What goes into creating Party on the Plaza?

Sep 29, 2016

Party on the Plaza is a major fundraising event for Newman University. The event itself only lasts a few hours one day of the year, but the planning that goes into executing the event is a massive undertaking that starts the year before. This year’s event planning was co-chaired by Therese Wetta, ASC and Administrative Assistant Pam Polley.

The steering committee gets to work in Feb. to work out the many nuances that must be discussed and planned far ahead of time. The next month, the auction committee convenes to plan for the bulk of the event.

Party on the Plaza Silent Auction Basket Wrapping
Student volunteers Dani Buedden (L) and Peggy Frazier (R) wrap silent auction baskets

Sister Therese’s role normally involves gathering items for the live and silent auction. She, and the auction committee, send out letters in March asking for items. Asking for items this early allows companies and individuals to have ample preparation time. Through the summer months, the committee continues to work on collecting items and their goal is to have all the items they need for the silent auction by the first of Aug.

The live auction items require more attention and planning since these items should have a base price of $1,000. The auction committee asks for a variety of items to appeal to a large group of people. Normally there are 11 to 12 items to bid on for the live auction, but this year a late addition bumped the number to 13 and caused the program to be updated at the last minute. The live auction items must have a description and have a set order in which they will be bid upon.

Event invitations are mailed to potential guests in July, and a special early invitation is sent to the mayor of the city to ensure avoidance of scheduling conflicts. The mayor has a special part to play during the event — the ceremonial tapping of the keg with President Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D.

Aside from gathering auction items, Sister Therese finds table sponsors. Once tables are reserved, a seating chart must be organized with the help of Administration and Events Coordinator Michelle Giammasi. After the logistics are set down on paper, the tables must be decorated to create a beautiful environment. This requires volunteer help, and preparation must begin two to three weeks before the event.

Party on the Plaza Prep
Student Paige Thompson cuts fabric for tables

The week of the event becomes crunch time for all involved — volunteers are locked in, late gifts are wrapped, programs are sent to the printer, promotional information is published online, live action items and descriptions are confirmed, reminders are mailed, electrical details are out, tents and a photo booth are set up, the grounds and building crew ensure the campus is ready, and security works is organized.

Of course some of these plans are contingent upon the weather. This year some plans had to be altered due to the forecast of rain. Sister Therese explained, “It made sense to have the live auction and main event in the O’Shaughnessy Hall (gymnasium) since the silent auction is always held in the Gorges atrium.” She was grateful for the help of Vic Trilli and the athletic teams in laying down the tarp on the gym floor, which was quite a bit of extra work to accomplish.

The work doesn’t stop just because the guests have left. Sister Therese writes thank you letters to those who donated a live auction item, informing them what the item’s final bid was so they know how much they have helped Newman in raising money for student scholarships. Those who won silent auction items also receive personalized thank you letters from Sister Therese.

“It’s an example of taking a global village to make the event happen,” said Sister Therese. “We couldn’t do it without student and faculty volunteers.” She would specifically like to thank Michelle Giammasi for her enormous contribution to this year’s event.