Since 1947, the Tuolumne River Lodge has staked a spot of natural beauty on the southern bank of the Tuolumne River north of Ceres. Through the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, families galore have enjoyed the lodge for social functions. The privately owned lodge slipped into a darker time and had a difficult time paying bills. Leaders overseeing the lodge now say the lodge is in its brighter days.
Recently the Ceres Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the lodge after it joined the Chamber. Lenora Caulton told the Chamber and community members on Oct. 17 that the lodge is improving.
"About three or four years ago it was having some real struggles," said Caulton. "The economy hit it pretty hard and it wasn't doing all that great right before then."
Lodge overseers "have a lot of love for this place," she said, and decided to "pick up and roll up our sleeves and dug in and this place has begun to turn around quite well."
Hard work has been spent maintaining and improving the sprawling 5.5-acre grounds where large oaks flourish, and interior renovations include a remodeling of the restrooms.
In August the lodge hosted the first annual Smoke on the River barbecue challenge which was attended by 600 to 800 persons.
"There's a lot of people who've come in who've never actually seen the hall. It's kind of nice. We've had a lot of exposure and I think we've really been working on our PR as far as reaching out to the community. We've had the Boy Scouts here; they hosted their meetings quite a bit. The church was here for quite a while. Anything that we can do to help. And since we can't afford a lot and they can't afford a lot, we do a lot of little horse trading."
Fundraisers, such as a recent cooking class, allow the lodge to raise funds for the hall's upkeep. Other fundraisers have included bunco games, crab feed and an upcoming craft faire on Dec. 6.
"We put a lot of effort into this and I think it's really paying off. We still have a little ways to go."
The lodge has seen a lot of rentals for weddings and wedding receptions, reunions, anniversary parties, celebrations of life and quinceaneras. The lodge's banquet hall seats 200 and has standing room for 260. The lodge charges $1,200 for rental of the large main hall on Fridays or Saturdays, $750 for Sundays and $360 for Mondays through Thursdays.
A number of weddings have been held on the lawn - the rate of $1,200 includes use of the garden room - overlooking the scenic river. The downstairs garden room can accommodate 50 persons for a fee of $260 for a half-day (and a $500 security deposit).
Rental hours run 10 a.m. to midnight.
The lodge was established after World War II by 35 local families. Memberships run $275 per year and benefits include fishing, swimming and boating access, picnicking, horse shoe pits, volleyball court, barbecue pits, an annual membership meeting and Christmas party, membership socials and reduced rental fees.
More information on the lodge may be obtained by calling 537-6651, or visiting www.tuolumneriverlodge.com.