Seattle comedian Cashman to host JCS gala

By Nicholas Johnson of the Leader
Posted 4/22/15

Longtime Seattle comedian and television personality Pat Cashman is set to host "the biggest event" in Jefferson Community School's 10-year history.

The private Port Townsend school's Decade Gala …

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Seattle comedian Cashman to host JCS gala

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Longtime Seattle comedian and television personality Pat Cashman is set to host "the biggest event" in Jefferson Community School's 10-year history.

The private Port Townsend school's Decade Gala 2015 begins at 6 p.m., Saturday, April 25 at the Northwest Maritime Center. For tickets, which are $75, call the school at 385-0622 or visit its website, jeffersoncommunityschool.com.

Cashman's career began with KING-TV in Seattle in 1980, where he made local commercials, including spots for the Seattle Mariners baseball team. He was a regular cast member of the long-running local comedy show "Almost Live!" as well as being the announcer for Bill Nye the Science Guy. On radio, he has hosted "The Pat Cashman Show," a morning drive-time show on several Seattle stations.

"We're lucky to have him," said school board member and event organizer Stan Cummings. "I've watched his videos on You-Tube, and he's extremely funny."

Improv artist and actor Matt Smith, who had served as the event's auctioneer for the past three years, was already booked for another event, leading Cummings to a surprise replacement in Cashman.

"I was really intrigued by the school's vision and mission of offering students an individualized education, giving them real-world experiences outside the four walls of a classroom," Cashman, 65, told the Leader. "For these folks, it's not about making a ton of money, it's a labor of genuine love. A school like this that begins with an admirable vision can lose its luster in short order, but this one has stayed the course and is now growing. That's exciting. To get past those founding years is remarkable to me, so this fundraiser is to keep that dream going."

Nowadays, Cashman writes and produces television and radio commercials, gives keynote speeches at charity and corporate events, writes a humor column for the West Seattle Herald and works fundraising auctions with his son, Chris. He's also on the country's most watched, highest-rated local television show - The 206.

"The 206 has nothing to do with the area code," he said. "It's our best guess at how many people might be watching the show."

In all seriousness, Cashman said he and his wife love getting away to Port Townsend, whether staying at the Ann Starrett Mansion, Ravenscroft Inn or in a house on Fort Worden's Officer's Row.

"It's a place wonderfully frozen in time," said Cashman, who plans to spend a few days in town with his wife and two dogs. "We just love it up there. It's just really special and charming. And where else would a school like this logically exist but in Port Townsend?"

The school opened its doors in 2005, holding classes in a private home. The years that followed were somewhat tumultuous, and the school even closed its doors briefly in 2012 as a result of low attendance.

Parent Rita Hemsley took the helm in the fall of 2013 and has helped the school grow from a low of 17 students to 30. She expects enrollment to keep growing toward 40 students, including as many as five international students.

"We've worked hard to expand our international program," said Hemsley. We had a student from Thailand previously and this year we have one from India. We made a concerted effort as part of our global mission to develop an international program where students from around the world can study."

The school is well known for its expeditionary program. Following the gala, students are to take a three-week trip to Guatemala and Belize, where they will be attending a Spanish language school, visiting the ruins of Tikal and obtaining their scuba certifications in Belize.

Though his son won't be joining him, Cashman said he plans to keep the evening light and engaging.

"Of course it's a fundraiser, but I never feel the job of an auctioneer is to be a salesperson," he said. "The sale has already been made. I want these folks to have a good time. It shouldn't be painful. We've all been to these auctions where it's an excruciating marathon to sit through. I want people to walk out saying, 'That was a real kick in the pants. I think I'll come back next year.'"

Live-auction items include a weeklong vacation at a chalet in the French Alps, a group or party cider-pressing experience, a four-night Colorado vacation getaway and a five-course dinner for 10 in the 1887 Victorian-era Grace House in Port Townsend. Guests also have a shot at more than 20 silent-auction prizes.

Cashman said he's proud to participate in an event benefiting young people's educational experiences.

"I always tell people education is a big part of my interest these days, but I must lament I wasn't a particularly good student growing up," he said. "I did get a four-point one year - actually, I just hit a deer on the way to school."

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