LAKEGEORGE- Rachael Ray came home Friday, April 15 for her ninth annual show - a sellout - at Lake George High School, her alma mater, and the event delighted the audience of more than 530.
Each year through this show, Rachael "gives back wholeheartedly to her school," Gloria Gilman of the Lake George Alumni Association said as she kicked off the event. The show raises thousands of dollars annually for school equipment and scholarships.
The crowd poured into the auditorium chatting excitedly with friends and family members as they initially sought to get a glimpse of the renowned celebrity cook and talk show host.
A number of people - many of whom had never seen Rachael Ray before except on television - said they were they were there because of her magnetism. They remarked that she's fun, down to earth, and real. They said they love her energy, her jokes, and, of course, her easy-to-follow recipes.
Beth Stewart, a nurse from the region, said not only that she was "thrilled" to see Rachael Ray in person, but she really appreciated her new focus on health and nutrition, including her crusade against childhood obesity and diabetes - and her fight against hunger.
"She's a local girl done good," Stewart quipped, noting that Rachael Ray provides inspiration to local people in achieving goals in life.
Others said they appreciated that despite her international fame, none of it seemed to have gone to her head - that she stays true to her roots and honors where she came from.
The audience wasn't just local people, however. The show drew people from Virginia, Kansas and Canada who all came to the lower Adirondacks just to spend some time with the famous Lake George alumnus.
Rachael Ray charmed the audience with all sorts of fun stories, spontaneous quips and tips. Ray cooked a series of meals including Caesar spaghetti, a chicken dish, and a bacon and cheeseburger concoction that had the audience salivating and cheering.
The conversation was casual between Rachael and her audience. She urged the crowd to sing "Happy Birthday" to her friend Andrew "Cappy" Caplan," who heads up her charitable foundation and helped set up the food to be prepared. The audience obliged.
The crowd heard all about Ray, her family, her dog, and her love for cheese - "The stinkier the better," she said.
Questions were welcomed from the audience throughout the night, ranging from her contributions in society, to her husband's favorite food.
People demonstrated their love for her with gifts, including a model skateboard - with a high heel attached - presented by Lake George students seeking to develop a local skateboard park. She accepted the gifts with gratitude.
During the show, Rachael mentioned local sites and enterprises freely, including talking of how she'd be a vegetarian except for Oscar's bacon, "the best in the world." George's Restaurant also received plenty of mention, as they catered the food - concocted from Rachael Ray recipes - served after the event.
At the end of the show, a long line of fans sought autographs as well as photographs and chatter with her, and as always, she spent ample time with each one. In past years, these one-on-one sessions with Rachael at the Lake George show have lasted up to 90 minutes or more.
Show attendee Dawn Wagner of Wilton, said she was impressed how Rachael Ray spent so much time with the audience.
"I just can't believe I'm here," she said with a star-struck expression.
(Adirondack Journal Editor Thom Randall contributed to this report.)