By Tim Leeds
A political battle is looming at the Great Northern Fair.
Not a battle between parties or politicians, but a battle between political figures and the pitchers who will try to drop them into the water.
Hill County Democratic Central Committee chairwoman Debi Friede said she heard that the Havre Skateboard Association was looking for volunteers to staff the dunking booth.
"Somebody at work said, They would pay to get you dunked,' and I said, That would be an idea.'"
Friede will be at the booth from 6 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Hill County Republican Central Committee chairman Brad Lotton will take over from 6:30 to 7 p.m.
Lotton said the idea is to have some fun and raise some cash for a good cause.
"We do need to get this skateboard park funded privately and this would be one way to do it," he said.
Friede and Lotton have squared off publicly in the past over several political issues. In the latest instance, the state political practices commissioner fined the Republican Central Committee and Mayor Bob Rice $2,500 after Friede filed a complaint claiming campaign improprieties during the 2001 mayoral election.
The dunking booth, run by the Havre Optimist Club, was traditionally staffed for the fair by the Havre High School cheerleaders. Byron Ophus, club treasurer, said running the booth all five days was becoming too much for the cheerleaders to handle, so the Optimists offered one day to the Skateboarding Association, and one day to the Havre Boys and Girls Club.
The Optimists split profits from the dunking booth with the organization staffing the booth.
The Boys and Girls Club will have the booth from 2 to 7 p.m. Aug. 11, with several educators including Havre Middle School Principal Vance Blatter among those sitting in the chair.
Janine Donoven of the Skateboard Association said she is contacting some other prominent Havre figures to sit in the booth for the association.
The cheerleaders will have the booth Thursday through Saturday.
Donoven said plans for the association's skateboard park, which the money from the dunking booth could be used for, are moving ahead.
The association will apply for grants to help pay for the park. The city of Havre has applied for a $24,900 grant from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which the city must match, for the park.
A skateboarding demonstration the association held during Saturday's 3-on-3 basketball tournament raised more than $150 for the park.
Krista Solomon of the Boys and Girls Club/HELP said the money from the dunking booth will help provide the matching funds required for grants the organization has already received for the club. It has received enough grants for 18 months' worth of operations, she said, and now the club has to raise the matching funds.
Tim Brurud, youth development specialist for the Boys and Girls Club, said club members lined up the people to sit in the booth.
The club, which opened in June, had 327 members as of Thursday, Solomon said. The average number of kids in the club each day is 97, she added.
"It's going like crazy. We've got tons of stuff going on," Brurud said.
Several groups and parents have been volunteering at the center, including members of the North Central Senior Citizens Center Retired Senior Volunteer Program, students from classes at Montana State University-Northern and the Hill County Extension Agency, Solomon said.
"It helps keep a lot of variety," she said.