■ By Debbie Vena / Reporter
The white elephant gift exchange is definitely a highlight of the San Jacinto Rotary Club’s annual Christmas party. It’s the one time of year that the club does something fun for each other, and it can get a bit competitive. A new bride sits next to her husband and opens a pair of pink elephant slippers, size 10. Will she keep them or will someone else get to take them home?
One of the gifts everyone knows will not be taken, as it has showed up for the past five years in a row, is a hula hooping animated Santa. It wins the extra gift prize of the evening, the best white elephant, and it’s guaranteed to show up again next year.
A few of the choice prizes are fought over and some change hands rapidly, and all of this merriment was accompanied by the sounds of John Bungee on vocals and guitar. He promises to try to attend next year’s event, even though he may be living in Palm Springs soon and will transfer his membership to a new club. While each member usually pays for their dinner and brings a potluck item to share, this time Bungee’s company, Thrivent Financial, sponsored the food, prepared by local legend Big Daddy’s BBQ.
Candace Wickham had the most drama of the evening though as she sat in the hot seat next to Bungee; most of her items stolen right after she selected them. Candy and dinner certificates and holiday decorations, each admired and enjoyed, some for as little as three minutes, flew around the room amid cackles of laughter and joyful camaraderie.
At the end of the evening the new bride, returned the “stolen” dinner certificate to Wickham in an act of goodwill, which is really what Rotary is all about.
Rotary is an International group, and this is just one of three clubs in the valley. On Wednesdays, this San Jacinto club meets at noon at Emilio’s Restaurant; Hemet Sunset meets at Diamond Valley Arts Center at 5:30 p.m., Idyllwild at 7:30 am. Additionally Hemet Sunrise meets on Thursdays at 6:45 at the San Jacinto High School District. Rotary is an international organization.