Every year, Rocky Mountain College hosts Black Tie Blue Jeans, in order to raise money for student scholarships. For the past 33 years, the Black Tie Blue Jeans Scholarship Benefit was an in-person event that included a dinner, entertainment, and auctions. More than 600 people would attend. Normally, the event is held in the evening on November 6, but due to the coronavirus restrictions, the RMC Advancement Team had to get creative. Instead of a one-day event, Black Tie Blue Jeans was held over a one-week period and consisted of an auction that started Nov 1 and closed Nov 6. The shift from decorating and transforming the Fortin Education Center into a gala event to something completely online was a big task, but the Advancement Team was up for the challenge in order to keep everyone safe at home while still being able to support RMC.
Jennifer McCalla, a member of the Advancement Team said that they “had to be creative in getting the message out” about Black Tie Blue Jeans this year. In order to build up excitement for the event, the Advancement Intern, Chase Castro, hosted weekly Facebook Live events every Wednesday in October. During the event, Castro had a variety of guests. Guests included RMC’s art professor, Todd Forsgren, Precious McKenzie, an English Professor at RMC, Nate Bailey, the head coach for the Men’s and Women’s golf team, and more, along with various students. McCalla explained that “it was an RMC team effort” from faculty and staff to the student participants.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in the RMC supporters. Many people have shown compassion and empathy and offered to help the community during this trying time. The Black Tie Blue Jeans event is normally held in Montana, making it difficult for parents of students and other RMC supporters to participate. This year, the online factor made the scholarship event accessible from anywhere in the world. McCalla said that “people from every part of the state of Montana and beyond helped support RMC” and many of the students’ parents who may not have been able to participate in the event before, were able to bid on auction items.
The Advancement Team wasn’t sure how the event would go. They had never held a virtual event, but the turnout exceeded any expectations that the team had. McCalla was surprised by how many people from all over the United States supported RMC. While she doesn’t have a hard number on how many people attended and supported the event, it was an incredible transition.
As of Thurs Nov 12, the total donation was at $312,445, and donations were still rolling in. Although it might be less than in past years, it is still a generous amount and the Advancement Team is pleased with the outcome. McCalla says that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, “no corner of our society has been left untouched by the effect of the pandemic,” and she feels very fortunate that people have decided to reach out and support RMC during these unprecedented times. It is too early to know what next year will bring, and McCalla doesn’t know what future events will look like, but she has a feeling that they might have to start incorporating hybrid events in the future. RMC will continue to evolve and McCalla is “grateful for the community’s belief in the transformative role that education plays in the lives of our students.”
McCalla wants to thank everyone who helped make the 2020 Black Tie Blue Jeans Scholarship Benefit a success including the event sponsors who were incredibly generous and the local businesses who have been so gracious to RMC and the students. “We can’t thank them enough.”