The plans had all been made, and the expectations were great, because we had not one, but two, good speakers for the event — but then a total surprise happened that almost derailed the entire event. This is the story of how the Boulder CMC Annual Dinner almost did not happen.
The planning for the dinner, which usually happens around the first weekend in November, needs to begin during the preceding summer. Finding a good speaker is the first challenge. And this year the Council had lucked out, because we had found, fortuitously enough, two great speakers, and both at the same time. At a benefit event for Karma Sherpa at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, back in May 2015, the CMC sponsored Karma to raise funds for the devastating earthquake that hit so much of Nepal, including Karma’s home village in Nepal. It was a good time, topped off by delicious Nepalese food prepared by Karma and his friends.
The event was also attended by writer and adventurer John Mattson, and sometime towards the final part of the dinner, there was group effort (I really cannot remember who suggested it first) to ask Karma and John if they would not mind sharing the honor. They both did, and the Council members there felt we had scored quite a coup, by settling on the speakers so early in the year.
Also earlier that year, the Council had secured the venue where the dinner would be held.This was St John’s Episcopal Church, on Spruce Street near central Boulder. The 2014 dinner (which actually took place in February 2015, but that’s another story) was held there for the first time, and it was a great success. The size of the room was more appropriate than the Avalon, where it had been held since the Boulder Group adopted the potluck format in 2009. While a super venue, it was really too big for us (and more expensive as well).
But as the summer began to wane, we still did not have a volunteer to be the Annual Dinner chairperson. This is the person who orchestrates the other volunteers, and basically produces the event. I myself had done this for the 2014 dinner, but going into 2015 I was simply too busy with other responsibilities. So when the September Council meeting rolled around and we still did not have a Dinner Chair, we knew something had to be done, and began to put out more urgent messages about the need.
Going into October, some of the Council members agreed to share the responsibility. I was to be in charge of the audio-visual equipment, Carrie Simon and Nickie Kelly were to help with the marketing and promotion of it, Martina Sorek had secured the reservation of the Parishoner’s Hall at the church earlier in the year, and Andy Cooke agreed to be the Dinner Chair. We thought we had it all together, and so at the October Council meeting, we were discussing the last details and logistics. Still, it did feel a bit rushed…
But during the last couple of weeks before the dinner date on November 7, we still only had less than thirty signups on the CMC website, and we put out an extra push to publicize it to CMC members, especially our Boulder members. We had also been contacted by Scott Robson, the executive director, who personally said he would attend and speak during the Club business meeting segment, which the Council was pleased to hear.
So the day of the dinner arrived. Andy and Gretchen had bought some extra food and utensils at CostCo, and I had retrieved all the annual dinner materials from the remote storage, plus the digital projector from the Clubroom. We met at the church at 3pm…which of course was locked…which meant someone should have…a key? That was when the truth dawned on us: no one had picked up the key the previous week. What a painful realization it was!
Despite a flurry of phone calls and texts over the next hour, there was no key (or passcode to the door keypad), and the time was drawing near when something had to be done. I decided we had to go for it: change the location of the dinner to the Clubroom. Andy immediately agreed, and it was decided. We told a couple of guests who had already arrived…who, surprisingly enough, just went with the flow. Andy and Gretchen packed up everything I had brought to take to the Clubroom, and I stayed behind to guide anyone who arrived at the church. Once the decision was made, it suddenly felt a lot better…at least now we knew the dinner could go forward.
I stayed at the church about another forty five minutes, speaking to about a dozen CMC guests who arrived. In the meantime, I managed to call a few people to redirect them, including Mr Robson, and create a couple of signs to post on the front and back entrances, saying the dinner had moved to the Clubroom, with my phone number. I drove over to the Clubroom, expecting the worse, not sure what to expect: disappointed guests, disorganized pandamonium…who knew what?
But much to my surprise, when I entered the Clubroom, no one even noticed me, because everyone was busy eating and talking, sitting around the tables, like nothing was wrong. And then I realized, well, I guess this just might work out…the Council members who had arrived to help — Nickie Kelly, Carrie and Lucas Simon, Andy Cooke, Gretchen Gaugler, plus our guest speakers, John Mattson and Karma Sherpa — everyone must have really pitched in to help set up the food serving tables, because it was in full swing by the time I arrived around 6pm.
The dinner then proceeded pretty much according to schedule. And though we didn’t have as much hot food as we would have liked…or as much food as we should have had…everyone seemed to get along and make the best of it.
Scott Robson, our executive director, gave an impassioned talk about positive changes happening, including improved membership numbers and a single, simplified fee structure. The requisite club officers were recognized, Andy Cooke bestowing on me the position of Council Chair; and I recognized Gary Johnston as the new Vicechair. One of the key events is transferring the “CMC branding iron”, which was explained by one of our esteemed older members:
I also bestowed the customary “Sling of BRS Directors” to Gretchen Gaugler, in recognition of her taking over as director of Basic Rock School.
Then our speakers delivered two quite interesting talks. First was Karma Sherpa, who has been guiding trips to the Nepal region for years. Of course, when the devastating earthquakes struck there this April, his immediate concern was how to help. His presentation showed a trip he had recently led which was composed of people from Colorado, who first spent about a week in working on the rebuilding his native village, and then a week of trekking. This was also a fundraiser for him, to which participants gave generously, shown here with Gretchen Gaugler:
Finally, John Mattson, famed writer of Living On The Edge and lifetime outdoor adventurer, gave his slideshow of just some of trips over the years, traveling all over the West, South and Central America, and even Nepal:
So, in hindsight, though earlier in the day I thought the 2015 Annual Dinner was going to be a disaster, in the end I was proud of what we accomplished as a team. No one person can be blamed for mistake of not gaining access to St John’s, and it was truly a team effort that pulled it together.
But you can be sure of one thing: we won’t make that mistake next year!