Sunday, November 20, 2011

Paella & Homecoming - Anniversaries to Remember

In a relatively new community like Loreto Bay there are not yet many occasions for anniversaries, but one of those “new” traditions took place last weekend with the fourth annual Paella Competition and Luncheon.  Regular readers of these pages will know that I have been writing about these events since the first one was held in 2008, and you can find write-ups on the earlier ones among the November postings in the archive on the panel to the right.

This competition has become one of my favourite annual events – and each year it has gotten bigger and better.  This year there were almost 200 tickets sold and 8 teams with 23 competitors each preparing their own unique versions of delicious rice, seafood and other ingredients.  Some of the teams came from as far away as Ensenada, some were sponsored and others were made up of individuals who want to share their love of preparing great food.

For the second year the event was held at the Inn at Loreto Bay, which provided their beautiful courtyard as a perfect location to for the competition.  After several days of unseasonable windy weather, the morning of the competition was back to the usual perfect Loreto weather with a gentle breeze and brilliant sunny skies. 

I had been asked to provide music again for the event with my portable PA system, and so I arrived at the Inn about 8:30 in the morning to set up the equipment.  At that hour, about half of the teams had already arrived and some were already hard at work setting up their cooking stations and preparing ingredients.  But much work had been done already by volunteers to get the site ready for the luncheon that would follow the judging.  Shade tents sheltered most of the tables that had been set up for the event and the courtyard was surrounded by the cooking stations for each of the participating teams.  Each team added decorative touches to their tables with displays of fresh ingredients, flowers and other accents to create their own ambiance.

As more teams arrived and began the cooking process, wonderful aromas began to drift between the different stations.  A steady stream of diners began to gather and enjoy complimentary appetizers and a selection of cold drinks as they circulated around the perimeter, observing and visiting with the participants, watching their preparations and “ooohing and aaahing” over the impressive quantities of seafood and other ingredients that were assembled to garnish the pans of fragrantly cooking rice.

The major sponsor of this Paella competition from its first year has been Roganto Wines, an exclusive, small, “boutique” winery located near Ensenada in Baja Norte.  This year they brought the biggest Paella pan I have ever seen – it was easily over 4 feet across and produced a masterpiece that served 120 people!  In addition they were providing tastings of several selections of their wines as well as offering wines by the glass and sangria to enjoy with the meal.  They also sold their wines by the bottle or the case, and all the proceeds made up a substantial portion of the total funds raised from the event.  In what has become another tradition, following the Luncheon they even set up a station providing free Pina Coladas until their ample stock of the ingredients ran out!

On a poignant note, this event was held on the 11th – Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in America and I was moved by the fact that someone had had the foresight to bring down a quantity of the Canadian Legion Poppies which were handed out to most of those in attendance – a fitting memorial for all of us living here who have so much to be thankful for.  All in all, it was a wonderful time, and none of this memorable day would have happened without the long hours of planning and organization that Shelia, assisted by her husband Manfred, have dedicated to bringing the people and resources together, and along with the involvement of over two dozen volunteers, to make this event the continuing success it has become. 

Each year, since the beginnings four years ago in the backyard of their home here in Nopolo, Shelia and Manfred have been the driving force behind this competition and luncheon - one of this community’s most successful social and fundraising events.  In addition to creating a wonderful celebration of food and drink and an opportunity to bring together our community in a beautiful environment at the beginning of another season, much good will also be done with the net proceeds of $4500.00 which will be divided equally between the Internado (residential) School, Caritas (providing basic support to those in greatest need), and the Loreto Optimists Children’s Fund.   

The other big event this week marked another anniversary, the “Homecoming Street Party”, sponsored  by the HOA and organized by Associa our administrator, to mark eight years since the first sales event that launched the Villages of Loreto Bay in November of 2003.  As part of the activities, during the day on Friday the commercial tenants along the Paseo celebrated the recent openings of their businesses by holding a “Sidewalk Sale” to introduce their goods and services to all the Homeowners who are currently here.

With displays set up on the sidewalks in front of each location, many of the businesses had special offers and or samples, making it a great opportunity for residents to get to know the businesses and what they have to offer.  The range of businesses that have opened on the Paseo (the main road that runs through Loreto Bay) now includes two furniture and home accessory stores, several property management services, a spa offering aesthetics and massage, a fresh food market, several construction contractors, a wine bar and boutique and the convenience store that has been in operation for the past several years.  A couple of more businesses are due to open before the New Year and when it is all up and running the community of Loreto Bay will enjoy a level self-sufficiency we could only dream about several years ago!  

After the businesses had closed for the day, the HOA hosted the Homecoming Party at the Bajaja Bar and Grill, centrally located midway between the Founders and Agua Viva neighbourhoods.  Homeowners had RSVP’d to attend and each home received a number of free drink tickets and the restaurant served several delicious “finger food” appetizers throughout the evening, all courtesy of our Association. 

As a measure of the numbers of Owners who are here this early in the season, there were 250 in attendance, 90% of whom were Homeowners, the remainder their Guests, who were able to purchase tickets at the door.  To top off the evening, Loreto Bay’s favourites, Los Beach Dogs performed two sets to “thunderous” appreciation and what available space there was on the pool patio was jammed with enthusiastic dancers. 

As I said, in a community as new as Loreto Bay is, there have not yet been many occasions for anniversaries – but this week was something special with both the fourth Paella competition and Luncheon and the eighth year since the first homes were sold here from chalk lines on the sand – just two more reasons we have to be thankful for “Living Loreto”.