The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

26th Annual Wildlife Banquet and Auction part of another weather surprise for April


April 11, 2018

The Blaine County Wildlife Museum Banquet regular sells out and this year was no exception as 240 guests attended the event. The Banquet generally raises about $20,000 annually and estimates exceed $600,000 through the years. Most of the funds raised go to maintaining the building and operating costs.

The Annual Wildlife Museum Banquet was more than a month later than normally scheduled, but it was still a target of this long lasting winter. Emcee Roger Jorgenson welcomed the guests noting, "It feels like the 95th day of January." Guests arrived at St. Gabriel's parish hall during a cool but dry spring evening. Two hours later when diners left and the prime rib was eaten, the winning raffle tickets were drawn and the auctions were over, it was snowing hard.

Organizers have been tweaking the total number of diners for the last couple of banquets. This year the magic number was 240. Even with a few more seats available, tickets sold out during the week leading up to the dinner and auction. St. Gabriel's members prepared the dinner and many other volunteers helped make the event a success.

Jorgenson, a member of the museum board, asked for a show of hands of, "all the folks who have attended all 26 of the banquets." Only Richard Cronk had that distinction. One long time supporter of the museum who was absent was Scott MacKenzie. One of the original people who got the idea of the museum going, he was dealing with some health challenges and his doctor suggested he stay away from crowds for a time. It was the first banquet he has missed.

Noting 15 or so first-timers in the audience Jorgenson said later, "It's amazing how many people support this event, and the museum, every year. And every year a few new people show up and often continue to attend for many years."

The main event, aside from what is always an excellent prime rib dinner, is the live auction. This year 28 items were sold at the live auction.

Lilly Gilbert Kretchmer and Matt Kretchmer, of Havre, check out the "touching pelts and hides" display just inside the front entrance of the wildlife museum. The hides give youngsters, or oldsters if they so choose, an opportunity to feel an assortment of tanned hides.

There were five animals sold for "adoption" bringing a total of nearly $5,000. Scott MacKenzie said at the conclusion of last year's banquet and auctions, the event raised an average of $20,000 each year, most of which goes to maintain the building. MacKenzie estimated, "Over $600,000 had probably been raised over the years." The rest of the wildlife museum's programming is supported by proceeds from admission to the museum, donations and grants secured to complete certain projects.

One unusual donation this year came from the results of the recent March Madness Calcutta held at the Mint Bar in March. Bruce Butcher, in comments about the $800 plus donation to the museum, told that supporters of the wildlife museum started the Calcutta as a fundraiser years ago. Each year part of the Calcutta proceeds go to a charity, this year the wildlife museum was selected.

As always, the wildlife museum banquet was a fun event. It's timing seems almost at that point where locals are desperate for a night away from winter. Though scheduled a month later than normal, the banquet and auction provided a nice break in a very long winter.


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