The Sacramento Historical Society undertook one of their largest awards ceremonies on June 26, 2018, in order to honor the contributions of individuals from Tower Records, Freemasons, California State Railroad Museum, and local historical and preservation organizations who help keep Sacramento history alive. Over 250 people gathered at the historical Sacramento Masonic Temple for an evening of music, food, and a program focused on highlighting 34 individuals and their contributions to Sacramento history.
Sacramento Historical Society Honors Individual Accomplishments
It started as a small idea to honor regional Sacramento residents for their contributions to preserve our history, historical buildings and infrastructure. It quickly ballooned into a gala event that was very challenging for the small Sacramento Historical Society organization. Fortunately, we all kept the goal of acknowledging the substantial accomplishments of so many deserving people first and foremost as we organized the event.
Interest in an awards ceremony was galvanized when Russ Solomon of Tower Records died on March 4th at the age of 92. Shortly thereafter on March 10th, Sacramento lost the pioneering developer Ali Youssefi at the young age of 35. These sad events reminded us that we need to recognize individuals more often who have worked to preserve Sacramento history and who are also central figures to the Sacramento region’s fabric because of their businesses and developments.
Big Event For A Small Organization
For better or worse, June 26th was the date set for the awards banquet. This gave the Sacramento Historical Society only a few short months to organize a fairly substantial event. Usually events of this magnitude are planned a year in advance. Perhaps because of our naiveté and growing success with our monthly speaker presentations, we pressed forward. Greg Voelm, President of the Sacramento Historical Society, and main visionary for the event recruited Gregg Lukenbill to lead the charge. I stepped into the mix shortly thereafter.
I have had vast amounts of experience with big events as I have watched my wife organize birthday parties for our son. This obviously made be eminently qualified to help shepherd an event for 250 people and 34 award recipients. I would later learn that I was not recruited to help with the event because of my vast knowledge and organizational skills, but as a counter weight to Gregg Lukenbill, who some people believe exhibits more exuberance than an eight year old in a bouncy house when he is on a mission.
Gregg Lukenbill does have enormous exuberance, and he also possesses what many people, including myself, don’t have, which is a near obsessive focus on tasks and a drive to accomplish them. He rolls the boulder up the hill. He doesn’t stop until he gets to the top and then wants to push it over to the next hill with a better view. I tend to be a little more contemplative and ask annoying questions about the process and org charts. My darker side is a passive-aggressive nature that Lukenbill unfortunately saw and I apologize for that.
I lost count over how many times either Lukenbill or I threatened to quit. When we had a chance to talk to one another, we realized it was a communication issue. I guess we need marriage counseling. I also learned of Lukenbill’s passion for Sacramento history from containing the constant flooding of the city, the transcontinental railroad, and the Folsom Powerhouse lighting up Sacramento. It was Lukenbill’s vision to couple the important industrial age developments founded in Sacramento with our current award recipients who work to enlighten others about our history.
Strong Sacramento Support For Awards Event
For every rough patch we encountered in producing the event, there was also a new element to that would recharged our enthusiasm. People were really interested in supporting the ceremony and honoring the individuals. We had some great volunteers. Silent and live auctions items started to be flow in. They were items that geeky novice historians like us love like dinner in the historical Sacramento Cemetery and old books for the silent auction. As I compiled the biographies of the award recipients for the printed program I learned how much time and dedication these people had devoted to Sacramento. We had a duty at the Sacramento Historical Society to make sure these people were recognized.
Tower Records Management
Some people may wonder why we were recognizing former Tower Records employees. Everyone knows that Sacramento was the corporate headquarters for this retailing giant and Russ Solomon was the president. But as visionary as Russ was, it took many people to implement his ideas for retailing music and allowed Tower Records to grow and diversify over the years. Many of these management people had their roots in Sacramento. They started young at Tower Records and moved up from clerks to management. They understood what Tower Records was all about and were able to execute the plans.
As I read through the Tower Records biographies, notably devoid of mentions about prestigious Ivy League colleges or specialized degrees, one could see how experience in the music business was the foundation for their success. A common thread between all the award recipients is their passion for their avocation. These people call Sacramento home and they have worked to preserve the past and enhance the future.
It was this simple realization that prompted me to suggest we introduce the awards program with Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare For The Common Man. Composed in 1942, as the United States was consumed by World War II, it was a recognition that not just specialized soldiers and air men were engaged in the war effort, but that every common man and woman was also rising to the occasion.
Sacramento Masonic Temple And Blues Music
In addition, there were some people who did not have specialized skills trying to organize a large event. We were wrestling above our weight class as they say. And our best laid plans did not always work. Our seating assignment and chart just did not gel. To those folks who were inconvenienced by our table assignment folly, I humbly apologize. The Masonic Temple was a wonderful venue full of ambiance. Mick Martin and Blues Rockers performed a wonderful set of music that blended in very well with the evening. Matias Bombal, as emcee, kept the programming flowing even when we had some technical computer glitches.
However, the absolute stars of the evening were our volunteers. Amidst the chaos, they were calm, offered great suggestions, and were very flexible with changing conditions. Our front line at the check-in table was Pat McKinnon, Jane McKinnon, and Diane Powel. These women saved the day. They were unflappable, true professionals. Pinki Cochrell was selling the drink tickets and was only scheduled to work from 5 pm to 7 pm. She had everything so organize she stayed until the end of the event.
Volunteers Drive Successful Event
Lee Brown did an over-the-top organization of our silent auction. Even as new silent auction items were being delivered only two days before the event, she was able to accommodate them all. The displays of the silent auction items were terrific.
Julie Bianucci, one the Tower Records award recipients, did a fabulous job organizing the live auction items. Because of her clear procedures and instructions, we were able to handle the live auction element while she was able to spend time with friends and family during the event.
Jami Rains, Mark Miller, and Hunter Merritt were indispensable for their ability to adapt and fill any volunteer role and plug some holes I didn’t see. Hunter did a great job at checking out the live auction winners without having ever seen any of the paperwork. Steve Szalay stepped in at the last minute to help us out with the Masonic Temple tours and live auction monitoring. Julie McKechnie showed up early and helped out as a greeter in the foyer of the building.
Sometimes it is the simple things like pointing people in the right direction that helps make a large event like this enjoyable for the guests. We also had volunteer help from Paul Stanbrough, Robin Aurelius, Marsha Jutovsky-Cain, and Art and Sandra Bauer. Because the logistics of the evening was somewhat fluid, we weren’t able to fully utilize the presence of all of these wonderful people. But I can’t over estimate how important each volunteer’s presence was. It assured me that we had the people power for the next bump in the road if we needed to plug hold in the program.
All of the Sacramento Historical Society board members pitched in to help with producing the show. Some worked behind the scenes gathering recipient information and writing biographical sketches. Others pitched jokes to Greg Voelm for his opening monologue. The board members also took pictures, led Masonic Temple tours, and helped with the award presentations. Then there was Aundrea Gibson the SHS staff member who held the technology part of the program together. She is the model of professionalism and poise, noble traits that the rest of failed to emulate on a regular basis.
As a history geek I love reading about people from the past. All too often people who made a real impact in our local history may not have been properly recognized in books, newspapers, or other media. The 2018 Sacramento Historical Society Enlightenment Award program is a very modest attempt to commemorate these individuals and how they have helped shape our community.
John Lilburn Cooper III
Joseph Kouassi Dongo
California State Railroad Museum & Foundation
Sacramento Historical Society
Dr. Bob LaPerriere
Richard Rich & Megan Wygant
Joint Preservation Sacramento & Sacramento Heritage Inc.
Julie Rubins Bianucci
Heidi Keller Cotler
Jennifer Birner Hegji
Terri Ball Williams
See more photos of the event taken by Maggie McGurk at https://maggiemcgurk.photoreflect.com/store/thumbpage.aspx?e=10266622
The event could not have been possible without the generous contributions from our sponsors Green Acres Nursery & Supply, California State Railroad Museum Foundation, DSA Fundraising Auction Events, Pagodaevents.com, Fat City Bar & Café, and the T. W. Adams Company.
Kevin Knauss is member of the Sacramento History Society and board member. His views and commentary are his own and are not meant to be a reflection of the opinions of other board members or the organization.