Fall Fish and Feast raises more than $50,000
The Bear Trail Lodge was packed on Saturday for the fifth annual Fall Fish and Feast. As school districts have tightened their belts to deal with state budget cuts in recent years, fundraising has become increasingly important for student travel in rural areas.
For the Bristol Bay Borough School District, Fall Fish and Feast in particular has become a key source of support. It supports student travel to tournaments and games around the bay and around Alaska.
"My idea was to put together a really, really fun evening to honor the kids and their sports as well as the activities they do, whether it's the spelling bee or whether it's the basketball team, and allow them to have more opportunities to have better competition and see more places," said lodge owner and event coordinator, Nanci Morris Lyon. "It's grown each and every year, and it's become something people look forward to."
Bristol Bay Borough athletes were the event's waitstaff. They mingled with the crowd, offering prawns and oysters as appetizers. Others carried jars of M&M's and peanuts. Guests could guess how many each jar contained for the chance to win a tote loaded with goodies.
When it came time for dinner, the high schoolers carried trays piled high with quail, fresh bread, salad, elk and risotto.
In between food and auction events, the athletes gave speeches about the impact donations have on their program.
"Each year travel expenses get a lot more expensive. So this becomes more important and allows us to go on more trips ... where we see competition that we would at state. That helps pay for sending us and getting us prepared for the next level," said Logan Phelps, captain of the Bristol Bay Borough high school wrestling team.
More than three dozen businesses and individuals donated prizes for the night's various auctions and raffles. Those prizes ranged from jackets and waders to a fly fishing rod to local art to plane tickets.
The school district budgets about $50,000 dollars for their sports program, and they count on raising between $40,000 and $50,000 from community fundraising. The lodge estimates that this year's Fall Fish and Feast raised between $55,000 and $60,000, more than any year previous.