A Winter Wonderland Mayor's Gala held to raise funds for Larson Park

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News
The Montevideo VFW was transformed for the Winter Wonderland theme.

Saturday evening, a crowd dressed for a formal occasion gathered at the Montevideo VFW for the first annual Mayor’s Gala. This year’s theme was A Winter Wonderland was evident in the decorations transforming the VFW’s dining room into a scape of blues and whites with twinkling lights and fresh evergreens. The event was held to raise funds for Larson Park. City Council member Dan Sanborn spoke about his experiences spending time at Larson Park as an employee on the weekends, handing out ice skates to those taking advantage of the park’s ice skating rink. After joining the City Council, Sanborn became a volunteer at the park.  “We’ve got a diamond in the rough there. It can be so beneficial to the community, not only in the summertime but in the wintertime. To see the community interaction, with the kids. It’s great,” Sanborn said. 

City Council member Dan Sanborn spoke on the need to raise funds for improvements at Larson Park.

Sanborn spoke of the age of the benches that have been there since he was in school and the state of the warming house with holes in the wood. “You can sit inside and you don’t have to look out a window to see outside. You can look at the floor,” he said. Sanborn has been collecting donations of ice skates from community members for years and has grown the collection to 50 pairs. “There’s nothing better for myself knowing I started this, and I can look out and see an age group from three years old to 70 years old out there ice skating,” he said. “To see the enjoyment of the families and kids that come there. We need to do something.”

Mayor Erich Winter and his wife Jayme pose at the photo booth at the Mayor's Gala. Those who purchased a VIP table were able to have complimentary portraits taken by a photographer and received a 5x7 print.

Mayor Erich Winter also spoke, noting that the efforts at Larson Park will take time, money, and a lot of work. Mayor Winter also spoke about his hope to see Montevideo expand in the future.  He noted having recently heard the term “social capital” and decided to look it up. “I want to read you the definition of it,” he said. “Social capital is the network of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society enabling that society to function effectively. It involves the effective functioning of social groups through interpersonal relationships, a shared sense of identity, a shared understanding, shared norms, shared values, trust, cooperation, and reciprocity. Social capital is a measure of the value of resources both tangible and intangible. The impact that the relationships have on resources involved in each relationship and on larger groups is generally seen as a form of capital that produces public goods for a common purpose. If we take that and break that down, we want to build a network of relationships with these people that live and work in Montevideo. I believe that Montevideo is on the cusp of expansion. We have a new Superintendent who’s working very hard with the community. He’s spoken to many things where he believes we can grow by at least 2,000 people. If we’re going to grow 2,000 people we need to find the next big idea.  We can’t sit back and we can’t wait for the next step. How do we get there? It’s called social capital.” 

Mayor Winter performed a trick with his top hat, pulling a "rabbit" from it.

Guests in attendance were able to participate in a variety of fundraising activities throughout the evening, including games of Bingo, a split the pot, and wine and liquor pull. There was also a photographer on hand to offer complimentary portraits in front of a backdrop for VIP table ticket holders. Themed drinks were served, and the Montevideo Marching Band volunteered their time and efforts to serve dinner to the crowd, receiving a donation to their program in return. Musical entertainment was provided by Tom Hipps of the Twin Cities area. 

A wine and liquor pull, and bingo were among the activities held to help raise funds for Larson Park.