History Of the Gala as told by Irene Rogers
In 1988 Norm Childs contacted me and asked me to stop by his office. He wanted to get my opinion for a fund raising idea for completing the museum.
He wanted a meal, a program, and an auction sale. All in one evening. This meant that each part would be limited in how much time they could use.
He was asking me for my opinion on the food part. I told him it could be done and I knew some people who could make it happen.
I contacted some women, some from my church and some from Extension Homemaker Units. This committee, including me as the chairman, Lotte Taylor, Lois Strauss, Bernice Munson, Madeline Sherraden, Adeline Kramer and Cecelia Dickson, met at my home to discuss menu, people needed, equipment needed and where to get it and what it would cost.
This plan was taken to Norm for approval and we were on the way for the first Gala in 1988.
A work plan was prepared, telephone calls made, and letters written to those we had selected asking for their help.
The first year I ordered all the food as well as arranged for workers and equipment and doing the directing. I remember so well how perturbed I was with Norm. He had the plan in his hands and was to call the table numbers, etc. for me. He talked and talked and talked before starting-- How were we to make our time limit if he took up so much of our time?
We finally got started and we did it. Approximately 380 people fed in the 30 minutes allotted and we have been able to keep it up.
The second year John Leonard joined the food committee and assumed the job of securing and getting the food prepared. My duties were then to secure volunteers, to round up equipment, and whatever it took to get the event done.
This same year, the members of the Pilot Club decided to make this one of their volunteer projects for community service and each year members volunteered to work and I only had to fill in the gaps from other good workers. They continued this for the 17 years but were able to supply fewer helpers each year.
When John Leonard's health no longer permitted him to work, Shelly Gunderson came on the committee and handled the job very efficiently.
Menu Problems and Changes:
Whole Roasted Hog
Several places were checked out and found only Clay Center Locker had the facilities large enough to handle what we wanted. For the first Gala three hogs provided 373 pounds of dressed meat. Their service has been excellent and they prepared the meat for the entire 18 years.
Scalloped Potatoes Potato Salad
Prepared by Dillons for 1988, 89, and 90. Used 150# for 400 people. In 1991 Dillons could not handle the potatoes so arrangements were made with Stacey's Restaurant to cook them. Had trouble with some pans not being cooked enough so switched to potato salad in 1992. Concern about keeping the salad cold enough to prevent any trouble was handled by the purchase of two large trash cans. Containers were placed in these cans and iced down as soon as they were delivered. This system was used to the end.
Cole slaw was on the menu from 1988 through 1991. It was prepared by Dillons making up 100# for 400 people each year. When we did not need electrical outlets for coffee, we switched to a vegetable using roasters and preparing them in the auditorium.
For 1988 and 1990 we tried to serve coffee, iced tea, and water. For the amount needed we had to perk coffee and then put it in the Igloos to keep hot while we perked more. Coffee pots had to be spread all over the auditorium and we were constantly blowing fuses. The decision was made that no coffee was better than luke warm coffee. Since that time we only served tea and water. People accepted the no coffee decision and we had no complaints (really not complaints but questions) after the first year of change.
Dessert was a major problem for the first few years. We began with ice cream cups. Heldstab Appliance moved in a freezer to keep it frozen. Cups were placed on the plates as they were served. Most melted before people were ready to eat it. The next year we worked out a plan for volunteers to carry trays with someone setting a cup at each plate after the serving was over and most people were done with their meal. This was still not satisfactory so we switched to Little Debbie Cake in 1993. We received many complaints because they were too sweet. However we continued using them until 2003 when it became possible to get Grandma's Cookies individually wrapped. These were welcomed by most of the people.
Everything that came in had to go back out so volunteers were still working.
With no kitchen facilities at the auditorium, all roasters, pitchers, etc. were hauled to my residence to be washed. The first five years my family handled the dish washing. A special volunteer washing crew was added in 1993. In 1994, volunteers washed equipment in the museum kitchen.
In 1995, permission was given for use of the kitchen in the First United Methodist Church and this served to the final need. All pitchers, roasters, ice chests, igloos, etc. were hauled to the church following the event and then a crew of volunteers returned the next morning to complete the job and load up and return all the equipment to it's rightful place.
And now it's over:
Eighteen years is a long time but it was a good time.
I have been blessed with the privilege to work with a committee and a museum staff whose dedication to the job has been outstanding...
Each committee had a job to do and when done everything would fall into place for the overall results. Meetings of the committee began early in the year and were held monthly. Reports of progress were made, problems discussed and solved, and each committee continued on their own.
Yes I am glad the decision was made to make 2005 the final year that it would be done by the Historical Society (after all we all have aged a bit). I will miss working with a crew of truly outstanding volunteers, some who worked every year. Geary County and Junction City people are the best.