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After raising nearly $12,000 with last year's Quarter Auction, Spanish Springs High School (Sparks, Nev.) is hoping to have another successful event later this month. 

In an effort to start a fundraising tradition, Spanish Springs High School (Sparks, Nev.) began holding an annual quarter auction four years ago. "The idea came from one of our vice principals who had been at another school that did something similar," says Spanish Springs Booster Club President Lori Fralick. "But it was an older school with a big alumni base.

"Our school is still really new--it's only 12 years old--although it has about 2,400 students," she continues. "So we thought it would be a good tradition to start with the hope that years down the road, this event will be a huge financial support for the school."

While there are several variations on quarter auctions, Spanish Springs Booster Club's event is simple. "It costs $25 to attend and that includes dinner and unlimited drinks--beer, margaritas, soft drinks, and water," says Fralick. "We have a Mexican fiesta theme and if you wanted, you could just come for that. But we also have the quarter auction and a silent auction."

Upon arrival, attendees can choose whether they want a "limited" or "unlimited" bidding paddle for the quarter auction. Each paddle has a unique number, which corresponds to a numbered ping-pong ball that is placed into a raffle drum. 

Those who opt for the $30 unlimited paddles are set for the whole auction--they only need to raise their paddle if they want a chance to win a particular item. "But if you get a limited paddle for $15, you have to put a quarter into the sombrero that's in the middle of your table when you want to raise your paddle to bid," Fralick says.
 
For each of the 150 items, the auctioneer reads a description. Bidders who are interested in that item hold up their paddles, but there are no prices read or raised since the "cost" of the item is covered with the paddles and quarters. The auctioneer then pulls a ball from the drum. If the paddle with the corresponding number was held up, that person wins. Otherwise, the auctioneer draws until there is a winner. All of the ping-pong balls are then put back into the drum for the next item.
 
"The event starts at 6:00," Fralick says. "We explain the bidding options as people check in, since lots of people may not have gone to a quarter auction before. And we let them know that all of the items they'll be bidding on have a value of $25 to $100. They can mingle for a while and then at 6:30, they can start getting their food.
 
"At 7:00, the MC announces that the auction will start in about 10 minutes," she continues. "About half way through the evening, we take a break to let people get up and move around. Then when we're done with the quarter auction items, we start closing the bidding on the silent auction. So by the time everyone's paid for their silent auction items and collected them, it's after 9:00 and the event ends at 10:00. Everyone helps pick up so we're out of the building by 10:45."
 
Over the years, the biggest change in the event has been its attendance. "Last year, we had 309 people there," Fralick says. "We're hoping to have 350 this year, but I think we'll end up going over that."

Planning starts in January with monthly committee meetings, although most of the communication is done via e-mail. "I have 23 on my planning committee," Fralick says. "But they don't all have big jobs. We say that whatever they can do and be involved in is great."

The committee also gets a lot of help from the students and school. The culinary students provide dessert and help serve food at the event, and students who need to do community service for classes or the honor societies help set up before the event. The programs are also printed at the school.

"Having a team where everyone is helping and believing in the end goal is key," Fralick says. "You have to have good planning and communication so the school and boosters are working together. Yes, the auction items and food are important. But if you don't have the first part, you'll never get anyone there."



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