By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor

BIG SKY – If the Big Sky Community Corp. Gala was a good litmus test, then parks and trails have enthusiastic support from the Big Sky community. Held at the Community Park on July 21, the event was a step up from past fundraisers, said BSCC director Jessie Neal. The final numbers hadn’t been tallied at press time, but the Gala raised at least $100,000 in net profit, which was more than double last year’s fundraiser and donations were still coming in the week following the event.

Attendance also doubled, Neal said, and the crowd of nearly 200 included many people not previously
involved with BSCC.

The evening started with a silent auction, cocktails and delicious wines in one of the tents, Neal said. Attendees perused the park’s new basketball court, softball field and multiuse field, as well as the artificial climbing boulder and a skatepark currently under construction.

When the rain came in, the party moved to a second tent for the live auction and dinner from the Corral Bar and Steakhouse. Gala co-chairs Shelly Bermont and Eric Ladd did the auctioneering.

The highest dollar item that evening was Tom Gerrard’s classic car tour and dinner, which went for $7,000. In a surprise move, Gerrard announced he would match the bid. A stay at Silvertip Ranch, donated by the Yellowstone Park foundation, came in second, at $6,500.

The money raised will go toward park improvements and trail expansions, Neal said, adding that the BSCC board makes the final decision on specifics. “We’ll have a better idea of that in the next couple of weeks.”

Past fundraisers have supported both physical improvements and programming. “There are a lot of obvious things that have been done, but a lot of things that aren’t as noticeable are equally important,” Neal said, noting Camp Big Sky, which sends local kids to camp at no charge, and BSCC subcommittees like the Historic Crail Ranch, disc golf and tennis.

“We’re really a driver of community activity,” Neal said. “More and more people are getting involved. It feels like things are just getting better, [with] more awareness, more donations and an amazing volunteer base.”

Neal also expressed gratitude for the event’s sponsors, which were STOA Management, Outlaw Partners, Lone Peak Brewery, Lohss Construction, Bozeman Audi, Nordic Hot Tub, Big Sky Conoco, Stacy and Eric Ossorio and On Site Management. Bermont hopes the Gala can become “the big event of the season,” with “total community commitment.”

“Everyone is here because of the parks and trails and how beautiful it is,” Bermont said. “I love the people Big Sky attracts and everything this community has to offer. As someone who loves it, I feel like we should all give back.”