Nov 17, 2011 8:50 PM by Jeanette Trompeter

No Place Like Home: Friends of Hearst Castle

Once in a lifetime opportunities. Bucket list adventures. We all have a few in mind. Things we'd like to do before we die. They often entail travel, significant expenses, and more time than we have at the current moment. But not all of them. Because some once-in-a-lifetime adventures can be found right in our own backyard.

We all know how spectacular the castle on the hill is. It draws tens of thousands to our area every year. The Hearst family gave this historic home to the state more than 50 years ago, allowing so many to have access to the place. So every paying guest contributes to state coffers. But no matter how many buy tickets to the mountain top, it doesn't cover the upkeep of a architectural masterpiece like this. "The state in turn budgets back for the salaries, tours and all the things that go on here." says Bob Kitamura, president of Friends of Hearst Castle. "Some maintenance goes on, but certainly not enough."

That's where VIP gatherings like the one that happened in October come into play. The crowd enjoys the lifestyle William Randolf once offered to friends, celebrities and business associates, and at the same time is helping preserve the history that sits on this enchanted hill above the Pacific.

Friends of Hearst Castle is a non-profit that aims to bridge the gap between what the state supplies for upkeep of the castle, and what it really takes to do so. "So the only way you get a ceiling cleaned, or you get some artifacts restored is through Friends of Hearst Castle, with their events." says Doyle Souders, one of the guests at the most recent "Friends" fundraiser.

One way the group does that is by offering once-in-a lifetime experiences to those willing and able to contribute to the cause. "It was amazing to actually picture we were coming as a guest of Hearst, and put outselves in that time period. It was quite an experience."

The most recent fundraiser was a black tie event on the hill where some lucky donors were selected to arrive as Hearst guests did, on a vintage DC-3 plane. Doyle Souders was one of the lucky ones chosen to arrive in style like that. "We came in over the water. We were down just about a 1000 feet off the water and he came in and just greased that airplane onto the runway, it was just fantastic."

For $300 guests get to mix and mingle as they would have in Hearst's day on the evening of arrival. Most of us have taken tours of the castle before, but coming here as a guest for exclusive parties is a whole different deal. "We get to pretend we were a part of Mr. Hearst's guests, and it's just a really different feeling." says Souders.

An event like this is like living a dream. Not just of living a life of elegance, but getting a glimpse of what this castle used to be....a home where guests were welcomed and entertained from the moment they arrived to when they said so long. "It's pretty cool. We get dressed up in period outfits and this is really neat to be a part of." says Bobbi Stelzle.

On the night Stelzle paid a visit, an amazing dinner was paried with local wines and synchronized swimmers for entertainment.
An auction offered up other dream-like opportunities like private swims in the Neptune pool, or other outings here for just you and a few friends.

These extravagant adventures don't come cheap, but cheaper than most vacations we take involving air travel and accommodations. and where else in the world can you do things like this. But these enchanted opportunities are right in our own backyard. and by buying your way into one or two, you're helping ensure they continue to be.



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