Glitz, glitter and down-home glamour marked Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s Rhinestone Roundup Gala at the San Diego County Fair on June 13, 2024. Some 200 guests, many attired in country western apparel, packed the Corona Beach House to celebrate Don Diego’s Class of 2024 Scholars, honor 22nd DAA CEO Carlene Moore and COO Katie Mueller, raise funds for future college scholarships, and enjoy VIP seats at the evening’s culminating Old Dominion concert.

Most of the 26 Scholars sharing a whopping $83,000 in awards were in attendance, saying they welcomed the opportunity to thank donors in person, and to meet and mingle with each other. Many discovered they shared similar interests and in some cases are even headed to the same universities, such as UCSD and Cal Poly SLO.

Salyn Meas, whose family farmed in the Philippines and who plans to continue the agricultural tradition by majoring in Meat Science at Texas A&M, said she was ecstatic to learn that her $3,500 William and Betty Ann Tulloch Endowed Scholarship emanates from an iconic San Diego ranching family and her Roxana Foxx Endowment FFA Scholarship from this longtime protea flower grower. Salyn told donors, “With this support, I can pursue my dream of joining the meat industry to provide the people of our nation with quality and safe meat products. I’m very grateful for this support.”

Class of 2024 Don Diego Scholars

That gratitude was expressed by each Scholar who was presented to Gala-goers by Don Diego Chairman Stephen Shewmaker. He and his wife Francie particularly enjoyed conversing with Natalya Huys, who will be using her $2,500 Shewmaker Family Endowment Scholarship to major in Civil Engineering at UCSD.

After the presentation of Scholars and tributes to Moore and Mueller, Chairman Shewmaker turned over the mic to Board member and auctioneer extraordinaire Frederic Schenk, who ebulliently encouraged guests to participate in the auction to help raise funds to support future cream-of-the-crop Scholars. The enthusiastic response enables Don Diego to continue providing scholarships for years to come.

In addition to auctioning off unique and exclusive trips, elite tickets to sporting events, and even an opportunity to name your own donut along with donuts for a year, courtesy of Board member Mark Arabo, owner of Peterson’s Donut Corner, the auction, for the second time in recent years, went to the dogs. Literally. A gorgeous cocker spaniel puppy donated by Cuttin Blue Farms was won by attendees Dina and Mike Irwin.

Shewmaker states, “The dog’s creamy golden hue symbolizes the golden opportunities awaiting our Class of 2024 to pursue their educational and career goals, thanks to the generosity of San Diego’s finest, who have opened their hearts and wallets.”

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for Don Diego, AKA Tom Hernandez, who served as San Diego County Fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984. Since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded $1,416,844 in scholarships to 409 students and in Plant*Grow*Eat agriculture education grants, which enable elementary students from San Diego area Title 1 schools to learn about agriculture and nutrition while enjoying a day at the Fair.