Spring Soiree raises money for Hayden school arts program

Legendary auctioneer Cookie Lockhart will be auctioning off this original painting by renowned plein air painter Chula Beauregard at the parent-planned Spring Soiree at the Hayden Granary Friday night as part of huge party to help fund arts, music and physical education at the Hayden Valley Elementary School.

With no money to keep their art teacher, and with music and PE teachers doing double duty at different schools, parents in Hayden have gone to battle to keep their little elementary school involved in the arts.

“Funding has been severely cut in the specials programs (art, music, PE),” said Ashley McMurray, mom of two Hayden Elementary students and current Hayden Town Council member. “I know the art teacher is no longer at the school because they don’t have the funds to employ her.”

If you go:

What: Spring Soiree

When: 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, April 21

Where: Hayden Granary, 198 E. Lincoln

While the problem of state funding for schools involves a complicated history with Colorado’s Tabor and Gallagher Amendments and likely can’t be solved without a constitutional change, the parents in Hayden deal at the level they can — raising money from the community.

“We’ve done all the small fundraisers, bake sales … kids night out,” said parent Alicia Doolin. “We were like how can we do one large event instead of badgering the public every few months?”

The small fundraisers managed to help bring in guest artists once a month and funded sketchbooks for classes, but parents are going for broke with their first big fundraiser — the Inaugural Spring Soiree, being held at the Hayden Granary on Friday night with live music, dancing and gourmet food from “Making it With Mark.”

“We’re doing the best we can with what we have,” said Janet Hollifield, mom of two young Hayden students. “Our children are thriving in Hayden schools, but I want that for everyone. I want the school district to succeed and not have to struggle.”

Hayden school board member Tammie Delaney thinks the soiree fundraiser was so important she offered up the Granary landmark her family renovated and brought back to life.

“These are dedicated amazing parents. The concept of mind, body and spirit is essential in our schools,” Delaney said.

Soiree organizers got a much-needed emotional boost when they got a call from the executive director of Strings Music Festival asking for tickets.

“I think, in some ways, it’s more important we provide art in our outlying communities because they don’t always have the opportunities that students in the big city have,” explained Strings CEO Elissa Greene on her support of the soiree. “We feel it’s just as important as core classes.”

The soiree also got some star-power when Hall of Fame auctioneer Cookie Lockhart and her dynamic daughter Jo Lockhart signed on to run the auction while Yer State Birds plays their bluesy rock music.

With historic family ties throughout Routt County, the Lockharts hope to work their auctioneering magic for Hayden Elementary.

“National statistics have proven that kids involved in the arts, sports and music are less likely to be involved in drugs and more likely to stay in school,” said Cookie Lockhart. “That’s really what got me more excited than anything about this. We’re gonna try our best to help them raise money.”

Lucky for Hayden, the town recently inherited one of the Yampa Valley’s favorite daughters — renowned artist and plein air painter Chula Beauregard. Her family recently moved from Steamboat Springs to Hayden, and she donated one of her paintings for the auction.

“Chula has been great," Doolin said. "She knows just how valuable the arts are to children.”

Both Doolin and her husband attended Hayden schools before going off to college and returning with their own children.

She’s thrilled with the auction items and so is Cookie’s right-hand “woman” and fellow auctioneer Jo Lockhart.

“There are so many fun things you won’t see at other auctions like a taxidermy mount,” Jo Lockhart said.

Cookie Lockhart is also hosting one of her favorite games, “heads or tails,” in which people can buy in for $20 and see how long they can guess heads or tails correctly to eventually win a Las Vegas trip. Auction items include a Remington Rifle, a clay shoot, a trip to the wine country, baskets for hardworking mothers dinners across the valley.

But perhaps the most valuable item on the agenda is a $4,500 custom website design with a year of hosting by parent Ashley McMurray, from InSite Media.

“I definitely love the elementary school but it is very sad they had to cut the special areas,” McMurray said. “Part of instilling love of learning is having them enjoy school where they’re also expanding their horizons. As budget cuts happen we limit them more and more.”

Tickets for the Hayden Valley Elementary Inaugural Spring Soiree can be purchased at the Hayden Elementary School for $35 or from a parent on the school's Health and Wellness Committee, which is hosting the event. Tickets at the door cost $40.

Alpine Taxi is also offering free rides from the Steamboat Transit Center at 4:30 p.m. Call 970-276-3756 to RSVP or for information on the event.

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