'We Love Northern Ball' returns Feb. 11

Event is back after two years away


Last updated 1/31/2023 at 11:25am

For the first time since 2020, the Montana State University-Northern Foundation’s We Love Northern Ball will be held in the Armory Gymnasium on campus, with a three-course wine-paired dinner and a music ensemble Feb. 11 at 6 p.m.

Foundation Executive Director Al Garver said that, because the event has been away for so long, the event’s committee wanted to flip the script a bit this year and go all out on a spectacular event.

The We Love Northern Ball is the foundation’s largest annual fundraiser, bringing in money that the organization can use for scholarships and their goal this year, Garver said, is to raise $50,000 for those academic- and needs-based scholarships.

He said the foundation itself is funded through the university system and Northern’s yearly endowment so the lack of a ball for the past few years hasn’t been a threat to the foundation itself, but it still represents a substantial loss for the extra things they like to do, like these scholarships.

Despite their desire to raise as much money as possible, he said, they’ve opted for a more subdued push for money during the event, focusing most of their efforts on making it, first and foremost, a great time and trusting that that quality experience will encourage people to give more generously.

“We wanted the ball to have less of a fundraiser feel, and more of an elegant evening out,” Garver said.

He said the foundation also has a fall auction fundraiser which is very high-energy and he wants to bring some of that energy to this event.

Part of that will be the music, he said, an eight-piece jazz ensemble, JK and the Northern Lights, a group assembled specifically for this event, including three Montana State University Billings music professors.

He said the head of the group, Jack Klein, is a friend of his whom he served with in Iraq when they were in the U.S. Air Force and a talented musician.

Garver said the group is looking to do a tribute to musical artists like Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.

He said with just eight people they aren’t going to be able to replicate that big-band feel perfectly, but they can do a lot with all those talented musicians.

He said the center-piece of the performance will be the Glenn Miller song “A String of Pearls,” which will feature a rose-raffle with flowers going for $20 each with and the winner receiving a string of pearls, a fitting event with Valentine’s Day coming up.

Garver said the music JK and the Northern Lights will be playing can be a bit hard to dance to if people don’t already know the steps so there will be a WWII-era swing demonstration followed by a DJ who will play some more accessible dancing songs where people will be able to go the floor to dance.

Along with the ensemble of music, he said, they are really looking to up their game in terms of food, opting for a three-course wine-pairing dinner.

He said a sommelier and chef will talk about each element of the meal and the wine that has been chosen to accompany it and how the two will interact with each other to create a combined experience.

“If we do it right, it is quite the experience for the palate,” Garver said.

He said Gusto Distributing has helped with the pairing and the committee has chosen the dishes for each course.

As for the fundraising, he said, that will be done during the main course as they present a commissioned piece of original art honoring Northern by local artist Don Greytak, which will be shown publicly for the first time at the dinner.

He said the event’s live auction will feature prints of this Don Greytak piece as well as a number of items made by Northern’s own welding program.

Garver said they do have a sponsor in Wabtec which will provide a $10,000 grant to the foundation with a 50 percent match, which puts them well on their way to their $50,000 goal.

Individual tickets to the event will cost $100, but a the event is being paid for primarily through the eight-person tables they are offering.

Those tables closest to the stage, the Meal-Sponsor Tables, are $2,500, the tables behind those, the Wine-and-Band Sponsor Tables, cost $1,200, and the remaining tables beyond that cost $900 to reserve.

Garver said people can dress up as much as they like and there will also be a red-carpet entrance with free digital photographs provided.

He said this will be his first time organizing this particular event, but he has a lot of experience organizing similar events and he has high hopes for this one.

Cocktails begin at 6 p.m., dinner is at 7 p.m., and dancing and music starts at 8:30 p.m.

The event is limited to 250 people due to its complexity, he said, and reservations can be found on the Foundation’s website at https://msunfoundation.org .


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