Community members transform into suspects, investigators at food bank fundraiser

BATTLE GROUND — There had been a murder. Mafia Don Lou Zar, owner of a well-known speakeasy, was dead — stabbed by someone who had something to gain by eliminating him. And I was a suspect.

I was “Ace Reporter,” a news-hungry reporter who worked for The 20s Gazette. I got the facts, sniffed out the dirt and wrote the stories — talking fast, thinking fast and moving even faster. I came to Lou Zar’s establishment the evening of Oct. 22 to bust him and expose his criminal activities.

Mafia Don Lou Zar, played by an actress from The Murder Mystery Company of Portland, talks with a group of attendees at the Scare Away Hunger dinner and auction on Saturday night. Everyone in the room later became investigators after someone decided to off Lou. Photo by Joanna Yorke
Mafia Don Lou Zar, played by an actress from The Murder Mystery Company of Portland, talks with a group of attendees at the Scare Away Hunger dinner and auction on Saturday night. Everyone in the room later became investigators after someone decided to off Lou. Photo by Joanna Yorke

So, why was I a suspect in Lou’s murder? What would I have to gain from stabbing the shady bootlegger? Well, what most people didn’t know was that I had been having a passionate love affair with Lou’s sibling. We thought we were meant to be and thought it would last forever. Until my lover was killed by the Graves family, a family who was a rival to Lou in the bootlegging game.

I wanted revenge. So, did I kill Lou? Much to my disappointment, the character that I was playing that evening during the Crime And PUN-ishment 1920s murder mystery experience at the annual North County Community Food Bank Scare Away Hunger dinner and auction was not the murderer.

Clark County area community members dressed in their best 1920s garb — many dawning flapper dresses, zoot suits, feather boas, fedoras and more — made their way to the Battle Ground Community Center on Saturday evening to attend the annual Scare Away Hunger dinner and auction, the largest fundraiser of the year for the North County Community Food Bank.

The murder mystery experience was something new and fun that was added to the yearly event, with actors from The Murder Mystery Company of Portland creating the murder story of Lou Zar and engaging attendees. Someone from each table was selected to act as a suspect in the murder, and each table was to act as a team and figure out “whodunnit.”

Each table was given a binder that described the table’s suspect and detailed important biographical information about the suspect. Team members then had several chances to “investigate,” and were encouraged to walk around and ask questions of suspects and other guests in order to figure out who the true murderer was.

“The Murder Mystery Company of Portland kept the crowd guessing at every turn and using their high level detective skills interacting throughout the room to gather clues and solve the horrible murder that occurred right here in Battle Ground,” said Elizabeth Cerveny, executive director of the food bank. “We’re probably all in trouble for not calling 9-1-1, but it’s good to know we can rely on our thinking skills to get to the bottom of it all and arrest the culprit.”

Cerveny said the event had 112 attendees, plus the food bank’s contingent of “outstanding volunteers who kept the wheels rolling behind the scenes.”

In addition to the murder mystery part of the evening, the Scare Away Hunger event included a catered dinner by local South Pacific & Summerland Catering services, as well as silent and live auctions, and a “Gatsby dessert auction.”

Auctioneer for the evening’s live auction was community member Steve Pagel, who has been the auctioneer for the event for the past several years. Pagel’s energy, enthusiasm and jokes throughout the auction quickly encouraged a number of people to bid on items, all money that goes to help fund the food bank and the families it serves.

Cerveny said the evening brought in close to $40,000 for the food bank, with the help of all the “great supportive guests.”

“Their positive energy and excitement about our future plan design and the mission and goals of our organization are truly amazing and I feel so very blessed to have them by my side every step of the way,” Cerveny said.

Items that were available during the live auction varied, ranging from a chocolate fudge cake that was sold for $500 to Skip Ogden from Dan’s Tractor, to an “adult diaper cake” (you guessed it, it was shaped like a giant wedding cake and made entirely out of Depend adult diapers), to a Willamette Valley winery tour for four, an auto detailing package from Elite Collision & Auto Spa and more.

Cerveny said the single highest auction item of the evening was a San Francisco getaway package for two with round-trip airfare, which went for $1,500, donated by one of the food bank’s longtime major supporters — Jackson, Jackson & Kurtz.

The North County Community Food Bank is located in Battle Ground at 17 NE 3rd Ave. There are plans to have a new food bank facility built in the near future in order to expand and continue to help grow the educational programming offered through the food bank.

For additional information on the food bank, call (360) 687-5007 or email [email protected].

 

ClarkCountyToday.com reporter Joanna Yorke was selected to play none other than “Ace Reporter” during the murder mystery experience at the Scare Away Hunger dinner and auction. Ace (Yorke) was a suspect in the murder of Lou Zar, but it turned out she was not the murderer. Photo by Marvin Case
ClarkCountyToday.com reporter Joanna Yorke was selected to play none other than “Ace Reporter” during the murder mystery experience at the Scare Away Hunger dinner and auction. Ace (Yorke) was a suspect in the murder of Lou Zar, but it turned out she was not the murderer. Photo by Marvin Case
Battle Ground Mayor Philip Johnson was selected to play Dixson, one of the suspects accused of possibly murdering Lou Zar, during the Crime and PUN-ishment murder mystery experience at the Scare Away Hunger dinner and auction. He is shown here being questioned by a French lieutenant, played by an actress from The Murder Mystery Company of Portland. Photo by Joanna Yorke
Battle Ground Mayor Philip Johnson was selected to play Dixson, one of the suspects accused of possibly murdering Lou Zar, during the Crime and PUN-ishment murder mystery experience at the Scare Away Hunger dinner and auction. He is shown here being questioned by a French lieutenant, played by an actress from The Murder Mystery Company of Portland. Photo by Joanna Yorke
Amanda Ley, played by an actress from The Murder Mystery Company of Portland, runs toward Lou Zar, also played by an actress, after he is murdered. Amanda and Lou were lovers, and some people suspected Amanda of the murder. However, she was not the murderer. Photo by Joanna Yorke
Amanda Ley, played by an actress from The Murder Mystery Company of Portland, runs toward Lou Zar, also played by an actress, after he is murdered. Amanda and Lou were lovers, and some people suspected Amanda of the murder. However, she was not the murderer. Photo by Joanna Yorke
Lynda and John Idsinga dressed in their finest 1920s threads to attend the annual North County Community Food Bank Scare Away Hunger dinner auction on Saturday evening. Photo by Joanna Yorke
Lynda and John Idsinga dressed in their finest 1920s threads to attend the annual North County Community Food Bank Scare Away Hunger dinner auction on Saturday evening. Photo by Joanna Yorke
Bev Jones and Heather Steinke, volunteers with the North County Community Food Bank, looked the part as they passed out some accessories — fake cigars and cigarettes, and roses — to help complete attendees’ 1920s attire. Photo by Joanna Yorke
Bev Jones and Heather Steinke, volunteers with the North County Community Food Bank, looked the part as they passed out some accessories — fake cigars and cigarettes, and roses — to help complete attendees’ 1920s attire. Photo by Joanna Yorke
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About The Author

Joanna Nicole Yorke is a 2010 graduate of the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in political science. Yorke is a Clark County native, growing up on her family's 12-acre farm in La Center where her family still resides today. She was previously a reporter at The Reflector Newspaper, covering the city of Battle Ground, the Battle Ground School District and a variety of other areas and topics.

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