JSC’s Student Government Association celebrated one of its largest events in recent years on Friday, March 10: the 40th Annual Casino Night. JSC and LSC community members dressed up and turned out in droves for a black and white tie affair.
According to Casino Night Chair Mary Fafard, the SGA collected $1,436 from the event to benefit The United Way of Lamoille County, eclipsing last year’s total by nearly $300.
Fafard says the uptick in attendance and the number of dealers from previous years made for a smooth and successful evening. “Last year, we had sold around 173 tickets and our reasonable goal this year was to get into the 180s and our reach was 200 – [we sold] 198,” she said.
“I don’t think we’ve hit numbers like this for at least five years,” Fafard added. “Last year was more than the year before, but I don’t know by how much. There was a lull for the last four years.”
All throughout Stearns Dining Hall, newly shuffled playing cards clapped against blackjack and poker tables. Meanwhile, the assorted red, black and blue game chips clicked and clinked as they were either awarded to winners or stripped from losing gamblers.
This year’s theme was “Black and White Gala,” and the personalities and interactions on the floor were anything but drab.
“Every once in a while, I would scan the room and everyone would be smiling and laughing and carrying around full glasses of chips,” said Fafard. “It’s very rewarding to see the student body and community members having fun for a good cause.”
At the center table, JSC musical theatre major Sam Lewis and his girlfriend Rebecca Gagne, a political science major at JSC, tried their hand at a game of craps. Occasionally, Gagne had to instruct the young man who was running the game on how to play.
SGA Vice President Kate Abdel-Fatah, who’s on her second year helping with Casino Night, says she’s encouraged by the volume of attendees for this year’s event. “This one’s special because this is the most people I think [have ever attended] and it’s the 40th one. I’m glad to see the JSC community and people from outside the community come and celebrate.”
The music was supplied again by Good Guy Productions DJ Eric Wilson, who alternated between nimble ’90s alt-pop hits and pulsating EDM cuts, which seemed to be an odd mix of genres given the evening’s aesthetic was more noir than Borgore [Israeli EDM artist].
In addition to the $1,436 in ticket sales, Fafard said the SGA collected monetary donations from JSC staff and extra donations from generous attendees. “Kate [Abdel-Fatah] and I went around to all the administrative offices on campus and asked staff members if they were going to Casino Night and asked them to donate to the United Way; we got over $100 in donations from them in just that afternoon.”
Students, alumni, faculty and staff were also able to grab an alcoholic beverage or two in the designated Doyle dining room if they were 21 and over.
SGA Senator and Casino Night Committee member Brendon Walsh says he’s happy to see the event he worked on for a year run smoothly.
“It’s the biggest event on campus, and it’s really nice to it play out successfully,” said Walsh. “Hopefully we can keep working together and keep building the relationship [with The United Way],” Walsh said. “This year, I think, has been one of the most successful Casino Nights I’ve ever seen on campus, so it’s good to see a benefit for a good cause and hopefully that can continue.”
Over by Sargent Dining Room on the right, a cheerful JSC rugby player, Sawyer Masure, served soda and juice “cocktails” throughout the night with his visor spun upside-down covering his forehead. Hungry gamblers could also enjoy the assorted popcorn chicken, egg rolls and chocolate dipping fountain, among other delicacies.
JSC EDP student Erica Desrochers of Swanton said she was pleased with how helpful the dealers were.
“We didn’t really know what we were doing at first, but the people operating the tables and the games were very helpful and inviting – just there to have a good time,” said Desrochers. “The whole thing was just lively and fun.”
It was not hard to bump into select JSC faculty-dealers like professor of exercise science Hans Haverkamp or staff like Director of Residence Life Jeff Bickford, dressed in their respective crisp grey and black vests, doling out chips and cards throughout the night.
Despite his dismal earnings, JSC senior Chad Tarves says his second year at Casino Night gave him a chance to interact with the new friends he’s made over the year he’s been at the college.
“This year, I primarily focused on blackjack and did pretty good throughout the night until the end where I [put] all my chips in to get the best prizes I could and I shouldn’t have; that was it and I lost it all,” said Tarves.
The evening’s most raucous event, however, belonged to the live auction around 11 p.m., where gamblers exchanged their earnings for $100 “funny money” bills to bid on the items they most desired.
Fafard said the SGA was able to secure 33 donations, all of which were auctioned off to the evening’s luckiest high rollers. Some of the big prizes included Green Mountain Coffee, a Bash Badge to Smuggler’s Notch for discounted lift tickets and $50 to the Whip Bar and Grill in Stowe.
JSC alumnus Greg “Binky” Davis humorously countered bids from others on earlier items with higher bids to ensure a top prize for himself, which he would eventually get with $10,000 in fake cash. Other voices seemed to carom off one another, creating a chaotic and competitive atmosphere.
JSC students Kali Covell and Forrest Mattern, who helped contribute the promotional video for the SGA’s Facebook page, drew significant praise from Fafard and the Casino Night members.
“They did it free of charge,” said Fafard. “We gave them tickets, but they couldn’t actually come to the event, so they didn’t reap any benefits from creating that video with us. We’re very thankful for that.”
Casino Night’s 40th gathering brought both JSC and LSC community members together for good food and good vibes, all for a good cause.