Bringing the party to Green Lake

Thrasher Opera House staff and board members dress in Mardi Gras finery to encourage folks to come to the venue’s 2019 Party for the Arts Saturday, Sept. 21. Playing a jazz tune in front are, from left, Jason Menting, Roger Gundlach, Tim Lyke and Steve Yeomans. Full of nonsense behind them are Katie Menting, Todd Weir, Erik Johnson Tobey Chier and Rachael Avery. Joe Schulz photo

by Joe Schulz

Festive music blasting, a sea of people in masks and more beads than you can count; it must be Mardi Gras.

Actually, it’s the Thrasher Opera House’s 19th-annual Party for the Arts.

“It is our big fundraising party of the year,” Executive Director Rachael Avery said.

Proceeds from the party, which will take place Saturday, Sept. 21 from 6 to 10 p.m., go toward year-round concerts, art exhibits and the Missoula Children’s Theatre. Last year’s event raised $38,000.

“We are bringing artists here to a small rural town year-round, which means we need to pay them year-round,” Avery said.

The event will feature cocktails and Cajun cuisine served by local artists, a live auction, games, raffle, silent auction and more. Darren Sterud’s New Orleans Tribute will perform a tribute to Mardi Gras during the soiree.

Avery believes the event is important because it brings donors and patrons together for a night of celebration.

She noted the event enables folks to have fun while they look back at the Thrasher’s accomplishments and look forward at what’s to come.

“This year, we have a couple of fun announcements to make that only the people in the room will get to know,” Avery said.

Each Party for the Arts is unique, because each year the event has a different theme.

One new game at this year’s party is King Cake, which involves a small plastic or porcelain baby being hidden in a cake. Whoever has the cake with the baby in it wins.

“We’re going to have these 50 cakes and one is going to have a baby baked in it,” Avery said. “If they’re the one that has the baby in it, they win a diamond necklace from Gysbers Jewelry.”

The event also features a cork pull, where folks can pick a cork with a number, and then an announcer will call out the winning number.

“If your number gets pulled, you get a diamond and ruby necklace from Diedrich Jewelers,” Avery said.

The party will feature a live auction with prizes such as a VIP dinner, a private cruise on the J. Lawson, two tickets to the Nov. 10 Packer game against the Carolina Panthers and two tickets to the Wisconsin premiere of Hamilton in Appleton.

Avery noted the VIP dinner includes burgers and creative sides featuring beef and vegetables from Boerson Farm and live music by Jason Menting and the H-RAD All-Stars.

A plethora of local businesses from Green Lake, Ripon, Princeton and Berlin have donated prizes for the silent auction and raffle, she added.

“We’re really lucky to have the support of all these businesses to kind of come together and offer such a great variety of things for people to win,” Avery said.

Emcee Todd Weir will make announcements throughout the party.

“He has three costume changes planned,” Avery said of the Weir. “He is so entertaining and he keeps people on their toes.”

The event also will feature a skit performed by Thrasher board members. The only details Avery could give about the skit was that it will feature voodoo and cross dressing.

“Then there will be several drink and dance breaks throughout the night where the band will take the stage and people can kind of get up and move about,” Avery said.

Thrasher Executive Director Rachael Avery wears her best Mardi Gras outfit as she pours a hurricane at the concession stand.  Joe Schulz photo

After the event, the party will continue at Goose Blind Grill and Bar at 10 p.m., where 20% of proceeds from drinks will go to the Thrasher.

Each year, the party leaves the Thrasher staff with unforgettable memories of a community coming together to celebrate live musical performances.

“I think the first time we raised our goal of $10,000 for the Missoula Children’s program was a really special moment,” Avery said. “The community came together to support an arts program for local youth and I just felt overwhelmingly grateful.”

She added children participating in the Missoula Children’s Theatre are able to perform for free each year because of the Party for the Arts.

While the party has been a stable of the opera house since 2001, 2019 has seen a changing of the guard in the Thrasher staff.

Program Director Roby Irvin, who helped rebuild the opera house, retired June 1 and was followed by executive director Maria Dietrich.

Avery has stepped up to the plate and now serves as both executive and programming director, while Katie Menting has taken Avery’s former position of development director.

Longtime Administrative Director Martha Janz has remained the constant on staff.

Despite losing some key players behind the scenes, the Thrasher remains committed to its mission of promoting the arts and the power of live performance.

“We want the arts to be accessible to everyone, not just the ones who can afford it,” Avery said.

To purchase tickets to the 2019 Party for the Arts visit