Mark Fumusa has prepared his final Longhorn wrestling team spaghetti dinner and is turning over the reins of the highly popular benefit to Jacque Lee, Gerardo’s Firewood Cafe and a spirited band of volunteers who are members of the Payson Wrestling Booster Club.
This year, the first without Fumusa at the helm, the always-popular dinner will be served 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. today, Tuesday, Feb. 21, in the Rim Country Middle School cafeteria.
Tickets are $6 per individual or $20 for a family of four or more.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or from any high school wrestler.
Lee, Fumusa’s replacement, is no stranger to the benefit or to the wrestling program.
She’s long been a volunteer in helping prepare the meal, usually baking her scrumptious homemade rolls that are one of the hits of dinner, along with the Italian-style spaghetti.
She’s also had three sons pass through the wrestling program winning region, state and national honors.
Prior to stepping down, Fumusa — a Pine-Strawberry realtor — had been dishing out the Italian meals since the benefit’s inception more than 20 years ago.
After turning over the benefit to new hosts following last year’s dinner, Fumusa said, “Those days are eight hours on your feet and I’m no spring chicken anymore; it’s time to turn it over to someone else.”
Former PHS wrestling coach Dennis Pirch, the man who recruited Fumusa to host the dinners, said he “has gone above and beyond for many years.”
Today, Fumusa harbors many fond memories of the dinners, but some of the best are of the help he has received from throngs of volunteers.
Norma Jean Scibetta, Paul Koren, Suzanne Fumusa, Joe Scibetta, Marilyn Koren and Lee are some of those who have pitched in to help.
Most every Longhorn coach, fan, parent and player has enjoyed one or more of the meals and fondly remembers the good times associated with the annual benefit.
Benefit dinner originally a way to go to Disneyland
Longtime assistant wrestling coach and PHS counselor Don Heizer recalls the origins of the spaghetti dinners.
“Dennis and I were looking for ways to earn money so the kids could go to Disneyland during the Christmas vacation,” he said.
“We came up with the spaghetti dinners. They earned good money, and we never stopped doing them.”
For the first dinner, Fumusa, who had two sons on the team, volunteered to oversee the meals.
His two sons have long since departed PHS, but Fumusa continued to play a huge role in hosting the events until deciding to step down following the 2011 benefit.
For the annual dinners, Fumusa and his six volunteer assistants spent the entire day cooking a spaghetti feast for the more than 500 people that traditionally attended. They used about 110 pounds of spaghetti noodles, 120 pounds of ground beef, four gallons of homemade salad dressing and 100 pounds of flour for Lee’s homemade rolls.
As good as the food is sure to be, the real purpose is to raise money for the Payson High School wrestling program to purchase much-needed services and items that cannot be obtained through the cash-strapped athletic budget.