For almost a year, the Hellgate High School band has been fundraising for a new food trailer, hoping to continue its 20-year tradition of selling food at events such as the Western Montana Fair, where it raises money to support travel.
The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as updated health codes, made the former food trailer unusable for future events. The band typically generates $17,000 at the fair alone through sales made from the food truck.
“The kids shoulder a lot of responsibility if they want to go on these band trips,” said Gwen Jones, a parent active in the Hellgate High School Band Parent Group. “They know that they need to contribute funds and some parents can help the kids a lot, some parents not so much, so this [food trailer] is the big equalizer.”
Intending to purchase a trailer that could support the band for years to come, Hellgate Band Parents Inc. stepped in to help. During the fall of 2020, it raised more than $21,000 from parents, alumni and community members.
Successful as they were, the trailer they acquired needs a number of costly updates including a fire suppression hood, fryers, cotton candy machines and other safety equipment. It will cost an additional $12,000 to finish the updates needed to get the new-used trailer ready to roll.
Currently, the group remains $8,000 shy of its goal. The Hellgate band has set up a Go Fund Me page where users can donate directly. They’ll also be playing mini-concerts around Missoula through May to wrap up the fundraising.
One recent event brought music to the Big Dipper on Higgins Avenue.
Jones said the trailer is more than just a tool for fundraising. Staffed by both band kids and parents, it provides students an opportunity to learn planning, sales, scheduling, and goal-setting skills.
It also teaches them the value of generating their own revenue instead of asking for donations.
“The trailer helps everybody raise money and the kids do schedule, organize, and work it,” said Jones. “When they work to go on these big trips every other year and then they practice the music all year long, they are very invested in all of this and it is a rich experience for them.”
The nationally recognized Hellgate High School Band Program reaches into a number of surrounding towns including East Missoula, Bonner, Clinton, and Potomac.
Previous funds have been used to support trips to music festivals at Carnegie Hall in New York and Hawaii. Most recently, the band was selected to play at the Sydney Opera House in 2022.
Go Fund Me at this link.