A Gala Odyssey

There are many great events in Fort McMurray, but few are as special as the night the Keyano College Foundation puts on their Gala. It is a tradition that stretches back 30 years, a night when friends of the College put on the their best dresses and tuxedos and enjoy some world class entertainment, food and fun.

In many ways, this edition of Gala paid tribute to the possibility and potential of the future, featuring high-tech design and toys, from the heavy haul simulator to iPads and Telus text bidding. From the futuristic lighting to the extraterrestrial trussing set-up on Shell Field in the gaming and silent auction area, Gala Odyssey truly took us on an out-of-this-world adventure.

The measure of success of a complicated event is how seamless it seems in its execution. The Gala crew hit a home run in my view as 1,200 patrons meandered from the stunning entranceway to the coat check, through the lushly decorated hall filled with a variety of auction items, into the silent auction extravaganza, then finally on to the Alberta Building Trades Field and the venue for the Tom Cochrane and Red Rider show.

I can't even begin to image the number of people it took to make last night's Gala tick. I'm guessing we had 60 to 100 catering staff, many dozens of volunteers, coordinators and production staff. I looked down at one point from my perch on the second level and noticed an impressive row of chef hats to the right of the stage, perhaps 7 or 8 of the Sawridge's finest dishing out fine cuisine.

Tom Cochrane was in rare form last night, extending himself into the audience, driving the ladies into a frenzy of delight and keeping the dance floor packed from "Victory Day" to "Life is a Highway" and beyond into the encore.

Heather and I enjoyed a rare date night with Gala Odyssey, dancing, visiting with friends and soaking in the incredible rush of hundreds enjoy their flight of fancy into the outer limits. We ended up at a table at the back end of the silent auction area with Valmai, Tiffany, Renee and Claude to watch the silliness of the final segment of the live auction.

Ross Jacobs is INCREDIBLE; there is no other word to capture his ability to stir up a crowd of people into a spending vortex when it comes to live auctions. And while he has his stock set of funny quips and responses, he still manages to pop out hysterical gems that seemingly drop from space and provide an absolute uniqueness to the event.

Certainly the highlight of the night happened as the Fort McMurray Fire Fighters marched on to the stage with one of the most anticipated live auction items of Gala: a chef prepared meal for 10 served by Fort McMurray's finest delivered in a fire truck. Mr. Jacobs used his cunning to elicit a couple of compelling poses by the boys lined up on the stage that whipped up the estrogen meteor shower into a cosmic cascade of anticipation. And as the bidding war launched past $10,000, Valmai, a visitor to Fort McMurray directing Private Lives at Keyano Theatre, was in a state of shocked hysteria.

"Did I just hear $10,000?" she asked. "I can't believe I'm seeing this!"

I don't know for certain, but I think the closing price on that item was north of $15,000. A decked out golf cart and trip to the Super Bowl kept the prices going higher and higher as Mr. Jacobs used his brilliance to squeeze maximum dollars out of the pockets of our guests in support of post secondary education at Keyano College. It was delightful!

Perhaps the warmer than usual temperatures for November added to the energy of Gala Odyssey 2010, or maybe it was the celestial design of the venue, or the performance of one of Canada's finest artists. All combined, it produced thousands of smiles, a galaxy full of laughter and an incomparable night out on the town for the valued friends of the Keyano College Foundation.

(all photos by Sean McLennan, Keyano College)


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