Two hundred supporters savored the sights, sounds and flavors of dinner at one long, winding table on the tallgrass prairie Sept. 17 while raising over $40,000 – the event’s second-highest fundraising total in 10 years – to support the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center (SCPAC) south of Denton.
“All of you are helping to preserve and protect 850 acres of Eastern Nebraska’s native landscape, which is the tallgrass prairie,” Glynnis Collins, SCPAC’s director, said at the 10th annual event.
Guests began the evening by leisurely walking the prairie trails while sipping champagne, wine or beer, sampling appetizers and mingling with friends and guests. Many placed bids on silent auction items while being entertained by the Lightning Bugs trio.
As supporters enjoyed dinner overlooking the prairie, Collins told them that the event’s proceeds will support her staff’s efforts to provide nature education and habitat management programs.
Collins introduced those staff members as “the people behind the scenes” – Kevin Poague, operations manager; Jason St. Sauver, community education director and the event’s emcee; Ed Hubbs, habitat program manager; and several others.
“Wildfires and bison built this prairie over the years, and we don’t have those now, so Ed (Hubbs) figures out how to do all that with cattle and controlled burns,” Collins said. “That takes time and money, so tonight’s proceeds will go to that and to our education programs for fourth-graders and adults.”
St. Sauver told guests that a Lincoln Journal Star article, which listed the SCPAC as a great place to see the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, resulted in 800 people watching the eclipse from Spring Creek Prairie.
“Where will we set our sights next, now that we know we can host an 800-plus person event?” he said. “The sky is the limit.”
St. Sauver added that work continues with the City of Lincoln to acquire land and develop the Haines Branch Corridor – a 7-mile multi-recreational trail that eventually will connect the SCPAC with the Pioneers Park Nature Center and tallgrass prairie in Lincoln.
Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler was among supporters at the event.
“It’s a slow process of trying to connect through land purchases and easements,” Beutler said. “But slowly but surely, landowners are turning over land to the city and prairies.
“It’s picking up steam,” he added. “As fall progresses, you’ll see a more intense effort with larger groups of citizens working to move the corridor development forward in a very organized and sophisticated manner.”
The event concluded at sunset after a live auction of fine art, dining and other unique experiences.