The South Pasadena Educational Foundation’s Parti Gras was an enormous success this past Saturday. Parti Gras is one of the largest fundraisers for SPEF and is considered the city’s largest party. Photo by Henk Friezer

The South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF) hit another grand-slam with its annual Parti Gras fundraiser Saturday that took over the grounds of the local golf course with more than 800 people attending that comprise a veritable list of who’s-who in the region.

The event, celebrating the 1970s and 40 years of SPEF with a theme of Studio 79, was held on the grounds of the Arroyo Seco Golf Course and honored the board members that have guided SPEF for the last four decades. Parti Gras is not only considered one of SPEF’s largest fundraisers for the year, it’s also viewed as South Pasadena’s largest party of the year, according to officials. And it’s “all to help the kids,” many people said.

“I’m here every year,” said former SPEF board member Joan Aguado during the event. “This is the best party of the year. I wouldn’t miss it. It’s completely fun. They always go way over the top. l just love it. And the great thing about the party is that it raises money for our schools. I was a board member for six years and I saw how we keep our programs going. We support so much. To me, this is everything for the town, for our real estate, for everything. This is the engine behind the School District. SPEF really is a great contributor.”

SPEF was founded in 1979 by a group of concerned parents and community leaders in response to educational budget constraints not unlike those facing public schools today, according to SPEF officials. 

“At this year’s Parti Gras, we want to celebrate four decades of SPEF board members and their dedication to the students of South Pasadena,” PJ Lutz, SPEF’s program coordinator, said in an email to The Review.

Parti Gras serves as one of the largest fundraisers for SPEF and therefore by extension the South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD). This year’s tally will not be finalized for a while, Lutz said.

“The numbers won’t be finalized for a few weeks,” said Lutz. “But we are on track to raise the same amount as last year, which is over $100,000.”

The celebration this year for the first time offered current and former SPEF board members a dedicated lounge area. Also new this year was that Bristol Farms served appetizers in the silent auction area, where people could bid on items without having to leave the auction area to get food. Bristol Farms also donated a new item for the live auction – an in-home dinner for 20 prepared by their sushi master. Also, several new restaurants of the 25 that participated were on hand included Cos & Pi, Lost Parrot Cafe, Pisces Poke and Urban Kitchen, according to event organizers.

Returning restaurant participants included ARO Latin, Beyond the Olive, Bristol Farms, Cafe X2O, Canoe House, Communal, El Cholo, Genovese’s Kitchen, Gus’s, Heirloom, Huntington Catering, Jersey Mike’s, Kon Tiki, Mamma’s Brick Oven, Menchie’s, Mike & Anne’s, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Patakan, Radhika and Twohey’s.

Meanwhile, the live auction at Parti Gras featured a painting by Greg Adamson, a private coffee-tasting at Jones Coffee, a police helicopter ride and ride along, tickets to George Clinton at The Greek Theatre, Fiesta for 50, a week in San Miguel de Allende, tickets to The Who at the Hollywood Bowl, a top-gun fighter pilot experience, tickets to see Jennifer Lopez at The Forum, a Disneyland-for-12 package, a Goodyear Blimp ride, a private tour of Dodger Stadium with its team historian, Mark Langill, and a Sushi master dinner for 20. 

“We look forward to this every year,” said Ed Donnelly, who recently was honored as an exemplary school volunteer by SPUSD. “The thing that people forget is that when you support the schools, you are not just supporting the students and the teachers, you are supporting the community. Volunteering at the schools builds community. So, what SPEF has done, is they not only have brought resources and financial support to our School District, they’ve also given our parents the opportunity to volunteer and to meet each other, become friends and develop tight-knit relationships relationships. And so, what you’ll see here tonight is about 1,000 people pretty much best friends. Once a year, we end up at the same place and have a good time as we raise more money for our kids and the teachers. I love being here for those two things. We’re doing good work but we’re also spending time and having fun with our friends that we met and we know simply because of the volunteer work we’ve done with SPEF.”

The night featured disco music from the 70s as played by returning disc-jockey Richard Blade of KROQ fame. Blade said he was excited to be a part of Parti Gras.

“I am the DJ tonight,” Blade said. “I hope to get everyone dancing. Get everyone sweating and getting everyone to having a good time. The only complaint at the end of the night is my feet hurt. That’s the goal.”

Blade said he’s not only excited about Parti Gras, he’s grateful and honored to participate. 

“It’s always an honor to come back to South Pasadena,” he said. “The most important thing about tonight is that it’s a fundraiser for the kids. It all goes back to the kids. That’s so important because, these days for schools, there’s just not enough resources. My parents were teachers and I’m very aware of the need for the South Pasadena Educational Foundation. It’s great that people can raise money and get the things for schools that they need. To be part of that is an honor.”

The evening went off without a hitch, everyone enjoying themselves while helping local schools, even when the skies opened up later in the night and it began to rain.

“Rain didn’t seem to stop a very large group from dancing,” said Yuki Cutcheon, who was co-chair of the Parti Gras restaurant vendors. “We couldn’t even stop them at 11:30, they were having so much fun.”

Sally Kilby contributed to this report.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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