By Joey Macellaro ~ The Ocean Beach Community House was alive with music, laughter, and an abundance of delicious food this past Saturday, Aug. 7, as the Ocean Beach Community Fund (OBCF) hosted its annual fundraising gala after a year’s absence.
“We are truly excited to be able to come together again,” said Community Fund President Holly Etlin, “as the party is as much about community as it is a fundraiser.” Over 200 supporters sporting black and white attire were in attendance for the event, which had the theme 100 Years, 100 Dances, in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the Village of Ocean Beach.
To allow for outdoor seating, tables were arranged on the Community House deck and the village green with plenty of room for dancing inside.
Rick Kushner, musical director for the Fund, had booked most of this year’s entertainment to appear at the 2020 gala prior to its cancellation due to the pandemic.
The 10 members of New Jersey-based Latin dance group Orquesta Yanikeke had the Community House jumping, as Ocean Beach residents and friends mingled on the dance floor. Directed by Juan Leonardo and Andy Abreu, the group was discovered by Kushner at a New York City show.
Also featured was electronic violinist Andrei Matorin, originally from Rio de Janeiro and currently based in New York City. Matorin’s talent was noticed by Kushner at an event in Miami and he was quick to bring him out to the beach. On Saturday, he accompanied Orquesta Yanikeke in addition to playing solo.
Well known Ocean Beach Disc Jockey Ira Zahler, owner of Fira’s Falafel and Frites on Bay Walk, rounded out the musical entertainment for the night, playing hits new and old.
Kushner kicked off his first year as the Fund’s musical director with a couple of surprises. The Ocean Beach lifeguards performed a rousing rendition of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” to the delight of the crowd. Campers from Ocean Beach Youth Group also got in on the fun, performing a preview of their annual year-end concert.
As usual, a full-service buffet was catered free of charge by restaurants throughout town, with food served outdoors along Cottage Walk. In an effort to attract supporters who might not otherwise attend, a new ticketing concept was employed this year in which half-price admission was charged after dinner, starting at 9:30 p.m. for attendees under 40 years of age.
The primary beneficiary of this year’s fundraiser will be the Ocean Beach Historical Society, which is currently updating its systems.
“We are bringing the Historical Society into the modern world with updated software to manage our collection,” said Etlin, “as well as organizing and digitizing documents to preserve them and make them available to researchers and others interested in the history of Fire Island.” Thousands of photos and other items currently in the Society’s Ocean Beach archives will be processed and stored more safely off-island thanks to the generosity of supporters.
In addition, Mitch Goldberg of Fire Island Home Improvements was this year’s business event sponsor of the Community Fund gala.
“We would like to thank everyone who bought a ticket, donated to the silent auction, and worked on food and beverage to make this an extraordinary event,” added Etlin. Many happy attendees who danced late into the night echoed thanks to the OBCF for its continued support of the Ocean Beach community.
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