It began almost as an innocent fluke, but Friends of Oakdale Heritage volunteers Barbara Torres and Don Riise are more than happy to run with the idea and create an annual event.
On Saturday, Oct. 5 the local non-profit will host its inaugural Oakdale Homecoming Celebration. The dinner and social will begin with a no host social hour at 5 p.m. which will be followed by a buffet dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets in advance are $30 person and $40 at the gate. The Homecoming will be hosted on the rear lot of the Oakdale Museum which was recently fenced with wrought iron fencing.
“Part of the reason it’s been fenced in is so we can start using it as a venue,” Torres said of the rear lot, noting that the Homecoming event is targeted to not just show the potential of the venue, but also gather locals and alumni for an evening of fellowship and fun.
“That’s why I wanted to call it an Oakdale Homecoming,” Torres stated, adding that regardless of the length of time in town, people still feel connected to the town and wish to celebrate that.
She also shared the initial intent was to be in conjunction with Oakdale High School’s Homecoming, to be observed the following week.
“We’re hoping it becomes a yearly thing,” fellow volunteer and 1960 OHS alum Riise said.
“Next year I think we will make it a point to have this the second weekend (in October),” Riise continued, mentioning the once popular annual Classmates Reunion.
Riise also paid homage and appreciation to the OHS 125th Anniversary Committee for the exposure during a pre-reunion event hosted at the museum in 2018.
“The whole weekend was planned out very, very well,” Riise said of the 125th anniversary. The museum was able to participate in the planned events by hosting a social on the back lawn the Thursday night before the festivities.
“Everybody enjoyed the back lot,” Torres said of attendees. “For a long time everybody has thought it’s a city park, but that’s not the case.”
According to the volunteers, Friends of Oakdale Heritage began running the museum in 2009. In 2014 the city deeded the property to the Friends, which now makes the lawn private property.
During the course of the past year, Friends of Oakdale Heritage have done a number of things to the property. The most notable improvements would be the new sign out in front of the Oakdale Museum and History Center on West F Street, as well as the fence around the rear lot. That project was made possible, partially due to a $3,000 donation from the 125th Anniversary Committee.
The dinner and social being hosted on Oct. 5 is set to be an additional fundraiser for the Friends of Oakdale Heritage, as well as a revealing of scholarships being established for past OHS coaches, Norm Antinetti, Francis O’Brien, Dale Clipper and Jack Walker.
Proceeds earned from the event will go right back into the museum, as well as help secure improvements to make the venue more desirable for events.
“We’re a 501c3,” Riise said. “We put it right back in to our museum. None of us get paid here. We’re all volunteers. Bottom line is, we put it (the funds) into things that we need.”
In addition to the improvements for events, the team also utilizes the money to maintain the property so it remains well suited for visitors. The museum is visited by local children for school field trips, scout troops as well as individuals passing through town seeking a building or family information.
“We get more questions about the downtown area,” Riise said of visitors inquiring about homes and building.
“I think it’s kind of fun when somebody comes in and I can actually remember their family members,” he continued. “It’s just like a giant spider web, you can go all around, take certain paths and before you know it you connect something.”
Advance tickets for the inaugural event may be purchased on event brite at Oakdale Homecoming Dinner. Additional information on the Friends of Oakdale Heritage organization or the museum may be found at oakdalemuseum.org.