February 7th, 2020
Doors open 6:00 pm: Dinner served 7:00 pm
Fresno Convention Center, Ernie Valdez Hall, 700 M Street
East Fresno Rotary’s Annual Crab Cioppino Dinner
By Rick Schoenwald, President, 1993-1994
This year, East Fresno Rotary is not only celebrating its 59th year of dedicated community, national and international service, but 2015 also marks the 40th year the Club members have prepared and served its awesome Crab Cioppino Dinner. This annual fundraising event raises thousands of dollars which is channeled back into our community each year to numerous needy and charitable organizations.
Background: The first East Fresno Rotary Cioppino Charity Dinner was held in 1975 at the Edison Social Club, with 430 people attending. By 1978, our attendance had swelled to nearly 1000, and the venue for this amazing event was relocated to the Fresno Convention Center’s Ernie Valdez “Old Exhibit” Hall, where it has remained ever since.
Meal Preparation: The preparation of this dinner starts at sunrise on the day of the event, with a large crew of Rotarians unpacking 250 pounds of primo prawns, 255 pounds of fish filets, 500 pounds of fresh crab, 1,200 pounds of medium-size Manila clams and another 150 pounds of baby clams. Numerous large vats of Cioppino base sauce are prepared from scratch, seasoned and simmered for hours by our Rotarian chefs. The clams are washed countless times, the crab is cut and cracked, the shrimp dinner salads prepared and appetizer and hors d’ oeuvre plates and platters assembled.
Room Set Up: While the meal prep excitement is happening in the Kitchen, Rotarians and partners of members are humming in the Hall with the table setup. As if by magic, the stark and massive room is suddenly filled with over a hundred round dining tables, each seating eight guests. These are festively decorated with white tablecloths, capped with an Italian red-and-white checkered accent cover with a fresh flower centerpiece. Each place setting required for this elegant meal is exactly and carefully arranged.
Another group of Rotarians are busy arranging hundreds of abundantly special items on display tables for the large silent auction that is conducted during the dinner event. What remains is plenty of available floor space for socializing.
Prior to the doors opening to receive the dinner guests, loaves of sourdough bread, plates of butter, bottles of red and white wine and an antipasto platter of appetizers are placed on every table. The hors d’oeuvre tables in the center of the room are stocked with Italian meats and cheeses and clam chowder, and the no-host bar is set up at the perimeter of the room.
The Dinner: As evening arrives, guests continue to filter in, Rotaract students from Fresno State sell raffle tickets for exceptional prizes. The displays of wonderful silent auction items are available for you to peruse, with fantastic bargains assured.
After an ample amount of time for fellowship, guests find their seats and strap on their bibs. Around 7:15 PM, large buckets of perfectly seasoned steamed clams appear, and the feeding frenzy commences. The elegant dinner progresses to a delicious and crisp lettuce salad topped with baby bay shrimp, and bellies begin to fill. Soon, the piece d’ resistance is served….large bowls of crab, shrimp and seafood Cioppino, stewing in our exquisite broth lovingly prepared by dedicated Rotarian chefs. The meal concludes with each guest being served an Italian dessert.
Post Dinner: Does the event end here? No way !!! The silent auction tables are closed, and there is a short live auction of abundantly special items. Then for the rest of the evening, all your favorite dance tunes are spun by a DJ extraordinaire. for those that can still move. By the time you leave the event, all you can say is “Wow!”…. or “belch”. The annual “Partner’s in Service” publication, filled with interesting Rotary and Club information and all of our treasured sponsors, is distributed to all guests.
On behalf of the members of the East Fresno Rotary Club, grateful thanks are extended to each of the valued Sponsors, Partners, Patrons and Advertisers featured throughout this publication, and to each dinner guest who makes this annual event a success. The true beneficiaries are those charitable recipients of all proceeds from this event.