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28th Mayfair kicks off tonight
BOB ZELLAR/Gazette Staff Lindsey Reiss, right, and Megan Hagen check out a new suburban that can be bought at this year's Mayfair. BOB ZELLAR/Gazette Staff Gentry Hauk holds an American Girl doll while Nolan Bartholomew drives a Micro Spin three wheeler. BOB ZELLAR/Gazette Staff Kelsey Steffan looks at a metal angel.

Catholic education in Billings has a long standing tradition of giving. More than 25 years ago, when private education was embattled, boosters stepped up to the plate to see that their preferred education continued.

Thus began Mayfair. And last year's Mayfair benefit fair, auction and banquet set a record with a net profit of over $295,000 going directly to the schools.

The event has cornered the party and benefit market for the first weekend in May, and this year's dates are today and Saturday.

All festivities will be at the Holiday Inn Grand Montana Convention Center. Friday night kicks off, by tradition, with a free carnival for families and kids. The preview offers both an oral and silent auction with over 750 items, plus food, games and prizes.

Mayfair's main Saturday event kicks off with a champagne reception at 5:30 p.m. and a silent auction. The main oral auction is at

7 p.m. with new cars again on the block. If you've got deep pockets, they can hold the key to a 2003 Chevy Suburban or a 2003 Toyota Camry.

If you'd rather fly than drive, Mayfair offers trips galore. Travel to a Notre Dame football game or experience a Nebraska or University of Colorado game. Fans of professional sports can take in a Denver Bronco or Miami Dolphin game.

If sports aren't high on your priority list, how about a week in Manzanillo or the Island Seas Resort? Closer to home, Mayfair offers condos at Big Sky and cabins on East Rosebud and Flathead Lake. For the gourmet, there are dinners by Ben and Sharon Ripley, the Rex, CJ's and Sisters of Charity, plus a crab feast prepared for a party crowd. New this year is a trip between Livingston and Spokane on the Montana Rail Tours.

Jewelry lovers have several pieces by Tony Soueidi Jewelers and Goldsmith Gallery Jewelers, two businesses among over 100 contributing to the auction's success.

First Citizen's Bank and First Interstate Bank are among $2,500 to $5,000 donors. Over 100 other individuals and businesses gave $10 to $1,000 and dozens of businesses, artists, caterers and families contributed.

This year's special project is the arts curriculum. Mayfair proceeds will improve the fine arts programs in kindergarten through 12th grades. Goals are establishment of a graphic arts program and purchase of musical instruments.

Craig and Darcy Bartholomew are chairmen and Kathy and Brock Whittenberger are vice-chairmen.

Rev. Anthony M. Milone, Bishop of Great Falls and Billings, says supporters of this 28th Mayfair "inspire many around Montana."

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