One last 'Toast,' to Richwood Winery: Friends of Tamarac say goodbye to hosts of popular fundraiser

It was a weekend full of 'lasts' for Richwood Winery, as in addition to its final Grape Stomp on Saturday, the local vintner also hosted its final Toast to Tamarac fundraiser for the Friends of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge on Friday, Sept. 9. The fundraiser for Tamarac's outdoor education programming had a paid attendance of 257.

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Perfect fall weather brought a good-sized crowd to Friday night's Toast to Tamarac fundraiser at Richwood Winery, with a paid attendance of 257. The evening included live music from the David Ferreira Trio, a catered meal from Lakeside Tavern and a silent auction with hundreds of donated items to help raise money for the outdoor education programming at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, which is sponsored by the Friends of Tamarac.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

RICHWOOD — For almost as long as there's been a Richwood Winery, the Friends of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge have held their annual Toast to Tamarac fundraiser there.

With the winery closing its doors for good on Sept. 24, the Friends decided to hold one last Toast there, on Friday, Sept. 9, and it was one of the most successful to date, according to event chair Vonnie Jacobson.

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The silent auction was a popular stop for attendees at Friday's Toast to Tamarac fundraiser at Richwood Winery. Since the fundraiser began in 2011 it has raised more than $130,000 for the environmental programming sponsored by the Friends of Tamarac at the Refuge each year.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"It went very smoothly," said Jacobson, noting that the Friends had sold a total of 257 tickets for the event, which was "a record."

But it was also an evening of goodbyes: The Friends presented Richwood Winery owner Penny Aguirre with a framed photograph of the winery at sunrise, taken by photographer (and past Friends of Tamarac president) Lee Kensinger.

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Richwood Winery owner Penny Aguirre was all smiles as she showed off the photograph of the winery that was gifted to her by the Friends of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge during their final Toast to Tamarac fundraiser at the winery on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

They also, much to Jacobson's surprise, presented her with a certificate of appreciation for her years of service as the Toast chairwoman, as this year was the last she would serve in that capacity .


"Since 2011, the Toast has raised over $130,000," said Jacobson in her parting remarks, going on to thank all those who had served on the committee, past and present, as well as their hosts at the winery and those who have donated various items to their prolific silent auction over the years.

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Toast to Tamarac Chairwoman Vonnie Jacobson (second from left) admires the certificate of appreciation that was given to her by Friends of Tamarac President Dr. Bill Henke, left, and Friends Office and Nature Store Manager Nancy Fischer on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. Jacobson hosted her final Toast fundraiser as chair this year; it was also the final fundraiser held at Richwood Winery, which is closing its doors later this month.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Dr. Bill Henke, the current president of the Friends of Tamarac, also spoke at Friday's event, talking about how the coronavirus pandemic had forced their organization to reinvent the outdoor education programming that was at the heart of their mission to connect children with nature, and create future stewards of the environment.

Henke went on to talk about the Lasting Legacy endowment that the Friends have created through West Central Initiative, and the upcoming debut of "Rhythms of Refuge," the documentary short film that was shot entirely at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. The film will soon begin showing regularly at the Refuge's Visitor Center, to greet people as they begin to explore the natural wonders of Tamarac. But first, the film will have a formal premiere at the Fargo Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 13, with two showings at 7 and 8:30 p.m.

Other events coming up at the Refuge this year are the Tamarac Fall Festival on Sept. 25 and the Walk for the Wild on Oct. 8-16, where participants can celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week by taking a 5K walk through Tamarac on a well-marked, self-guided interpretive trail that will reveal some of the hidden secrets of the refuge's forest and meadow habitats.

Also speaking at the event were Refuge Manager Kent Sundseth and Park Ranger Kelly Blackledge, who both discussed their appreciation for the Friends' role in assisting them with their programming and bringing thousands of young students out to the Refuge each year.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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