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Jackson Hole has one of the highest rates of nonprofits per capita, ranging from Search & Rescue to food rescue.
By Maggie Theodora
“It’s hard to exaggerate the philanthropic spirit of this community,” says Katharine Conover, president of the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, which grants over $15 million annually to more than 200 nonprofits in the valley. Part of it is that people want to maintain the open spaces, wildlife, and wildlands that are the reason many of us live here. “But it’s not just that we feel responsible for maintaining the vistas and wildlife that brought us here in the first place,” Conover says. “This is a unique community, because most of us came from someplace else and most of us came here not because of jobs and not because of family, but because we chose to be here. That deliberate choice of a place has instilled in us an ethic of stewardship. The standard line is that you come here because it is beautiful and you stay because of the people. It’s at that point that our commitment expands to preserving the values that make this community special, and it is our nonprofit community that really protects those values.”
Listening to Conover’s explanation, it is no surprise to learn that Jackson Hole has one of the highest (if not the highest) rates of nonprofits per capita. The only thing as diverse as the valley’s nonprofits—from a children’s museum to a wildlife art museum, a search and rescue team, a music festival, and several arts programs, among others—is the variety of events these groups hold to fund their missions. While most of these events, which we have dubbed “fun(d)raisers,” are indeed as fun as they are worthy, there are too many of them for us to create an exhaustive list. So here are some of our favorites, along with who or what they support.
Event: Old Bill’s Fun Run for Charities
Fun factor: Thousands of runners and walkers, some in costume, make this event the valley’s biggest race/fun run.
What you’re helping: Pretty much every nonprofit in the valley
Details: 10 a.m. September 9, 307/739-1026, cfjacksonhole.org
Where: Jackson Town Square
Anyone who’s lived in the valley for even a year knows Old Bill’s Fun Run for Charities. With more than 5,000 locals and visitors participating, no other fundraiser involves as many people. “I was in a cab a few years ago coming home from the airport, and the cab driver was explaining Old Bill’s to me,” says Conover, whose Community Foundation of Jackson Hole organizes the event. “How many communities are there where you’d be in a cab and the driver will be talking about philanthropy? The whole town feels like they own Old Bill’s, and that’s great.”
Unlike most fundraisers, Old Bill’s doesn’t raise money for a specific nonprofit, but for every nonprofit in the valley that wants to participate. (Since the first Old Bill’s was held in 1997, more than a dozen similar events have popped up across the country.) During its inaugural year, there were less than one hundred participating nonprofits; that number has since doubled. Over its life, the event has raised more than $133 million, but, “Our median gift is $250,” Conover says. “It is very much a grassroots event that the whole community gets behind, which was the goal when it was started.”
In addition to the actual runs—a race and recreational 5k and 10k—nonprofits set up booths that explain what they do. Last year, Vertical Harvest, a greenhouse that employs developmentally disabled adults, had someone dressed as a tomato handing out microgreens. “One year, the Senior Center had this bowl full of slips of paper that offered advice from seniors,” Conover says. “You were supposed to pick out a piece of paper; the one I got said, ‘Mind your own business,’ which I never do.” Members of the Teton County Search & Rescue team have run the entire 5k while pushing a stretcher. Teton Science Schools did a flash-mob dance to the song “Happy.” “It’s all just so fun, because you never know what to expect,” Conover says. “Whatever happens, though, it’s a great reflection of Jackson Hole. We’re all so proud of it. It is the best reflection of ourselves.”
Tuxes & Tails
Event: Tuxes & Tails Gala
Fun factor: Walk the red carpet with your pooch
Who you’re helping: PAWS helps local pets and owners through spaying and neutering, adoption, and advocacy.
Details: 6 to 10 p.m. June 16, 307/734-2441, pawsofjh.org
Where: Center for the Arts
Price: People, $125; dogs, $100
Terriers in pearl necklaces, Shih Tzus in tuxedos, Great Danes in tutus—no, you’re not dreaming. You’re at PAWS’ annual Tuxes & Tails Gala, which, despite the silliness of pets in formal attire, has raised serious money since it was founded in 2006 (more than $900,000 total, and $145,000 alone last year).
Amy Romaine, PAWS’ executive director, says, “People come out to celebrate the love and connection they feel for their own pets and want to share that with others.” And to celebrate the accomplishments of individuals. Last year at the gala, PAWS presented Mary Ann Ahrens, president and founder of the Animal Humane Association of Star Valley, with an award for being a local animal hero. “Mary Ann and her husband, Ron, single-handedly changed the way stray and abandoned animals are treated in Star Valley,” Romaine says. “When they moved to Star Valley in the early 2000s, unclaimed stray pets were shot. Mary Ann and Ron started pulling the pets out, and adopted them out from their home. This was the start of the Animal Humane Association of Star Valley.”
Proceeds from this year’s gala go toward PAWS’ free spay/neuter program. PAWS offers free spay/neuter vouchers to all residents of Teton County and Star Valley, Wyoming, as well as Teton Valley, Idaho. In 2016, the group distributed more than 1,100 vouchers.
Event: Art Fair Jackson Hole
Fun factor: Peruse fine and functional art made by more than 170 artists and artisans from across the region.
Who you’re helping: Local art students of all ages
Details: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and until 4 p.m. Sundays July 7-9 and August 11-13, 307/733-6379, artassociation.org
Where: Miller Park
While one artist traveled all the way from Hawaii to show her work in the Art Association’s twice-annual summer Art Fair Jackson Hole, most of the more than 170 artists are regional, hailing from Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah, with “a lot from Arizona, New Mexico, and California as well,” says Molly Fetters, the director of the Art Fair.
When the Art Association held its first Art Fair fifty-one years ago, never did the organization think the event would grow into what it is today. What it is today is a juried art fair at which all artists show original work—that’s a requirement—and they have no representatives selling their work. “So while a gallery or auction might bring in a lot of artists, our fairs allow you to meet and speak with artists you might not get the opportunity to ever meet,” Fetters says. “While we have longtime favorites that continue to get juried in, we have a lot of variety and different artists each year.” Approximately 5,000 attendees, about 40 percent locals, visit each three-day fair.
In addition to the art—expect to see everything from furniture to hammocks, paintings, photography, ceramics, jewelry, and clothing—“We work with local musicians, nonprofits, and chefs to service the fairs,” Fetters says. “It is a very family friendly event where people can find art of all mediums and price ranges. The community is very supportive of Art Fair Jackson Hole, since it is known to raise funds for art education in our community.” This year there will also be more—food trucks, a kids’ creation station, and live music. “We are working to include activities in the park, like morning yoga or mommy and me music class, so you can be outside in the park and when your class is over, you can do a little shopping!” Fetters says.
Lockhart Ranch Party
Event: Lockhart Ranch Party
Fun factor: The Lockharts donate their ranch and lots of grass-fed beef to keep ticket prices low for this locally sourced feast with live music by The Canyon Kids.
What you’re helping: Proceeds benefit Slow Food in the Tetons, which supports producers and educates consumers to grow our local and regional sustainable food economy.
Details: 5:30 to 10 p.m. August 12, tetonslowfood.org
Where: Lockhart Ranch
Price: $45 (limited to 500 people)
This event, held for the fourth time this summer, is an example of the type of relationship to food that Slow Food in the Tetons tries to promote. Take the menu’s main course: beef. “Let’s just say for this event we need 300 pounds of meat to feed everyone,” says Ian McGregor, Slow Food in the Tetons’ board president. “To serve everyone brisket, we would likely need briskets from fifteen cows, because we’re only utilizing one of the many cuts available from the cow. And this sort of thing happens a lot with events—people want to eat something familiar, and chefs want to cook with familiar cuts.” But this party focuses on using the whole cow “in creative ways to show both the versatility of cooking methods and the resulting flavors,” McGregor says. “We can use a single cow and still have a couple of hundred pounds of meat left over.” Last year’s party did the one-cow thing, and the only complaint was “that they wanted more,” McGregor says.
In addition to delicious food, this party, which raised $10,000 last year, seeks to “dispel the myth that not much more than cows can live in these mountains,” McGregor says. “Although it is a short season, creative farmers and ranchers, as well as talented chefs, have figured out ways to bring amazing and healthy food to the community year-round.”
When not partying at the historic Lockhart Ranch, Slow Food in the Tetons organizes the weekly Jackson Hole People’s Market (4 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays in the summer at the base of Snow King), offers a variety of cooking classes for adults, and has farm-to-table cooking classes for third- to fifth-graders.
Fun factor: Kids of all ages can explore their favorite big vehicles, from a fire truck to an excavator and a bulldozer.
What you’re helping: The Jackson Hole Children’s Museum
Details: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 11, 307/733-3996, jhchildrensmuseum.org
Where: King St., between Deloney and Gill (outside the museum)
Price: Donations accepted
“Where else can you climb on a fire truck, excavator, and bulldozer all in one place?” asks Sara Fagan, operations director at the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum. Sadly, you can’t do this every day at the museum, just during its annual Touch-A-Truck event, now in its fifth year. “The event epitomizes our mission of play, create, explore, and discover. It’s hands-on, it’s interactive, it’s about role play, imagination, and exploration,” Fagan says.
All of the vehicles—and there could be as many as thirty, including a fire truck, ambulance, police car, street sweeper, motorcycle, helicopter, Sprinter van, loader, Airstream, heavy duty wrecker, and Zamboni, among others—have their operators/drivers standing nearby, and all vehicles come from the Jackson Hole community. “It’s a wonderful way to promote our Police Department, Fire/EMS, Public Works, Parks and Rec, and other local agencies,” Fagan says. “And it’s an opportunity for operators to connect with the community and youth.”
In addition to all of the vehicles outside, the museum offers free admission that day, and there is also an Imagination Playground, a Creativity Studio activity, face painting, and two bouncy houses. After rocking the event in 2016, eight-year-old DJ Grady returns this year. Last year, 850 kids (and adults) took part in the fun. “Each year we see more people at the event,” Fagan says.
Jackson Hole One Fly
Event: Jackson Hole One Fly
Fun factor: A professional guide works with teams of four anglers, each of whom must choose one fly to use the entire day.
What you’re helping: Founded in 1986, the Jackson Hole One Fly Foundation funds educational, conservation, preservation, and rehabilitation projects that benefit trout populations in the region.
Details: September 7-10, jacksonholeonefly.com
Where: Snake River and the South Fork of the Snake
Price: Entry between $7,200 and $12,000 per team
Field & Stream called the Jackson Hole One Fly “perhaps the most famous one-fly event” in the country. This is not only because the event is now in its thirty-first year, but also because of the quality of fishing. The One Fly sends teams to one of twelve sections of the Snake River and South Fork of the Snake, both areas that anglers from around the world dream of fishing.
The Jackson Hole One Fly Foundation, which founded the event in 1986, makes sure to call this an “event” and not a “competition,” but the 170ish anglers selected to participate each year are definitely out for bragging rights. The challenge of using a single fly to catch multiple fish all day is not to be taken lightly. If a fish disappears with your fly, your day is done.
How do you win the fishing event? Each trout caught by a team member is measured in inches before the team’s assigned guide releases it, unharmed, back into the water. A maximum of eight fish per angler per day are measured; the best six are counted. If the guide judges a fish to be mortally wounded, the team member responsible is penalized. All of this is done to raise money to support trout habitat in the area—from building a 288-foot-long fish ladder to developing a wild, self-sustaining, and abundant brood source of westslope cutthroat trout.
Additional Fun, Worthy Causes
Event: Run and Ride for the Cure
Fun factor: In its 18th year, this Skinny Skis-sponsored race—a 5k run and 15k bike ride on Fish Creek Road done individually or as part of a team—gets bigger every year.
Who you’re helping: Benefits the St. John’s Hospital Foundation Cancer Patient Support Fund
Details: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. June 4, 307/739-7512, stjohnshospitalfoundation.org
Where: Wilson Elementary School
Price: $20 per participant
Event: Shirley’s Heart Run
Fun factor: Local Alison Kyle Keffer founded this 5k run 13 years ago in memory of her mom, Shirley, and it’s truly a celebration of life.
Who you’re helping: St. John’s Hospital Foundation’s Cardiology Fund
Details: 9 a.m. June 17, 307/739-7512, stjohnshospitalfoundation.org
Where: R Park
Price: From $25
Event: Plein Air Fest, Etc.
Fun factor: Watch more than 50 artists paint on the museum’s Sculpture Trail, and maybe even bid on a piece at the end of the day.
What you’re helping: Everything from educational programs to acquisitions at the museum
Details: Starts at 10 a.m. June 17, auction at 1:30 p.m., 307/733-5771, wildlifeart.org
Where: National Museum of Wildlife Art
Event: Dancers’ Workshop Annual Gala
Fun factor: Watch dancers from the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and Savion Glover, among others, perform and then enjoy a seated dinner with them.
Who you’re helping: Aspiring dancers—DW supports the creation of new work and does education and outreach for dancers of all levels.
Details: July 20, 307/733-6398, dwjh.org
Where: Center for the Arts
Event: Teton Youth & Family Services’ Annual Golf Benefit
Fun factor: Join about 100 players in a scramble format golf tournament
Who you’re helping: Children with behavioral, emotional, and mental health problems, as well as their families
Details: June 22, 307/733-6440, tetonyouthandfamilyservices.org
Where: Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis
Event: Jackson Hole Food & Wine Event
Fun factor: This new fundraiser includes 4 different events celebrating food, wine, spirits, and craft brews over 3 days.
What you’re helping: This year’s event benefits the Central Wyoming College Culinary and Hospitality program and Hole Food Rescue.
Details: June 22-24, 307/690-4824, jhfoodandwine.com
Where: Various locations around the valley
Price: Tickets start at $150
Event: Plein Air for the Park
Fun factor: Watch artists paint outside and enjoy an exhibit of all plein air paintings.
What you’re helping: Grand Teton Association supports Grand Teton National Park.
Details: July 5-16 (opening reception 7 to 9 p.m. July 12), 307/739-3606, grandtetonpark.org
Where: Around GTNP; opening reception at Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center
Event: Fundraising Gala with Yo-Yo Ma
Fun factor: Hear Yo-Yo Ma perform Dvorák’s Cello Concerto with the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra.
What you’re helping: The Grand Teton Music Festival performs a 7-week symphony season in the summer and offers educational programs to Teton County students during the school year.
Details: August 1, 307/733-1128, gtmf.org
Where: Walk Festival Hall
Price: Tickets from $250 to $7,500
Event: Jackson Hole Land Trust 37th Annual Picnic
Fun factor: Last year, over 900 members of the community came to this alfresco feast.
What you’re helping: Keeping the valley’s wide-open spaces wide and open
Details: August 13, 307/733-4707, jhlandtrust.org
Where: Hardeman North in Wilson
Price: $50 for adults; kids under 12 are free
Event: Black Bear Ball
Fun factor: Held by the National Museum of Wildlife Art only every 5 years, this is the first time this event is outside, in a fancy tent overlooking the National Elk Refuge. This year, it celebrates the museum’s 30th anniversary.
What you’re helping: Everything from educational programs to acquisitions at the museum
Details: August 19, 307/733-5771, wildlifeart.org
Where: National Museum of Wildlife Art
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