Newman University’s annual Party on the Plaza fundraiser is a community-wide effort from start to finish.
Selecting a theme, identifying sponsorships, collecting auction items and hiring entertainment are just a handful of the many tasks necessary to bring the university’s biggest party of the year to life.
Many hands make light work
Jenifer Stone, a two-time alumna of Kansas Newman College (‘87) and Newman University (‘93), witnessed the early days of the Newman Renaissance Faires as a student and has pitched in with the planning and preparation of Party on the Plaza as an alumna.
“I tell people ‘I grew up at Newman,’” Stone said. “I guess it’s just like coming home.”
Stone, who works as a nurse practitioner at Wesley Medical Center, always knew she wanted to stay involved with Newman beyond her days as a student. So when it came to playing a part in future fundraisers for student financial aid, Stone viewed the opportunity as a “wipe open door” that she couldn’t pass up, she said.
“I was blessed to be asked to serve on the Board of Trustees, and I was asked to serve on the Party on the Plaza planning committee three years ago when the decision was made to try a different theme,” Stone said. “There were so many wonderful ideas for the next theme, but the decision was made to bring a little Newman history back to life.”
Students at Kansas Newman College held the very first Renaissance festival as a class project in 1975.
For every Newman Renaissance Faire, faculty, staff, students and alumni came together to put on an exciting and educational weekend where thousands visited the campus to enjoy the food, fun and flavor of the Renaissance period.
The class project grew into an annual fundraiser that was celebrated for 26 straight years in Wichita.
“I got to be involved as a student and then again as a young alumni,” Stone said. “It just felt right to be a part of it all again.”
It’s hard for Stone to pinpoint a specific project that she contributed to during the university’s Renaissance days, however in planning for recent years she recalls that “the entire committee really came together to prepare for all aspects of the party.”
Though planning may begin as early as a year prior to the actual event, it’s all hands on deck in the few weeks leading up to Party on the Plaza. Volunteer students, faculty and staff are also an enormous asset in ensuring that day-of setup is accounted for and that guests can enjoy a seamless evening of memory-making and fun.
A 2021 take on the Renaissance
Guests of this year’s Party on the Plaza: Return to the Renaissance on Saturday, Sept. 18, can look forward to an evening of delicious food, prize-winning game opportunities, exclusive live and silent auction items, live Celtic-style music performances by Knocknasheega and even a sabrage demonstration by Master of Ceremonies J.T. Klaus.
Sabrage involves ceremoniously opening a bottle of champagne with a sword — a somewhat tricky art form that takes practice to perfect.
“Anybody can open a bottle of champagne with their thumbs,” Klaus said. “But opening the bottle with a sword … that is something everyone should do at least once in their life.”
He added, “Ten years from now you’ll be out with friends and some history buff will say, ‘Hey, did you know Napoleon opened his champagne with a sword?’, and you can say ‘Oh yeah, I’ve done that!’”
Prior to the live auction, the Newman Troubadours will also be selling 100 Golden Tickets, which automatically enter guests into an exclusive raffle. The winning golden ticket allows the attendee to select any of the live auction packages to take home.
The evening will cap off with a fireworks display, sponsored by Klaus Enterprises.
Klaus said he looks forward to reconnecting with old friends, having great conversations, supporting a good cause as well as the excitement of the live auction.
“… But then there are fireworks!”
“Katy Perry and I are on the same page on very few things, but then there are fireworks,” Klaus said. “I mean I’ve been to some good parties, but then there are fireworks.”
Stone added that it’s always wonderful to catch up with friends and her fellow alumni.
“But I’m also so excited to see the fireworks!”
Reserve your tickets for 2021 Party on the Plaza
All money raised at Party on the Plaza goes toward Newman University student financial aid.
Reservations must be made by Wednesday, Sept. 15. Renaissance-style costumes are encouraged, but not required. Visit wichitapop.com to learn more or to reserve your tickets.
Special thanks to Dale Withers and David (’01, ’11) and Glenna Borho for being this year’s VIP Sponsors of Party on the Plaza. View the full list of presenting, event and community sponsors at wichitapop.com.