By Ron VandenBoom
More than $14,000 was raised Saturday at the Northern Montana Health Care Foundation's Seventh Annual Wine and Cheese Festival.
Proceeds from this year's event will go toward development of a 6.5 acre community fitness park that will be located just south of Northern Montana Care Center.
"We're excited about this project," said David Henry, president and CEO of Northern Montana Health Care during the festival. "This park for the community is probably the biggest undertaking the Foundation has ever done."
The park, according to Kathleen Richardson, director of the Foundation, is estimated to cost approximately $100,000 and include a soccer field, softball field and wheelchair friendly walking paths. Tables and trees will also be included in the park.
Henry said the project will also bring the community and the kids closer to the care center where they will have greater contact with seniors living at the center.
"Our seniors over there love to see kids and this is a great combination and great relationship the youth of our community and our seniors," he said.
Maps of the project were place on every table at the festival so guests and contributors could see what the park will look like when complete.
More than 170 people attended the festival a figure almost 50 less than last year's total, but despite the lower turnout, the festival still managed to raise about the same amount of money as last year's event.
Richardson said the community was "tremendously supportive" this year.
"We've received more donations for auction than any other year," she said.
Donated items included hand crafted dolls, wine baskets, and eight place silverware setting, and a rare Barbie Doll set from Elvis Presley's Graceland home.
Several of the guest wore costumes representing the theme of this year's festival Broadway Lights. Costumes were also worn by four couples donating their culinary skills by offering gourmet theme meals to the highest bidder during the live people auction.
Themes for the meals included "The Sound of Music," "GiGi," "Annie Get Your Gun," and "Madam Butterfly."
A large selection of domestic and imported cheeses were provided by Gary and Leo's IGA and Pennington's Inc. provided a vast and varied assortment of wines.
Dr. Joe Marino served as the master of ceremonies and Dave Greenwood was the auctioneer.