By ABBY SOUZA
More than 75 people gathered Wednesday night to celebrate a very special addition to the Sonora Opera Hall.
"The day we waited for has finally arrived," said Melina Cherling of Jamestown as she stood beside the stately Kawai grand piano recently purchased for the historic hall.
The piano, worth nearly $21,000, is the result of a year-long fund-raising effort led by Cherling. It was dedicated and played for an audience for the first time Wednesday evening.
"We're so thankful to have this piano," said Cherling. "I think the community will enjoy it for years to come."
Until now, any group using the hall and needing a piano had to rent or borrow one.
"Here was this wonderful opera house, but with no piano," said Cherling in her speech at the dedication. The moving and borrowing of pianos became expensive.
So Cherling and others approached city officials for help. That was in April of 1999.
At first, the plan was to ask around in the community for a used piano. However, when no piano was donated, the Sonora Opera Hall Piano Fund Committee began sending out letters in early 2001 to solicit donations from community members.
By January 2002, the group had raised enough to purchase the piano.
"Which I think is very good for a small community like this," said Cherling.
"The list of those who aided us is long," she said. Among donors was the Sonora Area Foundation, which gave $6,000 to the cause. Proceeds from the St. James Concert Series also went into the piano fund.
The 88 Key Club was also established, where community members donated at least $100 each to the fund. These people were given an actual piano key and a certificate of appreciation at the dedication ceremony.
Sonora Mayor Liz Bass was at the ceremony and was presented with a gold plaque to be placed on the $20,900 piano.
"We all know this is Melina's night," said Bass.