This year, Kaye anticipates that $120,000 or more will be raised for scholarships and school programs from sponsors, ticket sales and the auction bids from guests and others that want to support the school.
“The people are so anxious to support this college. They get it. And they get it because Las Positas is our community’s college,” Kaye said.