FREEPORT — Although many attend Highland Community College Foundation’s annual Shindig, fewer realize the behind-the-scene effort that goes into matching the location and theme.
Jim Berberet is helping plan his last Shindig as the foundation’s executive director before he retires next month — and was there when the event began. The idea for the Shindig was born in 2011 when foundation members wanted to bring back themed parties after United Way had stopped throwing similar events in the area.
That’s also when Event Coordinator Annette Hartman was brought on to lead the committee. The event was first held at the Stables hosted by Don and Janey Morse. The casual western theme came naturally to their property, Berberet said, and the event was a hit.
The match was a little more difficult this year. After several meetings with no theme determined, Berberet ran into Paul Hoefer, owner of Freeport Industrial Roofing, who asked about the event. Berberet mentioned to Hoefer it would be held at a property on Park Boulevard.
His response: “Oh, you mean Park Place – like Monopoly.”
Berberet says something clicked and they ran with it. “Sometimes, it’s just serendipity,” Berberet said.
Shindig VII: Monopoly has now fully developed. Steve and Beverly Chesney’s property will be turned into a game board to keep guests entertained. Attendees will have the opportunity to view property cards, move their tokens, socialize at the Water Works and watch out for Officer Mallory as he looks to add to his jail. Of course, there will be free parking; Berberet will be dressed as Mr. Monopoly.
Attendees will be able to purchase Chance and Community Chest cards as well. New this year will be a game to raise $5,000 in five minutes for the Highland Community College Student Emergency Services.
The food will also follow the theme’s lead, and Troy and Donna Lessman are planning Tennessee ribs, Monopoly mashed potatoes and Asian salad on Oriental Avenue, to name a few.
After expenses, the Shindig event nets around $50,000 annually, which has always been the goal after an anonymous donor agreed to match the amount each year. Along with that money, Berberet says they have generous donors committed to Highland Community College
The first year of the Shindig brought about 250 people; last year, almost 400 came.
“It’s become a very popular social event as well as a great fundraiser for Highland College,” Berberet said.
The planning might start chaotic, but the event always falls into place. In 2012, Keith and Diane Martin hosted “The Great Gatsby” on their historic estate. Berberet said it was simply the perfect place to celebrate the roaring 1920s.
“Sometimes the property dictates it,” Hartman said, noting when she pulled into the home of Hank and Linda Fortney in 2013, the upscale, artistic property practically begged for a theme of Celebrating the Oscars, a Night of the Stars.
And when the committee looked for a more casual year in 2014, the home of Rocky and Dawn Zuberbuhler was a perfect fit for a Country Fair theme. The event was complete with blue ribbons, peaches, pies in a jar and lemon shake-ups.
“We think about who we know and what will fit,” Berberet said. “It’s an interesting process. It’s a lot of hours and a lot of work.”
Hartman says the committee has about 25 members and helpers. She has led the charge for the past seven years because she sees the magnitude of Highland Community College in Freeport. The entire event needs about 70 volunteers.
“Highland is so important to this area,” Hartman said. “They do so much more than educate. The college touches every single person in the community. It has such a huge reach.”
In 2008, Berberet said the Foundation agreed to help pay for a new nursing wing, and this fundraiser was a way to help pay for it. They offered a major gift campaign of $6 million then, and have currently given $4.5 million of that. The Foundation itself, Berberet said, has raised more than $7 million in scholarships for students and has granted the college close to $12 million.
Once the Shindig ends and the dust has settled, Berberet said the planning will begin again and the committee will gather to evaluate, and throw out more ideas for the next year.
If you go
What: Shindig VII: Monopoly
When: Silent auction starts at 5 p.m. Saturday, and the live auction is set for 7 p.m.
Details: Tickets are $75 per person and can also be purchased at the door. For tickets and sponsorship/donation information, call 815-599-3413 or go to visit highland.thankyou4caring.org.