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Rachael Ray bonds with crowd at local fundraiser

As people chatted, Ray's team passed out a packet with recipes for the dishes she would prepare. Some of her most popular, the packet inevitably included a pasta dish, "Chicken Parm Pasta Toss." While pasta may be her "go-to" dish, she announced that she is now creating gluten-free recipes to cater to those with specific health requirements, in addition to more vegetarian dishes.

Emcee for the event was 1958 Lake George Graduate Jerry Eichlin, who filled in for Gloria Gilman, who has narrated the event with aplomb for years and spent months planning this year's show, but was stricken with illness just hours before the event.

While Ray was prepping her meals and joking with her audience, gift baskets were raffled off. A metal-mesh safety glove was raffled off to students under 12, so that they, too, could begin chopping ingredients. Next came large baskets filled with a variety of foods. Some baskets included an edition of one of the 15 cookbooks she has had published so far.

After so much generosity on her part, it was her turn to receive gifts. The Lake George Baking Company, a favorite of Ray's, wheeled in a sizeable silver box. The box contained a life-size, cake dog. Meticulously made, the cake was a replica of her pit bull, Isaboo." Ray proceeded to send the cake to the buffet table in the cafeteria, to be shared with her audience following the show. Hick's Apple Orchard presented Ray with two paintings symbolic of the Adirondack region, one of the orchard and the second of the annual balloon festival. In the preparations for the event, local businesses were employed to provide virtually everything from linens and catering to the ingredients of the buffet which was served to the audience afterwards. Ray annually picks up all of the tab for the buffet expenses, to enable the proceeds of the event to go to the school and alumni group.

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