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Finding students to help out at Rocky Mountain College’s annual scholarship fundraiser Black Tie Blue Jeans was easy.

Since nine out of 10 students attending Rocky receive some scholarship money, volunteers are all over campus. And, beyond a sense of obligation, Rocky students understand the importance of community service, according to Rocky’s new development director Vicki Davison.

“When we ask for volunteers, they just jump up to the plate,” Davison said. “The respect for community service these students have is something I have never seen before.”

At least 50 students will be involved in tonight’s dinner and auction at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center. Art students have been painting the backdrop to be used for photographs taken at the dinner and others will be greeting guests and providing the entertainment.

Spirits are high at Rocky, where enrollment is at an all-time high of nearly 1,000 students. Davison said this year’s freshman class of just over 300 students is roughly the same size of the entire student population in the late 1970s when she was a Rocky student.

“When fall semester started, I think we had one dorm room available,” Davison said. “Most of the students are traditional age and many live in the dorms. It’s like a big family here.”

Tonight’s party also got a boost from a committed group of community volunteers. Among others, Chris Dorr, Mary Underriner, Jim Gainan, Jan Dietrich, Nicki Larson, Kelsey Larson-Daer, Kathy Cross, Darla Jones, Stella Ziegler. Kathy Sabol and Kathy Pierce, planned the decorations, dinner, and auction. Some of the items up for bid this year are a week-long trip to Europe, tickets to the Cat/Griz football game and lodging in Missoula, and a bus trip to Dean for a meal for 20 people at Montana Jack’s (formerly Montana Hanna’s).

A new feature at this year’s auction is Chairs for Bears, which is a classic wood Adirondack chair decorated by a local artist. Kira Fercho painted this year’s chair, which will be sold to the highest bidder.

The biggest money-raising aspect to the auction doesn’t bring the bidder anything but satisfaction. The Dollars for Scholars auction is simply donors pledging money to help students attend college. Davison said the goal is to raise between $350,000 and $400,000 tonight, which would be an increase from the $250,000 that was raised in 2009.

“People are still generous to the causes they love,” Davison said. “During our phone-a-thon, we raised more money with more people donating less. And so far, we have more money in table sponsors for this year’s Black Tie Blue Jeans than we had last year.”

This year’s event, which is in its 23rd year, also features a student performance by Rocky’s drum line, which formed in 2009 but didn’t start performing at football games until this year. Tony Hammond, director of bands at Rocky, said the nine-person drum line takes the place of a marching band on campus. Since rounding up enough drummers to fill out the drum line is a challenge at a small college, Hammond said he recruited others to fill the ranks. Learning to play percussion helps all musicians, he said.

“We have a bassoon student, one vocal major, two nonmajors and a couple of high school students who are in the class,” Hammond said. “For me, one of the benefits of learning to be a percussionist is you become better at reading rhythms on sight. Also, the rhythms you’re learning are more complicated than in everyday band music.”

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