When Jeff and Sarah Harkinson agreed in January to co-chair the 2010 annual fundraising event for the Old Blanco County Courthouse, they had three main goals in mind: 1) expand the format to include events that would appeal to the broad cross-section of Blanco-area residents; 2) make the events fun for both volunteers and attendees; and 3) achieve success in raising sufficient money to meet mission of the Society for the preservation, restoration and enhancement of the Courthouse. Thanks to the support of local area merchants, volunteers and the greater Blanco community, this year’s Gala was a rousing success on all counts.
According to Sarah Harkinson, “You’ve heard the expression ‘It takes a village’. In this case a village like Blanco… with True Grit. Our work on this year’s event was building on the foundation created by all of the Gala chairmen and volunteers of the past 20 years who pioneered this annual event, and have cumulatively made it possible for the Old Blanco County Courthouse to survive and continue to be the focal point of Blanco’s economic and social environment. We thank all of those who contributed items for this year’s silent and live auctions, those who made spirited and generous bids on those items, and those who made important underwriting donations. We also greatly appreciate the hard work of this year’s Gala Planning Committee and our other volunteers.”
New Format A Success
This year’s event was actually four separate events packed into one day on Saturday, October 23, 2010. It included the first annual True Grit Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament held upstairs in the Courthouse courtroom from noon-4:00pm (see separate article), a Family Festival held on the grounds of the Courthouse from 1:00-4:00pm, the Gala Dinner and Auction held under a 110’ tent on the Courthouse grounds from 5:30-9:00pm, and a Community Street Dance held on Pecan Street featuring Mike Blakely and The Whiskey Traders from 9:00-11:30pm.
Free Family Festival and Texas Rangers a Hit
The Family Festival was free of charge and designed to entertain kids and their families. It featured the Texas Rangers’ re-enactment of the famous Sam Bass Shootout and created quite a stir when the guns started blazing. Zydeco Blanco provided live music for the venue. There was a big pumpkin patch with pumpkins for the kids, Halloween mask-making courtesy of Uptown Blanco Arts Center, a storytelling circle courtesy of the Blanco Library, free portrait sketches courtesy of Suzette Connell, trick roping demonstrations courtesy of Travis Gourley, pioneer demonstrations courtesy of Pioneer Park in Johnson City, washer throwing contests, and a multitude of food vendors. Approximately 200 people attended the afternoon event.
Gala Auction Achieves a Financial Record
The Gala Dinner and Auction was attended by approximately 230 people and featured a cocktail hour and bidding on 125 silent auction items donated by area merchants. The silent auction generated over $6,200 in proceeds from the winning bids. Sullivan Street Caterers catered the three-course dinner. During the dinner, Eugene Bradfute, President, and Jeff Harkinson, Vice President, conducted the live auction, featuring twelve donated items ranging from a Marvin Stetler custom saddle or a Gary Weeks custom walnut rocking chair to a Star-Gazing Party for 10 including dinner, or a weekend for 25 at Blasingame Creek Ranch or the free use of Albert Hall and the grounds at Albert, Texas for a day. These and other live auction items generated bids totaling over $25,000.
Overall, the 2010 True Grit Gala generated nearly $46,000 net of expenses for the support of the Courthouse. The Board of Directors of OBCCPS will be considering the highest and most important priority needs of the Courthouse for the balance of this year and next. One important priority is the completion of the landscaping project initiated during 2010. However, it has been a priority of the Board to pay off the original $250,000 bank loan taken out 20 years ago in order to save the Courthouse from being sold into private ownership. This loan has been reduced over time to the remaining balance of $21,830. These and other priorities will be carefully weighed by the Board of Directors, while maintaining fiscal discipline to insure the continued survival of the Courthouse for the benefit of all.
As noted by Gala Co-Chair, Jeff Harkinson, “A lot of people in Blanco have demonstrated ‘True Grit’ in supporting our Old Courthouse for the past 20 years, and I’m glad that on the 125th Birthday of the Courthouse, we were able to raise sufficient funds this year to help protect her for future generations.”