Fall Fest kids parade candy

Kids line up along Main Street waiting for candy at the Fall Festival parade. This year’s raffle recipients will be the Belgrade Girls Softball Association.

Softball players make the most of good weather when they have it during Montana’s short playing season, and a gift from the Chamber of Commerce will help the Belgrade Girls Softball Association (BGSA) continue do just that, according to club President Amy Seaman.

The Chamber has selected BGSA as this year’s designated recipient of the annual Fall Festival raffle proceeds. The club will put the money toward construction of a new playing field at the Belgrade Youth Sports Complex at Menicucci Field.

Kristi Gee, executive director of the Belgrade Chamber of Commerce, said only two applications were received this year for the raffle grant. The committee determined that BGSA’s offered the most benefit community wide, which is the primary criterion considered by the Chamber when selecting the winning applicant.

The annual Fall Festival raffle nets between $3,000 and $6,500 every year, and all the proceeds are donated to a designated community cause. Seaman said BGSA has been “saving money for years” for a new field, and the raffle proceeds will put the club over its fund-raising goal so that it can build the field without completely draining the club’s operating account.

About 150 girls ranging in age from 6 to 18 belong to the Belgrade Girls Softball Association, which is made up of both recreational and competitive teams. The teams play on five fields around Belgrade, some of them shared. Last year, BGSA had 12 recreational teams vying for the use of four fields, a problem shared by other organizations in the area.

“Field space in general is a lacking commodity in the Gallatin Valley right now,” Seaman said.

BGSA also hosts the Bridger Mountain Classic, one of the biggest competitive softball tournaments in the state, and the number of participating teams is capped at 36 because of limited field space, Seaman said.

“If we could add another field, we could add another five to six teams (to the tournament),” Seaman said.

BGSA is most active between May and July, and more field space will enable expansion of the fall program and possibly allow the club to host a fall tournament, Seaman added.

This is the second time that BGSA will benefit from the Fall Festival raffle, as the club was the designated recipient of $5,800 in proceeds in 2012. Other recent recipients/projects funded by the raffle include the Belgrade Community Coalition, bandstand/gazebo project for Lewis & Clark Park , the Blitz soccer program, and the “Welcome to Belgrade” sign on the spur road leading to town from the airport interchange.

Fall Festival raffle tickets cost $5 per ticket, or six for $20, and they are available at the Belgrade Chamber, most large retailers in town, or from BGSA members. They also can be purchased at the Fall Festival on Sept. 21 at the Chamber of Commerce booth. Winners will be notified on Sept. 22.

The grand prize is $1,000 in gift cards for the Albertson’s Shopping Center. Numerous other prizes, all donated by area businesses, include an Electra bicycle, a $250 shopping spree at Town & Country Foods, an Amish-built glider and a Toro lawn mower. A full list of prizes is available at the Chamber office.