Building Community Through Project Showcase

By Beacon Staff

The First Best Place Department of Doing in Columbia Falls has been busy. With nine community projects in the works, the non-profit has decided to raise money for these ventures in style by hosting a huge party.

On April 30, First Best Place will host its largest fundraiser to date: The Showcase. Taking place at Glacier Discovery Square, it will be a social mixer complete with a live auction and headlined by Johnny Cash tribute band, The Cold Hard Cash Show.

First Best Place and Outside Media representative Amy May said the goal of The Showcase is not only to help fund the various projects, but also to help people understand what First Best Place is all about.

The Department of Doing is made up of a group of local volunteers and community leaders whose aim is to maintain Columbia Falls’ unique personality while developing quality-of-life amenities in the area.

Essentially, it’s about helping Columbia Falls with self-sustaining projects, May said, all while keeping its character in tact.

“It’s the biggest event that First Best Place has ever put on and it’s definitely a cumulative event for us,” May said.

The nine major projects currently on tap at the Department of Doing include supporting and developing the Columbia Falls Farmers Market, the legacy archive, a pie cookery, the local library, the youth center, a community garden, the Gateway to Glacier – The Canyon, the North Valley Hospital Health Education Center and restoring the Old Red Bridge.

These projects are typically paid for through grants and corporate sponsorship, and a local benefactor has offered to match up to $25,000 raised at The Showcase, May said. First Best Place also hopes to top their attendance records during this event, with its sights set on hosting 500 people.

First Best Place’s project list is a lot for people to register, May conceded, but The Showcase should help cement the projects in peoples’ minds.

First on the list is a public live auction beginning at 7 p.m. and running through 9 p.m. There is no admittance charge for the auction.

May said there would be at least nine major prize packages up for bid during the auction, each representing one of First Best Place’s projects.

For example, the Old Red Bridge restoration has two corresponding packages: one based on the water, one based on the trails. The water package includes a kayak, a personal floatation device, a dry bag and more, May said, and the trail package includes brand-name running shoes, a hydration pack and a specialized watch.

May described the pie cookery project as an eventual pie bakery situated at the Glacier Discovery Square as a cooperative effort between Flathead Valley Community College, First Best Place and the high school.

“The focus there is obviously yummy pies and small business education,” she said.

The auction package based on the pie cookery includes a fruit tree, a pie a month for a year, a voucher for a continuing education class from FVCC and baking supplies. There also might be a chance to throw a pie in the face of a community leader, May said, but that detail is still being ironed out.

The smallest auction packages are valued at a minimum of $500, and each brings a special flair to the table.

“They’re all very different,” she said.

Each of First Best Place’s projects will have an informational table at the event as well.

After the auction, everyone is invited to a rocking performance from the Cold Hard Cash Show, beginning at 9 p.m. and playing through 11:30 p.m.

There will be beer and wine available for purchase throughout the evening, and there will be a limited amount of appetizers during the auction. Participants will also have the chance to try their luck at raffle prizes.

There will also be an opportunity to purchase a nameplate that would go on the Old Red Bridge.

One of the goals of The Showcase is to provide a way for anyone to contribute, whether it’s by buying a drink or bidding on a prize package.

“We want people to come and we want everyone to be involved,” May said.

First Best Place is continuously seeking volunteers to help with its projects. For more information, visit or call 406-892-1363.

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