By Amanda Eggert EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – While official numbers aren’t in yet, at least $70,000 was raised for the Big Sky School District at the annual Big Sky PTO Pie Auction, a tradition that started 37 years ago with families baking and buying each other’s treats to support the school.

A total of 114 donated silent auction items dotted tables set up along the periphery of the Montana Room of Buck’s T-4, including everything from growlers and gift certificates to cruiser bikes and skis.

Big Sky students donated their expertise as well—members of the Lone Peak volleyball team volunteered their time for a volleyball clinic and LPHS student Evan Redmon offered up piano lessons.

The center table contained 37 pies ranging from structurally ornate gourmet creations to classic homemade pies. By the evening’s close, $3,570 had been raised from locals’ kitchen creations and live auction items brought in another $16,400.

A jersey bearing New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s No. 12, with two tickets to a Patriots game, was one of the leading live auction items. Shana Seelye, president of the Big Sky PTO, said the package went for $5,500.

Old-fashioned, rear-entry ski boots anchoring LED lights served as table centerpieces for the “Retro Snowball” themed affair, and some attendees donned old ski attire and 80s sunglasses for the occasion.

Kirsten King said she has three kids in school and she’s been supporting the PTO Pie Auction since her family moved to Big Sky eight years ago. King said she appreciates the small and tight-knit nature of Big Sky’s schools. “It’s a little like a homeschool environment because kids accept each other for their quirks.”

The Big Sky PTO supports programming that gives kids in Big Sky schools an opportunity to find their niche. From weekly ski trips in the winter and opportunities to work with artists who perform at WMPAC, to a recent student volunteer trip to Nepal, Big Sky students are exposed to a number of unique offerings—especially for a small Class C school in a rural state.

King said she’s especially appreciative of the Expedition Yellowstone program available to fourth-graders. “A lot of kids around the country would love to go to that program, and they’ve gotten to go every year.” She said she’s used the chaperoned overnight trip in Yellowstone National Park as a kind of “proving ground” to determine if her kids are ready for summer camp.

In 2010, Lone Peak High School’s first year in existence, there were 195 students enrolled in the school district. Now there are more than 360 students—a significant increase for a seven-year period. Former Big Sky School District superintendant Anne Marie Mistretta said the addition of the high school has made Big Sky more attractive to families.

At least one Pie Auction attendee said she’s contemplating a move to Big Sky as her young daughter approaches school age.

Sun Park, who’s visited Big Sky frequently the past four years but does not live here full-time, said that now that her daughter is almost 3 years old, she and her husband are talking about a move to Big Sky.