SARATOGA – A Santa’s workshop-sized bundle was raised during Saratoga/Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual winter fundraiser, the Festival of the Trees Gala and Auction, held at the Platte Valley Community Center on Dec. 13.

$16,937 was raised from the auction, according to Chamber Director Stacy Crimmins.

“This exceeded last year by about $2,000 and was the highest gain in the 17-year history of the event,” she said.

Forty one auction items were donated for this fundraiser, down a couple of entries from last year. These items were provided by individual, business and corporate donors. Being a holiday season event, there were a variety of decorated trees and wreaths. There were also many other items donated that ranged from clothing and jewelry items to local outdoor activities. There were also food and drink entries and other items.

The Rustic Bar donated their annual floor size “liquor tree.” This brightly lit conifer was festooned with a wide variety of small, single-drink liquor bottles for ornaments. Labeled “Bottoms Up,” and it raised $425 from thirsty bidders.

The 188 attendees socialized while enjoying a generous stream of “heavy appetizers.” Anchored by Oysters on the half-shell, thinly-sliced prime rib and Maryland-style steamed shrimp, these treats were accompanied by a variety of imported cheeses and crackers. Dessert topped off the culinary items with a table brimming with custom fruit cups, cookies, candies and nuts. These delights were served by caterers Scott and Michelle McIlvaine and their crew.

All these tempting items were washed down by the attendee’s favorite wine, beer and liquor from the cash bar, hosted by the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort.

After the guests were relaxed and comfortable, the auction got underway with local musician Teense Willford, serving as the cheerleader for the returning auctioneer Jimmy Hinkle. With the two working the room, assisted by several ring men, they really got the crowd to open their wallets.

Most of the item bids were above $200, while almost half received bids over $500.

The $700 auction item labeled a “Dog-Gone Good Christmas” was donated by Town and Country Realty. This item included a Christmas tree decorated with doggie treats and toys as well as a three-foot high stuffed barking dog with a dog blanket and pillow.

The $850 auction item was a floor size Christmas tree called “Plaid Valley Tree,” decorated with expensive ornaments. It was donated by the Old Baldy Club.

The $1,300 auction item was a five-foot Christmas tree called “Wyoming Wild” was a green-lit tree decorated with an infinite variety of outdoor accessories, several animal skulls, snack items and a fifth of Jack Daniels for sipping and a camouflage Trump 2020 hat for shade. This was all displayed on tanned animal skins and was donated by Cory and Brenda Oxford/BL Payne, LLC.

The $1,500 auction item was donated by the Saratoga Middle/High School Tech students. It was a circular, high-wood table with four wood block-style stools, all made with local blue-stained wood. Also included were other assorted small wood and glass items crafted by Platte Valley students in their shop class.

The high bid auction item, at $2,100, was labeled “It’s Lovely Weather for a Sleigh Ride Together with You.” It included a half day of shooting activity at the ranch gun range with a 50-caliber rifle and ammo provided by the ranch, followed by dinner for two at the Cheyenne Club at Brush Creek Ranch.

One bidder, who asked to remain anonymous, had a really good time and went home with the three high-bid items and a small one for a donation tally of more than $5,000.

Attendance was up for this 17th year, with 235 community supporters registering. That was 25 more than last year. Ticket prices remained at $35 each before Dec. 1 and $45 at the door this year. Tables could be sponsored for $600 each. Fifteen businesses sponsored tables this year, Crimmins said.

The chamber’s reverse drawing fundraiser winner was also announced at the event. This year’s winner of $1,000 was Sandra McKinney of Encampment.

In this additional fundraiser, the chamber sells 300 tickets for $10 each and then draws for the winner. The last ticket drawn wins a $1,000 in chamber gift certificates.

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