Sonoma Valley Sun


Grooving in the grove

Posted on September 28, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

A full house of 400 people got into the spirit at “Jack’s Bohemian Groove” on Sept. 23 at Jack London State Historic Park.  The event raised funds for the nonprofit Jack London Park Partners which has funded and operated the park on behalf of the people of California since 2012.

“The outpouring of support was truly remarkable. Jack London Park Partners’ annual gala is our most important fundraiser of the year, keeping the park accessible and thriving for all to enjoy,” said Matt Leffert, executive director.

Ann Arabian, Matt Leffert, and George Arabian by

“The event is especially critical this year.  As a result of a lawsuit against the park by the California State Park Rangers Association, Transcendence Theatre Company did not perform in the park this summer, as they have for the past 11 years.  That resulted in a significant loss of revenue.  As we did when the park was tagged for closure in 2012, we look to the community for their support to keep the park going strong,” Leffert said.

The fundraising excitement was increased by an offer to match all donations of $100 by longtime park supporters Diana Bugg, Liz Fisher, Donna Halow and Barbara Morrison.

Jack London Park Partners honored (left to right) Kathy Hillback-Ely and George Ely, Chris Locke and Mary Clark-Janis.  Executive Director Matt Leffert (far right) thanked them for their contributions at the fundraising gala on Sept. 23, 2023.


Four individuals were recognized for their significant contributions in three categories:

  • Park Advocate – Chris Locke.  Chris Locke is a senior partner and former chair of the environmental law practice at Farella Braun + Martel in San Francisco.  He and his wife Starr have enjoyed the history and beauty of the park for more than two decades.  During an orchard walk in 2021, Chris learned that Jack London Park Partners was addressing some environmental law issues and offered his pro bono assistance.  Among other matters, Chris represented JLPP in successfully seeking the direct transfer of open space at Sonoma Developmental Center to Jack London State Historic Park. The land includes the historic orchard which is being resorted and provides produce for Farm to Pantry, fighting food insecurity in Sonoma County.
  • Philanthropy – Mary Clark-Janis.  A member of the Clark-Janis Family Foundation, Mary Clark-Janis began her professional life as an elementary classroom teacher in Virginia, but eventually moved into advertising and then event planning. In 2008 she purchased a vacation home in Glen Ellen but, after designing and completing an extensive remodel, decided to make it her primary residence. She supervises her family’s foundation and is very mindful of the needs and challenges of nonprofits in Sonoma Valley and is an active member of Impact100 Sonoma.  Mary Clark Janis has been a generous and steadfast supporter of the park since 2016.
  • Volunteers – Kathy Hillback-Ely and George Ely.  Kathy and George have been park volunteers since 2012, when Jack London Park Partners was first formed to keep the park open and operating.  Between the two of them, they have donated more than 3,200 hours of service. Kathy specializes in the park’s artistic legacy, buildings, and history.  George’s primary focus is on the environmental and ecological aspects of the park.  The couple is at the park almost daily and can be found caring for the museum and cottage, driving the golf cart, leading hikes and tours, and assisting visitors.

“Rewild My School” Student Design Competition winner Poppiano Nelson-Smith told attendees about the value of the park’s educational programs.

Guests were entertained by singer/songwriter John Elliott, jazz songbird Sony Holland (above) and young singer Noa Weiswasser. The Sammy Patrick Band provided live music as attendees danced under the stars.

Wines were provided by park partner Eco Terreno Wines & Vineyards, and spirits were donated by 3 Badge Beverage Corp. with Hanson of Sonoma Distillery.  Other corporate sponsors of the event included Lasseter Family Winery, Shone Group Real Estate, Bank of Marin, Benziger Family Winery, Exchange Bank, Hamel Family Wines, Mac’s Deli & Café, Sonoma Valley Authors Festival and Transcendence Theatre Company.

Park Avenue Catering provided a delicious family-style dinner.

The “Jack’s Bohemian Groove” was the creation of Gregangelo’s Velocity Entertainment with hands-on direction by former Sonoma Alcalde Marcelo Defreitas.


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