By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Havre will be the place to be for hunters of both pheasants and autographs this weekend as dozens of former National Football League players come to town to help raise money for Montana State University-Northern's football program.
The third annual Legends for Lights Pheasant Jamboree will feature about 25 retired NFL players as well as a few former National Hockey League players, event coordinator Terry Lilletveldt said today. The stars include 1993 NFL Hall of Fame inductee Steve DeLong, long-time NFL player and recent University of Montana Hall of Fame inductee Guy Bingham, and former Washington Redskins defensive end and Olympic shot-putter Shane Collins.
"To think about all these legends just converging on Havre, Montana, for this event, it's kind of unbelievable," she said. "It's a special event for our area."
Havre car dealer Mike Tilleman, co-chair and founder of the event and one of the former NFL players participating, said he's been inviting people to come to his farm to hunt pheasants for many years, but that they never left anything in the community. At the same time, he saw a need for money in the athletic department at Montana State University-Northern. So he put the two together.
"It takes a lot of money to support a football team, so why not use a resource we have and have some fun," Tilleman said. He said the event has been bringing in more than $20,000 every year to go toward football scholarships for MSU-N athletes.
The money is raised from a variety of sponsorships of the four-person teams that go hunting during the weekend. The sponsors include local businesses and national companies like the ones that make Jim Beam and Arctic Cat snowmachines. Each team consists of an NFL legends and three other hunters. Those hunters are usually affiliated with the sponsoring companies, Tilleman said, but individuals can also buy spots on the teams.
About 20 teams will hunt on local farms and ranches on Sunday and Monday, he said.
The fund-raiser also features a variety of other events from Friday to Monday. It will begin with a Kick-Off Social on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Fox and Missouri River cars Friday night at 5 p.m. Tickets are $10 for a single and $15 for couples.
The cars - one a dining car, and the other with a bar and dance floor - are usually rented out to executives traveling across the country. BNSF donated the cars for the event, which is open to the public.
Ticket holders will be entered in a drawing for eight steak and lobster dinners donated by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation.
Saturday events begin with a trap shoot at the Havre Trap Club at 8:30 a.m. The event, which is open to the public, will include a shooting clinic, calcutta and competition shoot.
At 2 p.m., the teams will participate in a homecoming barbecue at the MSU-N Student Union Building, and then attend the homecoming game between the Northern Lights football team and Rocky Mountain College at 4 p.m.
On Sunday morning the team hunts will begin. Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m., more than 30 food vendors from across the Hi-Line will bring samples of their food to the Taste of Havre at the Holiday Village Shopping Center. The event is open to the public. Tickets are $10 for an individual and $25 for a family. Family tickets include a football family members can get autographed by the former NFL players attending.
Last year more than 600 people attended the event, Gloria Tilleman, Mike Tilleman's wife, said in a press release.
Tickets can be purchased from MSU-N athletes and at the MSU-N Foundation office and Taco John's.
The competition hunt will continue Monday, and the fund-raiser will finish with an awards banquet and closing ceremonies at 6 p.m. Those events are open to team members only.
Byron Ophus, the athletics director at Montana State University-Northern, said the fund-raiser raises four to five times the amount of money of any other fund-raiser the football program has, and that the money is spread out among 40 to 50 students.
"It enables us to give scholarships that we otherwise just wouldn't be able to give to student-athletes who want to come to MSU-Northern," Ophus said, adding that the event also brings money into the community as a whole.
Some of the other former NFL players participating this year are Nick Bebout, Doug Betters, Mike Donahoe, Carl Eller, Dick Evey, George Morris, Diron Talbert, Don Talbert, and Lonnie Warwick.
For more information about the Pheasant Jamboree or the Taste of Havre, contact the MSU-Northern Foundation office at 265-3711.