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Watching the Academy Awards is an annual rite for Paula Minnis. She says she wouldn’t miss it for the world.

But the prospect of joining a group of fellow movie lovers for a dressy soirée definitely added to her enjoyment this year, the 60-year-old Santa Rosa woman said.

“It’s more fun with others in a setting like this,” Minnis said from a small round table she shared with friends in the dark of downtown Petaluma’s Mystic Theatre on Sunday night. “It’s festive.”

Andrew Zabko, 29, similarly said he always seeks out a party for Hollywood’s biggest night.

So even though he only recently moved back to the North Bay after a decade of living in New Orleans, he simply Googled “Petaluma” and “Oscars” to find his way to the downtown venue.

“Oscars are like my Super Bowl,” said Zabko, dressed in a suit and tie and gazing up at a large screen on which the awards show was broadcast.

Learning that the Petaluma event — “The Envelope, Please” — also was a fundraiser for public-access radio “is just a fabulous combination,” Zabko said.

He, Minnis and most of the 80 or so others in attendance Sunday were just the kind of audience organizers of the event were hoping for: supporters of community radio whose enjoyment of the Oscars might help them grow the gathering into an annual benefit.

The purpose: supporting the operations of a low-powered public access radio station expected to hit the airwaves later this year.

“Tonight we plan to plant the seed that this is a great event,” and that public radio “is for all of Petaluma,” said John Bertucci, executive director of Petaluma Community Access.

“I”m thrilled to see people I didn’t have to twist their arm,” he added.

The nonprofit, which already runs a media center and public-access television, acquired a license from the Federal Communications Commission for a planned FM radio station a year ago and hopes as early as June to be broadcasting as KPCA from 103.3 FM.

The estimated $50,000 or so needed to install an antenna and transmitter has already been squirreled away, but the organization will need about $10,000 a year to run the station, airing programming produced by local volunteers, Bertucci and PCA Chairwoman Cindy Thomas said.

Organizers said they sold between 100 and 125 tickets, at $50 or $75 each, to Sunday’s party.

Raising funds “is new for us,” Bertucci said, “because we’ve been blessed with a pretty steady stream of income from the city” through cable franchise fees. But those aren’t applicable to radio operations, he said.

So organizers figured Oscars night would be an opportunity to throw a gala affair, allowing attendees to get dressed up in sequins, gowns or tuxedos, walk a red carpet and eat and drink to their hearts’ content.

As one guest observed, “You don’t get to dress up that often in Petaluma.”

Dennis Hardle, 69, wandered in just because he recently gave up his cable service and was looking for a place that was showing the Academy Awards with both video and audio. Several restaurants and bars he tried fell short.

But others acquired tickets in advance and planned ahead for the customary glitz and glamour.

Among them were six friends and family members of Sandy Acevedo, who surprised her with tickets as a gift for her recent birthday.

“She loves the movies,” friend Erin Ascher said, cheering moments later as the supporting actor trophy went to Alicia Vikander for her role in “The Danish Girl.”

“This is super fun,” Acevedo said. “This is a great idea.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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