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Lesher's On Broadway Is All About the Numbers

The Lesher Center for the Arts annual gala raised record numbers

The Lesher Center for the Arts’ annual gala was all about the numbers as On Broadway took over half of Walnut Creek’s Locust Street on Saturday night.

Nearly 600 arts patrons filled the 50-by-150-foot tent, seating themselves in 574 ballroom chairs at 55 round tables, decorated with 1,374 orchids and 1,600 napkins. A gourmet dinner served by Barbara Llewellyn Catering & Event Planning arrived on 600 dinner plates accompanied by 1,200 glasses brimming with fine wines chosen by Wente Vineyards. Dessert came in 560 canning jars: Some diners were noted for consuming two or three of the fruity, whipped cream topped confection.

During the silent raffle and cocktail hour, guests clustered together, studying the blue, handheld “Bidpal” devices distributed for bidding.

“Hey! I just got outbid — I bet that’s my wife!” exclaimed Steve Lesher, co-chair for the evening.

The purpose might have been raising money for the arts, but the party was all about fun.

“We like the musicals,” was the the response of 25 visitors asked what they like best about the Lesher. “NEWSMAKERS” was the unofficial runner-up, with a surprising 18 people mentioning Colin Powell’s visit in 2009.

The live auction, served up during dinner, raised decibel levels inside the tent to well over 110. A dinner on stage, then a chat with Laura Bush, November’s NEWSMAKERS speaker, capped off at an astonishing $10,500.

Seven days in a four-bedroom farmhouse in Umbria, Italy, went for $13,500, the top auction item.

With the bidding and outbidding completed, four trumpeters signaled the evening’s featured entertainment. The 560 well-fed party-goers filed into the Hoffman Theatre for comedienne Rita Rudner’s performance. Extending the numerical theme, the band Take 2 played top hits from the '70s, '80s and '90s at the Encore Party.

The Lesher Center made its debut 21 years ago, fulfilling Dean Lesher’s vision of a cultural and artistic “hub” in the East Bay. Some 350,000 people, including 4,500 underserved students who participate in the Arts Access program in 2010, attend close to 900 arts and entertainment productions each year.

The gala raised $238,000 in 2010 and early figures for Saturday’s party put the total at at net of $250,000 — a quarter-million — which would be a record.

Magically, at the end of On Broadway’s fundraising rainbow, this miscellaneous mass of numbers will become more than a pot of gold, with a purpose beyond mathematics. Funds from the gala will support theater, dance and music groups based in or visiting the Lesher during the season.

This means that people — actors, dancers and musicians — will work and thrive in the community. Thousands of children will experience what is often their first, live performance. Local businesses and restaurants will benefit from people coming to Walnut Creek for entertainment. At the highest level, imaginations will be fired and dreams fulfilled. Therein lies the power of numbers.

SR October 12, 2011 at 02:58 AM
I think you know better Mr. Wedel. You were there to try and shed the "anti-everything" label that was cast on you during the election. Why-because you want to run again next year. You are one of many examples that could be cited. And this is coming from someone who voted for you and encouraged others to do the same. Unfortunately I think you believe some of these same folks will support you next year and sadly I believe you will fare worse in 2012 as far as votes go. Mere presence at these events is a must for those wishing to court votes, grease the skids for major construction projects or to win favor licensing treatment (alcohol permits for example). Mr. Lesher's thin skin is his own worst enemy. Anytime someone dares question him or an event he is involved in he can't help himself. He has to respond with an emotional but not logical reply. His fib about the taxpayers group above is just one example of trying to have it both ways. The Internet makes such half-truths hard to defend.
Steve Lesher October 12, 2011 at 04:39 AM
SR, with all due respect, the only fib propogated here is the one you told about me being a member of the "taxpayers alliance" and the "tea party," neither of which is true. I have been a member of the taxpayers association which you seem to believe also makes me a member of the taxpayers alliance (http://acctaxpayers.com/). These are two separate organizations, and I am not a member of the latter. I suspect you know that, but for whatever reason insist on standing by your false claim.
One more time with feeling October 15, 2011 at 04:12 PM
Left to my own devices, I'm with SR. It cost (taxpayers) $1 million for a $250k return on investment. This is not "self-sustaining". While I am here, anyone know how much "Community Service Day" cost "us"?
Lance Howland October 19, 2011 at 12:31 AM
Point of information. Referenced in this comment stream is an upcoming gala for the opening of the Neiman Marcus store at Broadway Plaza. That's scheduled for March 8. The gala will benefit four local nonprofits: Diablo Regional Arts Association, The Junior League of Oakland-East Bay, The Monument Crisis Center and The Taylor Family Foundation.
michael frederick October 19, 2011 at 09:03 PM
Lance, Your comment touches upon my point. Early in Neiman Marcus, DRAA Director Peggy White -- amazingly -- addressed the WC City Council, urging them to streamline a Neiman project that eclipsed the General Plan -- BECAUSE NEIMAN SUPPORTS ART. Soon, art advocate Carole Wynstra is leading the "Yes" movement. Art club members came out of the woodwork -- most publicly misrepresenting themselves as simply knowledgeable and concerned residents. Council plays along. When I mentioned this special interest glob before Council, Mayor Rainey reassured everyone it was a broad cross-section of advocacy. She and Dick Rainey appear in your Photo #9, left-hand side. Transportation Commissioner (and UCLA Art graduate) Kevin Wilk is noteworthy. In his "expert" opinion, anyone not confusing $300 worth of white-striping paint (to restripe an existing lot) with $8 Million Dollars of DEFERRED city-mandated parking is a liar. He also reassured that the $1M Macerich put into traffic mitigation satisfies traffic concerns. Mr. Wilk has no transportation experience predating Council appointment. Things like valet parking got promoted as "innovative" parking solutions. NO ONE mentioned them five years earlier during General Plan deliberations BECAUSE THAT'S STUPID! Organizing special interests to proclaim "Andronico's is Coming!" is not a replacement for HONEST and COMPETENT City Hall planning, capable of being upheld instead of incessantly torpedoed by its authors.

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