Exciting Raffle Dinner Raises Funds for Dance Group

Members of Gauden Bat dance group serve the dinner.
Members of Gauden Bat dance group serve the dinner.

The $5,000 grand prize would go to the last ticketholder. But there were two numbers left in the ticket drum.

The Gauden Bat dance group of Chino sponsored its 15th annual reverse drawing on Saturday, March 12 at the Chino Basque Club. The 200 tickets for the popular event are quickly sold out every year, despite their $50 price tag. The dinner and raffle is the biggest fundraiser for the folk dance group, raising an average of $4,000. This year they sold a few more tickets to increase their profit.

Christian Jaureguy, boys dance director for Gauden Bat, was emcee for the evening, He called numbers for two hours and with assistant Aline Anema they handed out secondary prizes, such as gifts certificates to Jean’s Restaurant or Centro Vasco, or tickets to Dodgers games, to a lucky few. Each name that was called was eliminated from the chance to win the grand prize.

Aline Anema and Christian Jaureguy pull out the tickets.
Aline Anema and Christian Jaureguy pull out the tickets.

Meanwhile, the crowd enjoyed a sumptuous gourmet dinner cooked by Steve Gamboa – tomato and pepper bisque, salad “Gasteiz,” and pork ribs.

Gamboa has cooked the reverse drawing dinner for the past 13 or 14 years. He drove with his family from Bakersfield in the morning.
“I was a member (of Gauden Bat) for many, many years and I care about the group and I like to cook,” said Gamboa. A longtime member of the Chino Basque Club, Gamboa also cooks for the club’s monthly luncheons.

The luncheons are usually buffet-style, but the reverse drawing dinner is a sit-down meal on fancy china, served by the teen members of the dance group.

Gauden Bat dance group members prepare appetizers.
Gauden Bat dance group members prepare pintxos.

“It’s hard work, but it’s worth it,” said 14-year-old Christina Iriart, who has been dancing with Gauden Bat for two years. But she admits the evening is also fun – especially the dancing at the end. She and the rest of the members of the dance group served the crowd in the traditional Basque-American family style, handing out big bowls of soup and platters of mashed potatoes, green beans and ribs to be passed down the tables.

Meanwhile, more and more numbers were being called, and loud cries of “Ohhhhhh” punctuated the air as people were eliminated.

A crunchy lauburu atop the salad
A crunchy lauburu and sheep atop the salad

Michael St. Esteben and Jean Arretche had been sitting at the same table all evening. Their families are longtime friends. As number of tickets in the drum dwindled and their names were not called, they discussed what they might do if they won. Arretche asked St. Esteben if he wanted to split the winnings.

Finally, they were the last two left and Jaureguy called them up to the stage.

The two announced they were going to split the $5,000. Jaureguy pulled the last ticket from the drum – the person who would have walked away with nothing, and it was St. Esteban’s number. He and Arretche gave each other a big hug.

Michael St. Esteben (left) and Jean Arretche were the grand prize winners.
Michael St. Esteben (left) and Jean Arretche were the grand prize winners.

Afterwards, St. Esteban reflected on the decision. “I didn’t know how the rules worked,” he said, but he was glad he had agreed to split it.

Jaureguy, 19, said this is his sixth year working at the dinner, although the first as emcee.

“It’s great,” he said. “People are always excited to get that prize. People love to win money.”

The reverse drawing was the brainstorm of Martin Bachoc, a former member of the dance group. Jeanette Duhart handles the tedious ticket organizing, noting that they had a few kinks to work out over the years.

Mia Lopez-Zubiri helps prepare pintxos
Mia Lopez-Zubiri helps prepare pintxos

“Our group was in their 20s and 30s and we wanted to travel,” said dance leader Jenny Ysursa, explaining how the idea for the fundraiser arose. Several new Basque clubs were organizing and they asked the Chino dancers to perform. The group traveled to New York, Seattle, Wash. and Louisiana.

Last year Gauden Bat performed in Boise, Idaho for the big Jaialdi festival and this year they will be heading to Buffalo, Wyoming to dance at the annual summer Basque convention.