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Amid graffiti-laden ruins, American Canyon residents dine in splendor
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Amid graffiti-laden ruins, American Canyon residents dine in splendor

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AMERICAN CANYON — The setting wasn’t typical — an abandoned factory — and the attire was somewhat unusual Saturday evening at the American Canyon Community and Park Foundation’s (ACCPF) first fundraising gala.

Billed as “An Evening at the Ruins,” the gala lived up to its hype as an event unlike others previously held in American Canyon.

The parks foundation wanted to make a splash with its first big fundraiser since forming last year. ACCPF President Janelle Sellick and other foundation leaders decided to not choose a traditional location, like a golf course or hotel.

Instead, they got permission to use what remains of the old Standard Portland Cement Company’s abandoned factory southeast of the Wal-Mart.

“Our board wanted to do something big to help build awareness and support for our mission of enhancing parks, programs and play in our community,” said Sellick.

The factory, known as the “ruins” locally, has become an iconic landmark for American Canyon, and may someday be converted into a commercial and retail center as part of the Watson Ranch project.

On Saturday, though, the ruins provided a unique setting for foundation supporters to wine and dine amid towering concrete walls that over time have been used as a canvas by Bay Area graffiti artists to paint all kinds of colorful and imaginative murals inspired by science fiction, paleontology and other subjects.

Guests were encouraged to dress appropriately for what was described as an evening of “cocktails and kicks.”

“What does this mean?” read the invitation. “Cocktail attire with sensible shoes. Given the rustic nature of the property we strongly encourage guests to wear closed toe flats or low heeled wedge shoes. Have a pair of cowboy boots? This is the perfect opportunity to dust them off!”

Some guests, like Councilmember Belia Ramos, did just that, combining cowboy boots with a glittery cocktail dress for the occasion.

During the cocktail hour, which began at 5 p.m., visitors sipped wines from Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, draft beer from Lagunitas, and free tastings of Bourassa Wines.

They drank and enjoyed appetizers that first hour while admiring the open-air industrial remnants built a century ago as the late afternoon sunlight cast long shadows across the festivities.

“This is incredible,” said resident Ernie Zipay, echoing the sentiments of many other guests in attendance.

When they weren’t drinking and munching, guests were snapping photos and selfies in front of the myriad graffiti artworks decorating the walls, including a 20-foot mural seemingly lifted right out of Jurassic Park: a Velociraptor with glistening yellow eyes.

Later, the 260 guests filed into the dining area, where strands of twinkling lights illuminated still more graffiti and 30 large tables dressed with white linen clothes and floral bouquets.

Dinner consisted of fresh baked ciabatta bread, free range chicken with fig, castelvetrano olives, roasted fennel and herb salata, pasta with heirloom tomato basil sauce and parmesan, and dressed summer beans with roasted corn and grilled onion.

Following the main course, guests bid big dollars on the “Dessert Dash,” in which the table committing the most money got first crack at the dessert table.

“The highest dessert sold for $960,” said Sellick, referring to a collection of cupcakes donated by Sift Dessert Bar in Napa.

There was also a live auction featuring a Centennial National Park package, private cooking classes with local chefs, Napa Valley wine experiences and more.

But the eclectic event generated considerable success for the parks foundation, which came away with $65,000 in net proceeds — an amount that exceeded leaders’ expectations.

“I am absolutely thrilled,” said Sellick on Monday. “What an incredible evening.”

The parks foundation intends to use money raised from the gala to help build an ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]-accessible hiking trail at Newell Open Space Preserve.

The new trail “will allow greater community access and improve on the informal dirt trail currently in existence” that provides scenic vistas of the San Pablo Bay and the Napa Valley, according to the foundation.

The foundation will also spend some of the money on picnic tables for Newell Open Space and the newly renovated Kimberly Park.

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