Auctioneer Kent Scott’s voice carried naturally over a constant buzz of chatter as his arm panned out in front of him, looking for bidders.
The endless list of ascending numbers shooting from his mouth wasn’t the only activity in the room.
Around his stage, the roughly 550 attendees gave the enormous room life, talking at tables over dinner, roaming the outskirts of the room, beer in hand, and sliding single file through the five horseshoes of tables holding the event’s silent auction.
It was Friday night at the Finney County Exhibition Building, and it was the 40th anniversary of the Garden City Community College Endowment Association’s scholarship auction, this year dubbed the "Bootleggers Ball" after its 1920s theme. The night was an annual fundraiser for the association’s general fund, which aids hundreds of the college’s students and faculty each year.
The anniversary happened to be straddled by two bigger celebrations, last year’s 50th anniversary of the association and next year’s 100th anniversary of the college’s founding, so Endowment Association Director Jeremy Gigot said the association opted to celebrate the event as they always do: dinner, drinks and the silent and live auctions.
The packed room was full of both veterans of the event and newcomers.
Quenton Ellison, who’s new to town, attended the auction for the first time and said he was impressed by the community coming together to support college students.
Mark Ellison, a GCCC alumnus, said he had been coming to the event since its inception. He said he likes to support the college, for which he played basketball in the ‘70s, and take advantage of one of Garden City’s biggest social events.
“It’s something to do on a Friday night, I guess,” he said, beaming.
The college’s jazz band and rock ensemble played early in the night, setting a soundtrack to the hodgepodge of the room’s styles.
Hints of the 1920’s prohibition theme could be found throughout the room. Two classic cars, a blue 1929 Chevrolet and green 1930 Ford, sat in opposite corners of the room and weathered wanted posters featured the notorious Fleagle Gang, two 1920s-era southwest Kansas robbers and their accomplices. People walked past each other, women in flapper dresses and men in suspenders and flat caps, passing through a sea of jeans and baseball caps.
Gigot said the silent auction was one of the biggest in the event’s history, including more than 350 items. Furniture, decorations, appliances, toys, gift certificates and other items covered the tables, people walking by and handling what they were interested in.
Attendee Marti Glaze said she and her husband, Chris, had bought tickets to games, trips, household items and gifts at the auction throughout the years. Chris chimed in on the list of past purchases.
“Stuff we don’t need,” he said, jokingly.
Scott, of Scott Auction, led the live auction with Kurt Logan, as women and men in 1920s garb showed off the items behind them. Scott’s fast-paced voice wasn’t new to regular attendees — he has been hosting the auction for 38 of its 40 years.
The live auction included 80 items, with starting prices ranging from $250 to $14,000. Some items offered a chance to get out of town: tickets to a Taylor Swift concert in Kansas City and a Les Miserables performance in Denver, Kansas City Royals tickets to seats a handful of rows above the dugout, a three-night ski vacation in Colorado, and a hunting trip in South Africa.
Others showed off local skills. Skeeter Smith of Skeeter’s Body Shop transformed the front end of a 1949 International pickup into a decked out, mobile grill.
Gigot’s favorite item was a 5-gallon cask from Boot Hill Distillery in Dodge City, which lets the buyer create and age a personalized whiskey recipe, eventually bottling it in 30, custom-labeled bottles.
Throughout the night, attendees walked by and checked out one of the night’s biggest prizes: a new, bright purple 2018 Jeep Wrangler convertible that would be given away in a raffle. By the end of the night, Jody Bordewick would walk away as the car’s new owner.
Gigot said all the night’s profits — from the tickets, dinners, raffle and auctions — would go toward the association’s general fund. The fund pays for the organization’s general fund scholarships, including presidential ambassador and dean scholarships and those for the technical education school, and the mini-grants for classroom materials and equipment.
As always, he said, the association hoped to make at least $150,000.
But Gigot said he also loves what the event does for the community.
“It’s both a friendraiser and a fundraiser…” Gigot said on Thursday in advance of the event. “(People) see their friends in a really social environment. You’ll see (on Friday), we’ve got tables seating 300 people, and at any given time half the chairs are empty because people are visiting with friends. It’s just a great night out for Garden City, and I love giving that. Because sometimes living in western Kansas … people complain that there’s not enough to do, and I love being able to provide an event where there’s something to do.”
Contact Amber Friend at firstname.lastname@example.org.