Following a fundraising auction wherein $5,800.00 was raised for Lusk local Tim Schrader who was involved in a devastating car accident last month, Willy Wilcox opened this year’s Sportsman’s Banquet with a speech that’s message was clear: Niobrara County is still Niobrara Strong as we continue to rally around our own. This year, between dinner and the prize drawing, a Wyoming Bucking Horse barn wood wall decor light was auctioned off to benefit Schrader. The item was purchased first for $2,000.00 and then resold a total of five more times with the final bidder going home with the piece. A check for the $5,800.00 will be written to Niobrara Health and Life Center to be applied to Schrader’s account stated Andy Barnette, a Mason. The annual Sportsman’s Banquet was held over this past weekend, Saturday night February 3. A total of 134 tickets are sold for the yearly event, which is also accompanied by a decent waiting list. Started over forty years ago by the Sportman’s Club, the night consists of a cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres, followed by a prime rib dinner, the drawing for the night’s prizes, and a dance; for the last ten years, the Mason’s Club has assisted.
Aside from a night out, a nice meal, and a few twirls on the dance floor, part of the buildup surrounded by the Sportsman’s Banquet is the chance to win the grand prize at $2,000.00 or, even second place, at $1,000.00. “Tickets are for life” explained Barnette, adding that ticket holders are required to pay for their ticket each year—whether they use it or send a representative—to keep their ticket. Per Barnette, the turnover rate for tickets each year is rather low with only seven tickets released this year, “In the past we actually had to increase the number of tickets because so many people wanted one” says Barnette. With every ticket holder guaranteed a prize, items this year ranged from Chamber Bucks to caps, home décor items, gift certificates, a Green Mountain Grill; won by Jessica Stallman, and cash prizes among other items. By the conclusion of the drawings, Stuart Skibicki, Jim Pontarolo, and Ty Thompson were the remaining three ticket holders; Thompson walked away in second place and Pontarolo in first.
A good portion of the allure to the event can be claimed by the beneficiaries of the proceeds raised at the dinner, “Proceeds go to the medical relief fund and scholarships [for children]” explained Barnette.