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Old West deals lucky hand to fund-raiser

April 08, 2002|BY ANDREA ROWLAND

andreabh@herald-mail.com

Cowboys and cancan girls moseyed into the Fountainhead Country Club corral on Saturday night for the second annual Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's Casino Night and Auction.

Most of the estimated 175 people at the Wild West-themed event, held to raise money for the Chamber and the Newspapers in Education program, wore western-style garb.

Guests at the $75-per-person event received $75 in pretend "house money" to use at the gaming tables and to pay for up to one-third of their bids on silent auction items.

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As "The Entertainer" played on a piano in the background, Hagerstown YMCA fitness instructor Anita Bender wove her way through the haystacks and horseshoes in a bright pink and black saloon girl dress. She adopted the persona of "Miss Kitty" from the old "Gunsmoke" television show for the evening, she said.

"Miss Kitty was one of the first female entrepreneurs and probably one of the first members of the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce," Bender said.

Kay Hoffman of Brook Lane Health Services portrayed the victim of a hostile Indian attack. An arrow seemingly protruded through her head under her cowboy hat.

"I have a splitting headache tonight," Hoffman joked to friends.

Other guests ambled over to the silent auction at the "General Store" to bid on the nearly 130 items worth between $25,000 and $30,000 that local businesses and individuals donated to benefit the Chamber and the NIE program.

Event organizers hoped to raise about $15,000 from the sale of items ranging from boxing gloves signed by Muhammad Ali to a variety of vacation packages, auction chairwoman Michele Wills said.

Last year's fund-raiser netted about $6,500 for the Chamber and NIE, event committee chairwoman Suzanne Hayes said.

Art and Ruth Ann Callaham hoped to purchase a signed photograph from the set of "Gods and Generals," a Civil War movie filmed in part in Washington County. The photo would hang next to a portrait of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in the Civil War room at the Callahams' Hagerstown home, they said.

"We are such 'Gods and Generals' fans," Ruth Ann Callaham said. "We're going to stand by (the photo) until we win it."

Dick and Sara McCleary circled the auction tables wearing authentic cowboy hats from Wyoming. They had set their sights on a Maryland Terrapins basketball and a trip to Williamsburg, Va., they said.

"That's one of our favorite places," Sara McCleary said.

The Williamsburg trip had drawn bids up to $700 within the first hour of the auction. Other popular items early in the evening were trips to several hotels in Ocean City, Md., crystal candlesticks, a Compaq Presario computer and a Tim Johnson "Living Image" photograph depicting ghost-like images on a Civil War battlefield.

Outside the General Store, event guests enjoyed such grub as quesadillas ol and rattlesnake tails 'n sauce (penne pasta alfredo) at the Chuckwagon Caf buffet. They also summoned Lady Luck at Monte Carlo-type gaming tables manned by members of the Exchange Clubs of Washington County.

Gussied up in a blue saloon girl dress, Gidget Maffitt of the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation laid down her funny money and shot the dice at the Beat the Dealer table. She beat the dealer.

"Pay the lady. Pay the lady," Maffitt said.

Blackjack dealer Rod Sweeny of the Hagerstown Exchange Club said the event was an opportunity to "meet a whole group of new friends."

The $2,500 Exchange Club fee for the gaming tables benefits the Parent-Child Center in Hagerstown, Chamber President Fred Teeter said.

Farmers & Merchants Bank and Trust was the lead sponsor for Casino Night.

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