Havre Daily News
No one won the $25,000 car voucher offered at Friday night's benefit for the proposed cultural and visitor center at the Great Northern Fairgrounds, but many participants said they went home winners.
Benefit-goers played poker, purchased auction items, rolled dice and sipped martinis during the event, which raised about $16,000 for the project.
One of the auction items that sold for the highest amount wasn't even on the original list. North Star Dodge owner Gary Reighard jumped up during the live auction to offer the choice of a trip to Las Vegas including air fare and hotel stay or a cruise from Los Angeles to Mexico or Florida to the Caribbean. The trip went for $1,025.
The planned center would house the Great Northern Fair Board and fair manager, the Montana Actors' Theatre and the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce and also could serve as the starting point for tours of the Wahkpa Chu'gn buffalo jump, Bear Paw Battlefield and Fort Assinniboine. The operations and maintenance costs will be the responsibility of the occupants of the center. The money raised at the event will pay for engineering and planning for the building.
The center, which would have interpretive elements on the history and culture of the Hi-Line, is expected to cost about $2.8 million. Project organizers are seeking funding for the building's construction and hope to have it completed as early as 2009.
Shari Waldner, assistant manager of Town House Inns, said the center will benefit every business in Havre. She said she likes to attend events to not only support local projects but also to meet new people.
“There are people whose face you have seen before but never met. This sort of occasion is great to meet those people,” Waldner said.
Financial advisor Willard Fladager watched his Waddell & Reed Inc. co-workers operate the dice roll for a car voucher from Tilleman Motor Co., Havre Ford or North Star Dodge. Contestants paid $25 per three rolls to attempt to spell out “winner” with six lettered dice.
Fladager said he was impressed with the turn out for the fundraiser and thinks the center is a great idea.
“People drive through here to go to Great Falls and we need to get them to stay here,” he said.
Kate Hillson, a former chair of the chamber's tourism committee, said the center project has been in the works for about four years and is “a long time coming.”
Hillson said most tourists hear about attractions through talking with Havreites and the center will help to get the word out about places to visit.
“Havre already does a good job but the center could help boost us to another level,” she said. “Havre has a lot to offer and is a well-kept secret.”
Dominic Amato, a 29-year-old carpenter, said he attended the gala to play poker and help out a good cause.
“I knew it was a benefit and I am a giving person. I don't have much, but I give what I can,” Amato said.
The center will help steer people in the right direction, Amato said.
Tom Castloo was the winner of the poker tournament and the $1,100 travel voucher from Lelock Travel.
Linda Harrison, who lives north of Havre, said she saw an article about the event in the Havre Daily News and wanted to attend the dinner to support the community.
“I think it's going to bring in more people and, in turn, more money,” she said.
Harrison said she is looking forward to Montana Actors' Theatre having a new auditorium, which she said would be a central location in the state to attend plays.
Bear Paw Development Corp. planning director Craig Erickson, who helped plan the benefit, said the night was a hit.
“It was a big success and a big thank you to everyone,” Erickson said today.