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Mardi Gras in May a rocking good time to benefit La Jolla High

It’s time again to dance in the streets during the Mardi Gras in May block party.

The third annual event Saturday, May 14 is the Foundation of La Jolla High School’s annual fund-raiser for La Jolla High School.

“It’s the same continual music and local restaurants serving their fares,” said foundation committee co-chair Candy Satterlee.

This year’s live entertainment includes local bands The Heroes, The Bayou Brothers and Etc., as well as Classic Rock All Stars, including Peter Rivera, lead singer from Rare Earth; Mike Pinera, lead singer from Iron Butterfly; Jerry Corbetta, Sugarloaf lead singer; Dennis Noda, guitarist from Cannibal and The Headhunters; and Mark Farner, formerly of Grand Funk Railroad.

The stars will be playing their original hits including “Green Eyed Lady,” “Get Ready (Cause Here I Come),” “In a Gadda Da Vida,” "(I just want to) Celebrate” and “Ride Captain, Ride.”

The annual block party replaced themed dinner dances held in La Jolla hotels.

“These Mardi Gras in May block parties are a broader community event,” said Dana Shelburne, La Jolla High School principal. “It allows in people not just from the school. We used to get 300 or 400 people at our dinner-dance auctions. But now, we’re getting 2,000 or 3,000 people at the block party. The potential for the school is certainly bigger, and I really think it gives the school a chance to bond with the community in a much broader and more eclectic way.”

The spirit of the event is what really counts, according to Shelburne.

“This is just a really fun, entertaining way to get people together and raise money for the school,” he said. “What could be better than being outdoors in La Jolla on a spring night with great music and good food, all for a good cause?”

Foundation President Tony Farwell agreed the fund-raiser has taken on a whole new dimension since going from indoors to outdoors three years ago.

“We actually put it on as a community event,” he said, “not just as a La Jolla High event, since people attend not only from La Jolla, but outside La Jolla. It really is a freestanding social event of La Jolla.”

Farwell added there is only a handful of communitywide events in La Jolla, like the invitation-only Jewel Ball and the year’s end holiday parade.

“It has such a terrific cause,” said Farwell, “and the cause is increasingly worthy, funding for public schools, which is becoming increasingly dire.”

All block party event proceeds go to purchase much-needed basic supplies and to fund other essential services at La Jolla High School.

Shelburne said the financial state of the school is dismal due to fiscal cutbacks districtwide. Last year, La Jolla High lost 7 percent of its state funding as a school site.

“Those cuts came out of books, supplies, textbooks, staffing,” said Shelburne. “We’re at a bare-bones minimum right now.”

Mardi Gras in May and other events the high school’s foundation hosts every year help to recover the school’s financial shortfalls in increasingly lean fiscal times. However, what the foundation raises annually does not cover what’s lost in budget cuts.

According to Shelburne, “It’s helping to plug holes in the financial dike.”

Some might argue an adults-only fund-raiser excludes the very people the event is intended to aid: the children.

Satterlee said the themed dinner-dances were adults only as well. She added students are very much involved in helping stage the block party each year.

“The kids do not want to come and listen to our music,” she said. “The kids are very involved in helping us set up for the event, selling tickets, putting up posters, doing everything that’s involved in preparation for the event.”

The first year it was held, the May block party barely broke even. Changes were adopted last year that cut costs and allowed the foundation to turn a profit.

“We went from zero to $72,000 last year,” said Satterlee. “We’d like to beat that amount this year. We’re hoping to make $80,000 to $90,000. This year, we hope to sell out 3,000 tickets.”

The Foundation of La Jolla High School is a non-profit high school support group with a 35-member governing board comprised of community leaders and parents.

“There are some 15 committees,” said Farwell, “and we put on about 12 to 13 different fund-raising events a year. The support group was originally formed in the early ‘80s when state funding for sports for public schools began to dry up.”

The deep cuts to the public education budget necessitated the foundation’s fund-raising efforts.

“It became clear we needed funding well beyond sports, and had to come up with funding ourselves for counseling, textbooks and lab supplies,” said Farwell. “We increasingly fund a lot more academic activities, and we will do substantially more next year. We just refuse to see any core requirements for La Jolla High cut. We just have to find the funding to keep it whole.”

The event will be from 6 to 11:30 p.m. at the intersection of Wall Street and Ivanhoe Avenue in the Village.

Tickets for the block party, open only to those age 21 and older, are $35 in advance, $45 event day. Tickets can be purchased at Willis Allen Real Estate at 1131 Wall St., La Jolla Mailbox at 5666 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla High’s Library Media Center at 750 Nautilus St., as well as many restaurants and stores in the Village and Pacific Beach.

Tickets are also available online at www.LaJollaMardiGras.com, or by calling the Foundation office at (858) 551-1250.