Pahrump Valley High School’s annual spaghetti dinner and cake auction to benefit the football team has become a major event, one in which the outlandish becomes routine.
Spending $375 for a tray of cinnamon rolls, for example. Even if they did have vanilla almond cream cheese frosting.
But that was the spirit of the night, when people on opposite sides of the school cafeteria engaged in a ferocious bidding war over an Oreo cake.
“Every year it’s gotten bigger, and it’s gotten better,” said Mike Colucci, the announcer at Trojans football games and master of ceremonies for the event. “It’s a great thing for the community. You can see how many people we have here.”
Indeed, the cafeteria was just about packed, and for a while the line snaked around two sides of the large room. But nobody was complaining. Everybody seemed too happy to be there to be bothered by the minor inconvenience of standing in a long line for pasta.
“I enjoy doing anything that helps the kids out, and I usually volunteer with any of my kids’ sports,” said a smiling Deeann Velazquez, who was busy filling a large ice chest with bottled water. How large? At the end of the night, it took four football players to carry it out. And it was only half full.
It was the third spaghetti dinner for Velazquez, whose son, Nico, is a running back.
“They love to support the kids in sports, and anything to do with high school sports you will find a lot of volunteers, and a lot of effort goes into everything,” she said.
The smiling began at the door, where football team managers Destini Osterhoudt and Courtney Nottingham were busy selling admission, which was $5, or collecting tickets that had been purchased in advance.
The freshmen served as managers for the football team in middle school, so they have an idea of what to expect.
“They keep saying that it is going to be stressful when the season starts, but I don’t think so,” Nottingham said.
“I don’t stress,” Osterhoudt said emphatically.
Meanwhile, another smiling mom, Tammy De La Torriente, was keeping watch over about a dozen cheerleaders-turned-cafeteria ladies standing behind a dozen roasters.
“Tonight I’m basically getting them in line so they know what they’re doing,” De La Torriente said. “I have spaghetti, other pasta, salad, buns and tables for drinks. They’re all set and ready to go.”
Chipping in where needed is par for the course on this night.
“I’m what they call a coach’s mom,” she said. “My daughter is a cheerleader, she’s in 12th grade. When they need me, I fill in. I’m with them all the time.”
Over against the other wall, Benita Sutton and her daughter, Jessica Pearson, were manning the dessert table.
“When my oldest son, Carter, was in high school football, I just volunteered and started doing it,” Sutton said of the dinner. “I love all the desserts that come in, and the auction is really fun. Everyone really gets into it.
“My job is to check which desserts are coming and and number them so when the auction starts we know which cakes went for how much. And I keep track of the money totals.”
That last part is, of course, the point of the night. The total raised was $10,235.
“If it wasn’t for these lovely ladies, the coaches’ wives, it wouldn’t come together as easily as it does,” Sutton said. “They should get a lot of the glory, because if it wasn’t for them it wouldn’t be half as good as this.”
Which brings us to Holly Clayton, the wife of head football coach Joe Clayton and the primary organizer of the event. You don’t put together $10,000 worth of spaghetti and cakes overnight, or alone.
“I started June 11,” she said. “But you know what? There’s not really a hard part. The people in this community just come out. If I post or my husband posts or any of the coaches post that there’s a need, people just want to help.
“There isn’t really a hard part besides actually getting all of the food here, getting it set up, making sure it tastes good and going from there.”
That part actually was a challenge. There’s a reason Joe Clayton was making a quick trip home less than a half-hour before the dinner was to start, to grab some extension cords.
“The roasters kept blowing the circuit,” Holly Clayton said with a laugh. (You can laugh about it after everyone has eaten hot food.) “We had them all plugged in and it was about 10 or 15 minutes, maybe it was a little longer, before the dinner was about to start and none of the roasters were on. They just kept blowing the circuit no matter what we did. We got it worked out and everyone had a hot dinner, but it was a little stressful for a few minutes.”
Getting food on the table for a few hundred people is a daunting task without complications.
“We came yesterday around six and we stayed until 10 setting up and just kind of organizing our thoughts,” Holly Clayton said. “We came back today around 3:30, and everyone started showing up to help around 4. Now it’s 9 o’clock, and this is probably the fastest we’ve ever gotten out of here.”
Much of the help came from Kristin Swan, who was at her second spaghetti dinner.
“My son is a sophomore and I think it’s awesome what they’re doing for the kids,” she said. “Not many towns would do this for their sports teams. It was incredible last year, absolutely incredible, and it looks like a bigger turnout this year, so this is wonderful.”
It didn’t take much for Clayton to get Swan involved.
“Didn’t have to sign anything, just a handshake and a smile,” Swan said. “She’s so awesome. I love her.”
Swan isn’t the only one who thinks Holly Clayton is awesome.
“From the time we start our workouts, she’s working on it all summer, organizing, trying to come up with different ideas to organize it, make it faster and smoother, getting more people on board,” Joe Clayton said of his wife. “And she’s done a great job of delegating and getting more support to help her. She couldn’t do it alone, of course, but she puts lots and lots of time in. She does an amazing job.”
One of the highlights of the auction was the “surprise cake.” Donated by Saitta-Trudeau Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram and made by Tamara Trudeau, who again won the Rolling in Dough trophy for the cake with the highest winning bid, the cake was bid on aggressively by the cheerleaders. When they lost out on it, the winner brought the cake over to them to enjoy.
That included the “surprise.”
“I made a cake for the dealership to donate, and it had money in it,” Trudeau said. “There were 20 $5 bills in it and a free oil change hidden in there in plastic. Those girls went to town on it. There’s still frosting left on the chairs.”
The support for the dinner/auction runs very deep, from the people organizing the dinner, to the people making the desserts for the auction, to the people who pay in the hundreds of dollars for a cake. Then there was Smith’s, which donated Hawaiian rolls, and Sonic and Desert View Hospital, which donated water.
But what makes the level of support even more remarkable is that Pahrump Valley is not a perennial football powerhouse. The Trojans have had just one winning season — 6-4 in 2016 — in six years since returning to Class 3A. Don’t even ask how things went during the school’s time in Class 4A. But Colucci has an answer for the immense popularity of home football games.
“The key to our success is that, number one, the families and the parents are very involved and, number two, unless you live in Vegas there’s not much to do on a Friday night,” he said.
But even that doesn’t explain why people are fighting each other for the privilege of spending hundreds of dollars on a tray of cinnamon rolls. Even with vanilla almond cream cheese frosting.
Of course, everyone knows the money will be put to good use. And this year’s take will go to more than just the football team, Holly Clayton said of her husband’s plans.
“He would really like to put some money into our weight room,” she said. “We don’t have a very big weight room, and we would like to upgrade the equipment a little. We think that would be awesome because it would also benefit the other sports, not just football, plus the students who take the weights class.”
But the spaghetti dinner’s success is about more than money, and Joe Clayton pretty much nailed it.
“The boys see their families are supporting them, the community’s supporting them, they’re excited, there’s still that small-town ‘we’re cheering you on boys, the season’s about to start’ kind of thing,” he said. “And now it’s all about football. We timed it where it’s the weekend before we head to Winnemucca for our first game, and now it’s game time.”
And that’s why people want to give as much as they can for snickerdoodles. Despite a population around 40,000, the small-town feel still exists, and the high school football team is a big part of the fabric of small towns from Maine to Washington. Many people want to be a part of it.
So the Trojans open their season with a favorable schedule, possible weight room upgrades in the works, an experienced team and the support of a community behind them.
And those cinnamon rolls really did look good.
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter:@pvtimes