The Community Foundation of Estero Bay is getting ready for its 10th Annual Morro Bay Sings dinner show and fundraiser, and a native son will return for an unprecedented sixth time to perform.
Jody Mulgrew, who was born and raised in Morro Bay and now lives in San Diego, will headline the Saturday, Oct. 20 show and a new group of a cappella singers from Cuesta College, “Voix,” and featuring members of the school’s award-winning choir, Voce, will open the show.
And as every year the night will have a theme, “Music from the 1940s and ‘50s.”
The show was the brainchild of Mitch Barnett and Marlene Peter, who has been a stalwart supporter for the Foundation for 23 years. She also taught at Morro Elementary School in town for many years, including having Mulgrew in her fourth grade class as a boy.
How it came about is a long tale that Marlene and her son, David Peter, and Mitch Barnett recounted to a reporter over lunch at The Galley Grill & Bar.
It was about 10 years ago, when the Galley was reopening after being completely rebuilt by the Anderson Family and leased by David.
“The Galley was reopening and I get hired,” said Barnett. “Two or three months in, Marlene is sitting at the bar having lunch and telling me about the Dixon Spaghetti Feed.” (The Spaghetti Feed is a major fundraiser for the Community Foundation.)
Barnett had been a business owner in Cayucos and put on the Cayucos Music Festival for about four straight years. “I suggested they have a music festival,” Barnett said. He said he’d help out and Marlene told him “You’re in.”
That first year they brought in Lindsay Tomaszik who did a show of Joni Mitchell music. Since then Barnett said, they’ve only used local musicians.
“Jody has played six shows,” Barnett said. “I had an unwritten rule that I didn’t want to bring in the same musicians every year, but Jody was different, because of his connection with Marlene. And every time Jody’s played he’s just knocked it out of the park.”
In the past, the theme has been about one artist or one group, for example they’ve had Morro Bay Sings the Beatles, Billy Joel, and last year, it was the Eagles. Each performance lasts about half an hour and Barnett said he doesn’t tell the bands what songs to play, just the artist, the genre or in this year’s case, the era of music.
“I give them free reign on what songs the musicians want to do,” said Barnett.
“Elvis and the country nights were fun,” said Marlene. “Motown night was fun too.”
Barnett said he’d been hearing from a lot of fans that suggested they do the “Rat Pack” — Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and of course Frank Sinatra.
“A lot of people with my color hair want it,” joked Marlene.
“I came up with that ‘era’,” said Barnett. “The 1940s and 50s — that has the beginnings of rock ‘n’ roll too.”
And the dinner this year will be improved also. David Peter, whose restaurant has provided the lite supper fare, said, “The first nine years we did soup, salad, wine and provided the staff. We make three soups, salads and rolls. This year Mark Tognazzini [who owns Dockside, Too] is going to roast chicken, so we’ll also have his smoked chicken. it’s going to be great — soups, salad and chicken.
“It was really nice of Mark to volunteer to do this.”
Doc Bernstein’s will again provide ice cream and they’ll have beer and wine for sale and non-alcoholic drinks.
The Foundation Board is a working board, as David Peter who sits on it, and Marlene who was on the board for 23 years and is now a board member emeritus, can attest.
Preparations for the dinner show started in June and the show is usually held in October, though the date has moved around.
And while the first few shows were at the Vet’s Hall, it’s been at the Community Center for several years now. The center gets dolled up like an elegant nightclub.
Every board member has jobs and Marlene said they all go out and solicit donations from local businesses for a silent auction with big prizes sold in a live auction. Jeff Eckles will again emcee the show and conduct the auction, Marlene said.
Proceeds are used for scholarships for local kids in Morro Bay, Los Osos and Cayucos who can’t afford to participate in the City’s recreation and sports programs.
But David Peter said, “The Foundation has changed. Initially it was founded to help the Morro Bay Recreation Department and its programs. But it’s expanded now because there were so many kids from Los Osos and Cayucos who wanted to participate. We’re sponsoring non-profit organizations now, too.”
The Foundation was started by former recreation and parks director Andrea Lueker, and her successor, Joe Woods, was a big supporter, Marlene said.
The Foundation’s fundraising efforts have ben very successful and Marlene said they give out about $40,000 a year in scholarships.
David Peter said they want to build up an endowment fund so they don’t have to rely so much on fundraising. A million dollars or so would allow them to maintain their same level of giving.
Morro Bay Sings Songs of the 1940s and ‘50s is set for Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Morro Bay Community Center. Tickets are $50 a person or a table of eight for $400, and $500 for 10, which will include a complimentary bottle of wine.
Tickets available on line at: WWW.Esterobaycommunityfoundation.org/events; at Coalesce Book Store, 845 Main St.; at the Community Center during normal business hours; or call show producer, Barnett at (805) 234-2980 or email to: email@example.com.
Doors open at 5 p.m., dinner is at 5:30, and the show starts at 7.
By Neil Farrell