Red Hot Blast powers beautification projects

Ninth annual fundraiser coming Feb. 9
Thursday, January 31, 2019
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One item to be auctioned off is an oil painting by Diana Roen that is of an old school house once located on Running Wolf Road. Photo by Melody Montgomery

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The Stanford Beautification Committee special ordered this bison cutout skull from Artist Zee Knutson of Belt, who created it specifically for the live auction. Photo courtesy of Tess Brady

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Shown here is one of the two quilts Dawn Ridgeway has created for to the Red Hot Blast’s live auction. Last year, the quilt Ridgeway donated raised $450. Photo courtesy of Dawn Ridgeway

Last February, even with temperatures dropping well below zero, around 130 people from Judith Basin and beyond came out to ‘blast’ the cold at the Eighth Annual Red Hot Blast. Stanford’s City Hall was nearly at capacity, with only a few spare seats, said the event’s organizers, who hope the same for this year’s event on Feb. 9.

“I hope everybody comes and has a good time. That’s what it’s all about,” said Tess Brady, who is one of the event’s organizers.

The Red Hot Blast is an annual Valentine’s Day-themed fundraiser for the Stanford Beautification Committee, who is responsible for the thousands of blooming flowers on Stanford’s main street in the summer. The Beautification Committee also dresses Stanford up in the fall for the Scarecrow Festival and in the winter with evergreen boughs, ornaments and lights. They also help with infrastructure projects such as street repairs, sidewalks and other esthetic enhancements to the main street.

“People comment from all over the state and beyond on how beautiful Stanford’s main street is, and this event allows for this,” said Alverta Andersen, one of the event’s organizers.

Brady also receives similar feedback from visitors.

“It’s amazing how many people who are traveling through stop me when I’m watering and comment on what a pretty little town Stanford is,” said Brady.

Janine Merrill, also helping organize the event, added, “What is really neat is seeing other towns emulate our flowers.”

The Red Hot Blast provides a festive night out in what would be an otherwise fairly humdrum time of year, said organizers, but more importantly, it is a key fundraiser where the community can show their support to keep these projects going.

While tickets can be purchased at the door, pre-orders greatly help the committee plan the dinner portion of the night. Andersen has been hitting the pavement to sell tickets.

“Ticket sales are moving along,” said Andersen. The evening has a Valentine’s Day theme, but it is also an event where a person can take himself or herself on a date, said the organizers. There are plenty of spots at tables and warm smiles to greet couples and singles alike.

“You don’t have to bring a date,” said Merrill.

If you do bring a date, there will be bouquets of roses available to purchase.

“We’ll have bouquets of flowers available for the guys,” said Brady.

“To quench their guilt,” added Merrill, jokingly.

There will be a wine tasting by Gusto to accompany the surf and turf meal. The Waterhole Saloon will host a cash bar as well. Acoustic music will be played by Kevin Hurlbut of Helena, who was prevented from playing in 2018 due to bad roads. In addition to strumming music, sweets will flow freely at the dessert bar and in a chocolate fountain.

“The dessert bar is going to be fabulous,” said Merrill.

The primary difference this year from years past will be more money on the prize wheel, which was a new addition last year. This money is provided by the Beautification Committee, private donors and Stockman Bank.

“The prize wheel is just fun,” said Merrill.

“There will also be a vast array of live auction items,” she added.

Such items include getaway trips, a VIP dinner train ride on the Charlie Russell Chew Choo, a Bozeman brewery tour with a night stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, a bronze sculpture by local artist Steve Lillegard, artwork by the Mid State Art Society, a bent willow chair by Bill Miller, Woodwork by Dean Roland, one dessert a month for one year made by committee members, two quilts by Dawn Ridgeway, and more.

“I love making quilts for my family and friends, and especially all the new babies. Keeping this in mind, I wanted to donate a second quilt with bright and colorful hearts,” said Dawn Ridgeway, whose quilt last year raised $450.

The Beautification Committee has been gathering donations for the event for the last couple months. The Red Hot Blast and the Wreath Auction in December are their main fundraisers for projects.

Notably, not only does the Beautification Committee decorate downtown, this year, they also plan to rebuild, re-brick and line the large planter on the corner by 4Gs Auto. They are also having a mural painted by Steve Lillegard beside the pavilion next to the Ag Building on Central Ave. Lillegard began work on this mural last summer.

“So much comes out of the Red Hot Blast,” said Andersen. “The community’s and businesses’ support for this event can really be thought of as an investment. Also, if you think about the cost of a nice dinner date in Lewistown or Great Falls these days, with a drink or two, steak, shrimp and dessert, this fund-raiser actually puts a person ahead. Plus everybody’s happy, and the city hall is decorated so nicely.

“The Red Hot Blast has such a nice atmosphere, and a chance to get together with your friends and neighbors for a good cause,” said Andersen.