‘Tis the season of giving and nobody does it quite like Larry Houser, owner of Bourbon Street and founder of Fullerton Cares Autism Foundation. Houser had been looking to organize something special as a show of appreciation to his Downtown Fullerton family of servers and bartenders for quite some time. Serendipity swooped in when his childhood friend, Adam Chenoweth, extended an open invitation recently to come out and party at the Nolet Spirits, USA Headquarters — stateside home to world renowned Ketel One Vodka and Nolet’s Silver Gin.  We were fortunate enough to be able to tag along for the celebration.

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Two party busses, courtesy of Bourbon Street, shuttled 75 of Downtown Fullerton’s finest to Aliso Viejo; further south than most of us Fullertonians would care to make the drive. A keg of Abita’s Purple Haze, amidst pulsating music, swirling disco lights and the few carousers who navigated the stripper poles, virtually obliterated all grumblings regarding the long ride.

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Upon arriving to our destination, a meet and greet of clipboard toting Nolet’s reps welcomed us into the well-appointed and swanky event venue. (They had to obtain our signatures verifying we were all at least 21 years of age.) A fully decked out bar, as well as a vodka and gin tasting table, were ready and waiting to quench everyone’s thirsty palates.

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Although the art of distillation has been around for presumably thousands of years, the longest reigning family known in the industry is that of the Netherlands-based Nolet family. The dynasty touts a 322-year history of distilling and is currently presided over by 10th-generation Carolus H. J. Nolet, the chairman of Nolet Spirits Worldwide. One of two sons, Carl Nolet, Jr. is the executive vice-president of Nolet Spirits USA where we were feted. Their most popular products are Ketel One Vodka, Ketel One Citroen, Ketel One Oranje, Nolet’s Silver gin and the limited-edition Nolet’s Reserve (the most expensive gin in the world at $700 a bottle). Alas, we did not get a chance to sample the Nolet’s Reserve, but we can lay claim to stroking the bottle.

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After numerous rounds of mouth-watering tray passed appetizers catered by the acclaimed 24 Carrots outfit, everyone got comfy and prepared for two sets of gut-wrenching laughter as doled out by ribald comedians Steve Simeone and Brad Williams — Williams himself being a long-time resident of Fullerton. With the coordination of Roscoe‘s manager Dan Ebert, Williams has been instrumental in guaranteeing a huge turnout both at the Fullerton Cares Autism Foundation fundraiser at last year’s Fox Theatre and at Roscoe’s Deli the year prior.

At the close of the night’s festivities, all those in attendance dug deep into their pockets to donate to the foundation as their reciprocal gesture to Houser for his generosity and contributions to Downtown Fullerton.

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Houser is a prominent name on the philanthropic roster when it comes to promoting the education and welfare of our community’s children. More specifically, a huge part of his charitable contributions and fundraising efforts go towards Autism Awareness programs.

This event has significant importance because bartenders are some of the most charismatic and well spoken individuals I know with most having a lot of friends. People with autism are quite the opposite. They struggle with oral language and often find it challenging making friends. They are often bullied too. So this event is about having fun with my fellow bartenders and appreciating the gift that we all have.

Houser’s foundation, Fullerton Cares was founded to raise money, awareness and acceptance for autism in the Fullerton community. His son Boyd has autism and attends school in Fullerton. When resources became limited because of budget cuts, Fullerton Cares was created  to provide the autism and special needs programs’ much needed support.

My mother has always taught me that it takes a village. At that time the philosophy was applied to the care of Boyd. Then as the autism events started to pick up momentum it became clear that this village is also Fullerton.

Fullerton Cares puts on numerous awareness and fundraisers throughout the year. The next event, Mardi Gras for Autism, is slated for March 1, 2014 as presented by Bourbon Street and attracts thousands with all abilities.

All photos by Brian Feinzimer of Feinzimer Photography and are copyright Feinzimer Photography and Fullerton Foundry



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