heART of Mt. Helix

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The temperatures on Aug. 15, may have been stratospheric for East County, with La Mesa reporting in a stunner of 105 degrees during the afternoon. But the high heat was no match for the high spirits, as the Mt. Helix Park Association put on the Eighth Annual heART of Mt. Helix event at the mountaintop, this year in celebration of the landmark’s 90th anniversary.

The temperatures on Aug. 15, may have been stratospheric for East County, with La Mesa reporting in a stunner of 105 degrees during the afternoon. But the high heat was no match for the high spirits, as the Mt. Helix Park Association put on the Eighth Annual heART of Mt. Helix event at the mountaintop, this year in celebration of the landmark’s 90th anniversary.

Mary Qualls served as one of the event’s organizing committee members, summed up the outdoor festival best. She said, “This space, this place is incredible. I don’t think there is anywhere more beautiful in San Diego. You look all around 360 degrees, and it is all beauty.”

Peggy Junker, administrator for the nonprofit Mt. Helix Park Association, said that the occasion is the park’s primary fundraiser, providing a “significant” portion of the organization’s annual operating budget. A total of around 500 tickets were purchased for the sold-out event, for general amphitheater seating at $60 apiece and a reserved table seat priced at $125. All proceeds were slated for the association, paying for general expenses, as well as for making the site cleaner and safer for the community to enjoy, increasing focus on the natural beauty of the mountain site with new trails, and for creating new programs, office space and a center to aid visitors’ appreciation of the park.

The celebration was estimated to bring about $85,000 into park association coffers, according the Nicole Roberts, the association’s executive director. Sixteen local restaurants served up tasty light menu fare at the event, all food and service donated.  Most of the musicians entertaining the crowd at two stages donated time and talents. The feature act, The Mighty Untouchables, gave a reduced price for their performances during the evening, which featured such a musical variety as covers of big band standards, salsa-flavored dance music, and rock and roll classics. Event-goers could bid at silent auction for 120 packages. Exciting live auction bidding commenced at 8 p.m. Five local artists were plying their craft on site during the event, creating original artworks available for purchase.

“This is a time to celebrate the park, especially the park at night. The gates usually close at 8:30 p.m. But tonight people can stay late, until 10 p.m.,” said Roberts.

Qualls, who has been involved with each of these “heART of Mt. Helix” events, echoed that sentiment, “People are coming in droves, and we love it. More people come as more of them learn about it,” she said. Will Qualls be coming back to assist the event committee next year? She replied, “Oh, yeah.” Summertime is a very good time to get high on Mt. Helix. More information about Mt. Helix Park, which is open 365 days a year, can be found at www.mthelixpark.org.

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