The Lobster Feed and Charity Auction’s primary purpose is a fundraiser to benefit and promote the programs of both Lakewood Center for the Arts and the Rotary Foundation of Lake Oswego equally. This is a joint project by both organizations and all parties acknowledge the shared responsibility to promote goodwill and cooperation between the joint project partners. Both parties are committed to maintaining this event as a signature project in the community and to promote the event to its respective organization and supporters.
PURPOSES OF THE EVENT:
A History of Our Lobster Feed
by Warren Oliver
The Rotary Club's first Lobster Festival was held in the gym of the Lakewood Center in September 1980. Bill Shafer was the president of the club. The club had pledged $20,000 over three years to buy the Lakewood School from the School District. Previous fund raising activities of the club never raised over $5,000.
In the late 70s the grandson of Maine's Governor Baxter imported a Portland Maine caterer for a lobster feed fundraiser. The caterer brought his assistant and 100 lobsters with him on the plane. Bill Headlee attended the fundraiser.
Bill Headlee suggested the Lobster Auction as a fundraiser to pay off some of $20,000 the club had pledged. Herald Campbell was the first chairman of the event. We hired the Portland Maine caterer who cooked the lobsters in a covered aluminum disposable cake pans on top of hot charcoal laid out on 50 foot strips of aluminum foil on the grass outside the gym. The serving was done on tables in the gym which is now the theatre.
Herald was so successful in leading the auction that the club raised the entire $20,000 that September night. Two years later another auction was held again in September catered by the same person and raised a like amount.
Bill Gerber and I thought we could save the $10,000 caterer fee if we cooked the lobsters ourselves and persuaded the board to let us try. We practiced laying the aluminum foil in my back yard and proceeded to cook and time the whole cooking cycle. The auction was moved outside under a tent as the gym was now a theatre, and the cooking was done on the ground outside the tent. We were a little behind in the time to place all the ingredients in the cake pans. As soon as we were ready to cook, a cloudburst hit Lakewood and doused the charcoal. We then scooped up all 400 pounds of charcoal, placed it in a huge mound and soon had a blast furnace going, but could cook only 10 or 12 lobsters at a time. It took 3 hours to serve and the hungry ticket buyers were in no mood to get involved in the auction bidding. We made about $5000 less for the entire auction as most of the bidders had left.
We tried again with more success the next year with the help of an assembly line to shuck and wrap the corn, place the lobsters on a foil grate about 4 feet off the ground. This time there was no cloudburst, and we served 350 people in 50 minutes.
One of the early problems was that we received the lobsters from Maine at the airport at midnight on Thursday and the auction was not until Saturday. We kept the cartons wrapped in blankets until we were ready to place them in the containers. As long as the lobsters are alive and moving there was no chance of food poisoning. One year Headlee, trying to help, took all the lobsters out of the basement into the hot sun near where they were prepared and by the time we were ready, the lobsters were lifeless. A few frantic phone calls to the supplier in Rockport, Maine said if they were still cool and not smelly they would be OK. I recruited Rotarian Fran Saunders to help me sniff 380 lobsters and threw out about 5, and the auction went on without a hitch.
Jerry Woods came to the rescue next year with a refrigerated truck from one of his clients. While we still sniff moribund lobsters, we have not had much anxiety except when Continental Airlines removed our cargo in Houston because the air temperature was over 100 degrees, and it was unsafe to fly passengers with that additional cargo weight. The lobsters arrived the next day on another plane.
After 15 years, Doug Jost took over as Lobster Chef for 5 or so years, and then turned it over to John Normandin who was in charge for 5 years before he turned it over to Bob Liddell.
The menu is the same as the early days. 1.5 lb. lobster, 1 lb. of clams, 1 10” ear of corn, 1 hard boiled egg, cole slaw, cake, coffee, beer and wine.
The auction now serves almost 600 people with net revenues well over $150,000.
It is the place to be in June!
Warren W. Oliver
Warren Oliver, master chef and founder of our feast, passed away in May 2008, but his tradition of service above self lives on.
History of the
Lobster Feed and Charity Auction
Bill Headlee’s Version – recorded in 1997
The following dialogue is to recall the history of Lake Oswego Rotary’s annual Lobster feed one of the most successful and enjoyable efforts of our club.
The story starts in 1978 when seven members of the Lake
Oswego Community Theatre Board took $20,000 and made an offer to by Lakewood
School for $600,000. After much
posturing the School Board agreed to accept the offer with delivery of the
school in the fall of 1980 at which time the balance was due.
I was elected to solicit funds to meet this goal from various community organizations, of which Rotary was one. On the appointed day, I had five minutes at the first of the meeting to make a pitch, and was successful in getting a $20,000 pledge. I was not at that time a member I didn’t realize that the club had never raised that much money for one project in it’s history.
Well, about two weeks later Warren Oliver called and asked if I would like to join the local club. I was flattered, and said yes. Pass another couple of weeks and Herald Campbell called and said he had been appointed Chairman of a committee to raise the $20,000 and I was one of the select members. Wow, what an organization.
In trying to find out a method to raise this amount without just selling roses, I remembered a fund raiser David and Ann Myer had held at their home. They had flown a cook and 50 lobsters etc out from Boston and put on a clam bake. We followed through and arranged for the same cook to put one on for us. I think we charged $35 a head. The theater group had taken over the school by then and we put up some tables in the old gym, strung a few banners, obtained a few auction items and sold 150 or 200 tickets. The lobsters and clams came from Boston with the cook. They were prepared on the play ground over charcoal trenches. Free flowing wine made the first party a success.
It was so much fun, Chairman Herald Campbell decided to serve as Chair a second time around the following fall to raise money to equip the meeting room so Rotary could have a permanent meeting place. Same crew, better party more money. Then the fun began.
Warren Oliver, being a hard core New Englander, said why pay a guy from Boston. He could buy the lobsters from a friend, fly them out, get clams from Olympia, corn, cold slaw ,and etc locally and we could pocket the difference. What a deal. Bill Gerber being a frustrated gourmet cook agreed to help with the prep and cooking. To add to the fun that was the year the theater group converted the gym into a theater, requiring the party to be a outside affair. It was a September even and we arranged to rent an old canvas circus tent for the even in case of rain. Rain it did. All day and evening.
The tent was in the location we now use, however it was then a grassy play field and gravel parking areas. Muddy to see the least. The rain collected above the perimeter poles and had to be removed by pushing upward from inside, cascades of rain water falling and then running through the tent. At curtain time it was still pouring down, but our 300 ticket buyers show up anyway.
Cooks, Oliver and Gerber held off lighting the charcoal because of the rain. Now remember they are cooking on the ground out side the tent. After many cases of lighter fluid they finally achieved fire in a mountain of charcoal, with temperature approaching blast furnace range. They are outside, in the rain, bending over this inferno, trying to cook three hundred fifty lobster dinners. Seven o’clock, not done, seven thirty, not done, eight almost done, a quick trip to Thriftway to replenish the wine stock and service starts at eight fifteen. As usual everyone was a good sport. We finally finished the auction some time after ten and it was one of the finest events we’ve had, except for the two cooks, both were white to the gills, and we thought heart attacks were emanate. Fellow Rotarians pitched in and helped with the last batches to save the cooks for the next ten years.
The Lobster feed in 1997 will be number thirteen. We’ve evolved to bigger and better tents, Gerber designed racks to cook on so its somewhat easier if not cooler. Dee Denton has supervise service at each of the last twelve. Accounting has come form Dr. Toftee’s cigar box, cash in-payments out, what was left over was profit to computers and automatic check out for members.
Had a few dead lobsters in the early years, add a few steaks
for those allergic to seafood, but all in all the partnership with Lakewood
Center has been profitable to both organizations. Rotary provides manpower and
auction items, Lakewood handles tickets and provides facilities and both
organizations sell tickets and work the event. From a $20,000 to a $70,000 net,
this party has become a major social event that benefits the entire community.
ANNUAL LOBSTER FEED & CHARITY AUCTION
A Significant Achievement
In 1979, Lake Oswego Rotary was in search of a community service project. At the same time, the Lakewood Theatre Company/Lakewood Center for the Arts was in the market for a new building, having outgrown its existing space. The Lakewood Elementary School on State Street in Lake Oswego was available, a perfect site for the new Lakewood Center for the Arts.Members of the two boards got together to discuss how the money could be raised to buy the building, and thus began a fledgling partnership that is now in its 28th year. Together the boards decided a lobster feed would be a good way to raise part of the needed funds. Rotarian Warren Oliver, a native of the State of Maine, knew a thing or two about authentic lobster feeds, and in that first year, about $10,000 was raised, allowing Lakewood Center to go forward with its plans to purchase the building.
As the years went by, Lake Oswego Rotary and the Lakewood Center continued to hold an annual Lobster Feed and Charity Auction, with the Lakewood Center the primary beneficiary. Rotarians procure the auction items, prepare the food and run the event; Lakewood Center staff takes care of ticket sales, accounting, printing and many other behind-the-scenes details. Over time, other beneficiaries were added, and now the event benefits not only Lakewood Center but also other deserving local charities such as Clackamas Women’s Services, the Lake Oswego Heritage Foundation and the Lake Oswego School Foundation, just to name a few. The primary beneficiary remains to this day the Lakewood Center, which provides arts and theatre to more than 100,000 people each year. From its humble beginnings, the event has grown in popularity and financial success. We are now serving lobster dinners to 600 diners, with a net contribution to the Lakewood Center and other charities in excess of $150,000 per year.
An important piece of the partnership involves the tent in which the Auction is held. A local sponsor is obtained each year, and the tent is used one weekend for the Auction, and the weekend immediately following for the Festival of the Arts, a cornerstone activity of the Lakewood Center. The Festival, now in its 48th year, annually draws 25,000 arts enthusiasts from around the Region. Many Rotarians can be found hard at work the entire weekend of the Festival. Another element of the partnership is the fact that our Rotary club holds its regular meeting in Lakewood Center’s community room which was renovated some years ago with an $80,000 grant from Lake Oswego Rotary.
This community service partnership, we believe, is unusual due not only to the many years it has endured but also due to the close working relationship of the two organizations. There are always a few Rotarians on Lakewood Center’s board, and the Executive Director of the Center has long been a Rotarian, as have other members of Lakewood’s board. Over the last 27 years these two organizations have raised more than $1,500,000 for programs at the center; a remarkable achievement.
Few cities the size of Lake Oswego can boast an arts organization that encompasses a highly-acclaimed theater company, a dance studio, classes in aerobics, exercise, ballet, tap and jazz, an art gallery, a preschool, a children’s theater, a music studio, an art festival, a community room and a resale shop.
Lake Oswego Rotary is proud of the part it has played in making Lakewood Center for the Arts a reality.
Sharon Starr, Lake Oswego Rotarian 9/2010