SCV Senior Center puts on circus during annual celebrity waiter event

Magician Griffin Barry, left, does a card trick for Carrie Lujan, Amy Seyerle and Jerrid (cq) McKenna during The Greatest Show in the SCV, Celebrity Waiter Dinner to benefit the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center which was held at the Sand Canyon Country Club in Santa Clarita in Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

In a night that took the circus theme seriously, both in its aesthetic and atmosphere, the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center once again hosted its annual celebrity waiter event Saturday.

Held at the Sand Canyon Country Club and in the theme of “The Greatest Show in SCV,” a play on the 2017 “The Greatest Showman” musical, close to 300 Santa Clarita elected officials, community stakeholders and business leaders donned circus-themed costumes in an effort to support the Senior Center.

“We sold out really quick this year, in fact we oversold,” said Amanda Benson, one of the co-chairs for the fundraiser. “It’s a popular event and everybody loves it.”

The fundraiser, as it has done in years past, works by having the waiters — who are well-known community members — serving their ticket-holding colleagues and contemporaries throughout the night. Waiters are also incentivized to entertain their tables through performing tricks or rattling off jokes, after which they’re then given a “tip.”

Dressed for the circus, From left, Josh Rivas, Bryan Hummitzsch join O. Michael Owston as he shows off his puppet costume during The Greatest Show in the SCV, Celebrity Waiter Dinner to benefit the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center which was held at the Sand Canyon Country Club in Santa Clarita in Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Tips are then added to the total amount raised through ticket sales, with all the proceeds then being donated to the Senior Center, according to event organizers.

One such waiter, Josh Rivas who owns Tribute Beauty Lounge in Newhall, said he has been doing the hair and makeup for attendees for years, but this was his first year volunteering as a server. And as he was filling cups of iced tea and water for his patrons, he said he was loving his charitable work Saturday night.

“It’s right up my alley, because like when someone leaves the table and then comes back, I’ll have taken their chair and they’ll have to pay me to get it back,” said Rivas, adding that he also withheld silverware from those dining until they gave him money. “My salon supports a number of nonprofits (here in the Santa Clarita), but this is my first year (being a waiter), and I love it.”

While waiters dressed as everything from clowns, to circus animals to ring masters served tables whose seats were filled with “Siamese twins,” strongmen and “bearded” ladies, event organizers continued to stoke the energy and charitable giving in the room from a stage up front.

“We have county contracts that are set up in such a way that they don’t fully fund that specific contract,” said SCV Senior Center Board Member Julie Sturgeon and the other co-chair for this year’s event. “They expect us to have more expenses than what they give us, and they expect us to go out and do the fundraising to cover the balance. So, this is our biggest fundraiser annually … and every year it’s fun for everyone here.”

Miche (cq) Harrison on stilts and Maya Grafstein welcome attendees at the entrance to The Greatest Show in the SCV, Celebrity Waiter Dinner which was held at the Sand Canyon Country Club in Santa Clarita in Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

And while this year mirrored the fundraiser’s past success, it comes during a time when Senior Center officials say they are ramping up to a long-awaited, and expensive, goal of theirs.

“We have an extra layer this year, because we’re preparing to move into our new building in the next month or so,” said Sturgeon. “And we need some funds for the capital campaign, (which will buy) furnishings in the rooms, gym equipment in the gym, and we’re adding new programs because there’s a higher capacity (at the new senior center campus).”

This year’s fundraiser, according to Sturgeon, had raised approximately $150,000 by the event’s second hour, and said she hoped to see more donations continue to stream in through the night.

“This isn’t a staff-run event, it’s all based on the work done by the volunteers and members of the community,” said SCV Senior Center Executive Director Kevin MacDonald. “People like Julie and Amanda who are just volunteering their time to put on this event … that’s what makes it so special.”

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