By Barbara Rowley

Big Sky businesses and families are passionate supporters of their school and their sports teams.

Kathy Tatom and her cohorts at the booster club – Deb House, Kimmie Warga and Kirsten King and others – thought they needed a fall fund-raiser that was fun, affordable, and didn’t over-tax the super-giving community more than necessary. Their solution, a school carnival, seemed to hit the mark on all counts, and by the end of the three hour event on Sept. 22, more than $5,000 had been raised for school athletic expenses from participants who were giving the event rave reviews.

In order to keep expenses down and meet their fundraising goals, Booster Club organizers recruited families and businesses to sponsor carnival booths and activities by setting up and running the booths, and in some cases providing prizes.

Many sponsors knew from the get-go exactly what they wanted to do. Morgan Ayres painted faces, hair-stylist Jaci Clack festooned carnival-goers hair with feathers, and the folks at the China Cafe brought buckets of fortune cookies for prizes at their toilet toss booth. The Yellowstone Club grabbed the carnival games they own, and the people to run them, and took tickets and played games for the entire three hours.

Some of the more popular fair activities involved good-hearted pranks more than games: Carnival goers could lay down tickets to send sisters, brothers and teachers to “jail,” force notable school and local characters to kiss Elizabeth Severn-Ericksson’s pig, Eloise, buy confetti filled eggs and silly string with which to ‘decorate’ fellow fair-goers, or have Dr. Jessie Coil bandage their ‘shark’ bites. Warren Miller Artistic Director and choral music teacher John Zirkle emceed the goings-on, occasionally inspiring dance parties and contests from the main stage.

Traditional carnival food was in abundance. A cake-walk and bake sale organized by Jolene Romney was overflowing with frosted confections, and several businesses and families sponsored inflatable activities such as a Velcro Wall, bounce house, slide and obstacle course. A raffle for one of 12 goodie-filled baskets was also a highlight for carnival goers, who busily filled out tickets for a chance at a win, which was announced at the football game that followed the event. One surprise was just how unfamiliar many kids were with a carnival, the Big Sky event being their first ever.

“I can’t believe how many kids came up to me asking, ‘what’s a cake walk?’” Kathy Tatom said.

Once the event got underway, however, it wasn’t long before all of the kids got the hang of it, including kids who thought they were a bit too old for such fun and games.

“I think a lot of the older kids, and even adults, thought that it was a tiny kid kind of deal, but once we started rolling the middle schoolers and high schoolers were every bit as into it as the preschoolers,” Tatom said.

Interview with Eloise, Volunteer Pig

Q: Why did you volunteer to kiss humans for the booster club?

A: “Well, in lieu of there being any other pigs in the vicinity, I decided I would give humans a try….and since my sister (Annika) attends the school I decided I should support it.”

Q: Are there particular sports that you follow?

A: “I don’t care for football since I don’t support the material the football is made of, however I do follow volleyball, basketball and soccer.”

Q: What about when one of the kissers wiped your lips first? Was that offensive to you?

A: “I think Mr. House found the froth around my mouth intimidating.”

Q: Did anyone offer to wipe their faces before kissing you? ”
A: They did not, but I wish they had! I also wish Mr. Middleton had considered some breath mints.”

Q: In general, are humans good kissers?
A: “I could teach them a few things.”