Nearly every chair was filled during the 29th annual Cowboy Ball held last Saturday night, April 27 at the Polson Fairgrounds. The event was an annual fundraiser to benefit fairgounds improvements.
The Cowboy Ball fundraising banquet and auction was a sellout, and the evening included no-host cocktails, raffle sales, a silent auction, prime rib dinner, live auction and concluding with live entertainment by the “sho down” band. It was truly a “western social” event.
THERE WERE two very special raffles. One was for a Ruger 270 Winn rifle with Vortex scope, donated by Tommy and Jodi Seifert. Also awarded in a raffle was a Booze Barrel, donated by Polson Fairgrounds Inc. (PFI) members. Jack Stiver was the emcee, and Bo Carpenter was the auctioneer.
Featured during the live auction was bidding on 10 baseball caps, each with a number — sponsored by Flathead Garage Doors. Each top bidder had a chance to win a high-value Kimber Special Edition Sapphire Ultra II 9mm pistol, which was anonymously donated. The pistol winner was determined by a blind draw at the end of the live auction.
Other live auction items included a 1936 Stewart Warner radio with larch table, a child’s tipi, custom-made bridle, hand-crafted log bench, eight-hour pontoon boat rental, Pendleton blanket, saddle planter, cruise on The Shadow on Flathead Lake, trestle table with benches, two weaner pigs, one-week Hawaiian condo rental, patio bar set, coat rack, equipment rental, hand-crafted windmill, Montana Belted handcrafted item, children’s playhouse, cordless drill set, 200 feet of dust control, an electric water heater, and several pieces of artwork. All those live auction items were donated by supporters of Polson Fairgrounds Inc.
ACCORDING TO PFI Secretary Una Rose Graham, the live and silent auctions raised about $28,000 for fairgrounds improvements. Some of that money will go toward replacing more of the old wood livestock corrals with metal panels, and updating lighting in the area.
“People are just so generous,” Graham said of donations for the auctions, “and making hand-made items. We’re also grateful for everyone who bought a ticket. It was a great meal that we had.”
The prime rib was slow-roasted and served by Little Montana of Ronan. Flower arrangements were provided by Alpine Landscape and Design. “There are so many details to putting on an event like this,” Graham added. “We all help however we can.”
Noted in the 2019 Cowboy Ball program was an “In Memorium” to former PFI supporters Brian Jones and Russell Stone. Both recently passed away.
PFI WAS organized as a 501(c)3 non-profit in 1984. Since that time, PFI has leased the Polson site from Lake County, in order to preserve and maintain the property for continued public use. Loans have been taken out to build a new restroom facility, food concession building, added an arena sprinkler system, purchased several tractors, mowers and arena equipment and installed repurposed metal bucking chutes.
“We don’t get annual funding from the county,” Graham said. Some county funding does go to the fairground facilities in Ronan.
The Northwest MT Draft Horse Association constructed a pole barn on the Polson grounds. Mission Valley Power aided by setting up new arena lighting. Since 2012, PFI has been able to renovate the original 1940 wooden grandstand with help from a Montana Tourism Infrastructure Investment Grant, and PFI has replaced old cabinets, updated electrical needs and added a covered addition to the concession stand. Also, the old announcer’s stand was replaced, and an admission booth was donated by local builders and suppliers. In 2017, PFI added aluminum bench seating to the grandstand.
PFI invests between $10,000 and $20,000 in improvements alone, as funding allows — not to include maintenance expenses. Also in 2017, the Anderson Broadcasting Charitable Foundation built a large stage down at the riverfront off Flathead Lake to facilitate a variety of musical events.