Square Toast for Scholarships
A new beginning, a sense of pride, and an experience one must feel for themselves are three phrases that seemed to sum up the Fall semester at The University of Mississippi until the notion of giving back began to emerge as the fourth.
In the Winter of 2008, three students and two faculty members within the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management (then known as the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences) set out to organize a fundraising event to benefit their own students, peers, and friends. This is how Square Toast for Scholarships was born, a food and wine tasting event developed to raise scholarships for students.
After researching and reviewing other food and wine tasting events, the committee needed to determine a withstanding date each year. They wanted to hold their event during the Fall semester since the City of Oxford held their largest event in the Spring, the Double Decker Arts Festival. When determining a date, they had to look at other events held during that time.
Ole Miss has a rich history and shines in the Fall with students arriving to campus in late August to begin classes, reuniting with friends, and for some, leaving home for the first time. Many events take place during this time with that of the first day of classes, Greek families on campus hosting recruitment, selecting campus favorites, vying for the title of Most Beautiful, Rebel football, and Homecoming. With all of these ideas laid out on the table, the one that seemed to be the most suitable for Square Toast for Scholarships would be that of the weekend of Homecoming since this is a time for alumni, fans, and friends to gather, reunite with others, and give back to the institution they love and respect.
While meeting with various restaurants and retail venues around the Historic Oxford Square and knowing what else took place during the week, the committee decided to hold the event the Monday following all of the Homecoming festivities. With the date selected, the committee began working with the restaurants and retail venues to make the event possible, but not to exclude those establishments off the Square; they also spoke with restaurants around and outside the City of Oxford so that all those wanting to participate were given the opportunity.
The 2008 Event
With the three students laying the foundation for the first event graduating, seven other students were asked to join the committee to make Square Toast for Scholarships possible. These seven picked up where the three before them left off. Restaurants and retail outlets have agreed to participate, items for the silent auction (the second component of the event) were coming in, tickets were being sold, the community was getting behind the event, and the day finally arrives.
The Lafayette County Courthouse Lawn, the backdrop for the central hub and registration area, began to awaken with the seven students working together to put forth the event. Tables, chairs, linens, wine buckets, napkins, utensils, and food began to appear in all of the restaurants and retail outlets around the Square. Square Toast for Scholarships was coming to life.
Over 250 guests were in attendance of the first event, many coming from the City of Oxford, students at the University, and alumni staying in town after hearing about what the department was preparing for on Monday, October 6, 2008. Twenty-five restaurants and retail outlets opened their doors and hearts to these guests of the event to share in great food and wine. The silent auction boosted over 50 items that were placed for bids many of the items included those of signed memorabilia, gift certificates to local and regional restaurants, weekend getaways, and other travel packages.
Square Toast for Scholarships generated over $15,000 in scholarships for students within the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management in just the first year.
The 2009 Event
In the Spring of 2009, three more students were asked to provide assistance in laying the groundwork for the event to be held on Monday, October 19, 2009. They began contacting restaurants, retail outlets, silent auction providers from the previous year and potential new ones, and decided to embark on the path of generating additional revenue in the hopes of gaining sponsors. This group also began designing artwork for the event, obtaining the appropriate rights and regulations, and selecting a new committee for the Fall.
In Fall 2009, six students formed the event committee. These six were able to pick up right where the previous left. Everything from the previous year began to fall into place with the help of their faculty advisor.
All of the meetings, selling tickets, renting tables, and wondering about what will happen the day of the event have finally passed. The Lafayette County Courthouse Lawn was set with the same notion of the previous year as the backdrop for the event. Tents were put together. Tables and boxes full of each venues essentials were once again delivered to those participating. Silent auction items were set for display and lights hung in the registration tent. Square Toast for Scholarships was, again, ready.
Over 30 restaurants and retail venues opened their hearts and doors to 300 participating guests during the event. Laughter, cheers, and high spirits echoed from Historic Oxford Square.
At the close the event, over $16,000 was raised for scholarships.
The 2010 Event
With the date set of Monday, November 8, students began working on the third Square Toast for Scholarships. Artwork was designed, flyers distributed, restaurants and retail outlets contacted, silent auction items delivered, sponsorships began to appear, and the excitement of the event was building. Seven new students took on the task of planning, designing, and implementing Square Toast for Scholarships 2010 for the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management. These students worked to uphold the traditions and leadership of the past committees.
Twenty-eight restaurants and retail venues were a part of the 2010 event with 300 guests attending the event in helping raise over $15,000 to go towards the scholarship fund.
After the 2010 event, Square Toast for Scholarships was able to officially endow the scholarship fund, with all of the money raised from the previous years. Two students have also been awarded scholarships on behalf of the event, the restaurants and retail venues, the silent auction items, and the guests attending.
The 2011 Event
Square Toast for Scholarships 2011 began to bridge the work from the previous three years to transform, grow, and develop for the upcoming events. The biggest change for this years event was that a six or seven student steering committee has been folded into a class of 31 students. The event is now part of an actual course, giving the students real world and hands on event planning experience. (These students are now part of NHM 312, the departments event management course).
Another change stemming from the fourth annual Square Toast for Scholarships was that the event moved to a Thursday night of an Ole Miss Football away game - the date of Thursday, November 3rd from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. on the Historic Oxford Square. Twenty-nine participating venues on the Square opened their doors to those coming to the event.
The 2011 event was marked by many firsts: first time the event was incorporated into a larger class from within the department (31 students); first time to gross over $21,000 for the event; first time to have over 80 items in our silent auction; and the first time to incorporate a live auction into the event. Over 280 patrons showed support for the event, students in the department, and ventured into twenty-nine different venues on the Historic Oxford Square.
Square Toast for Scholarships has officially grossed over $68,000 to go towards the scholarship fund.
Reflecting on the past four years, the department and students believe that Square Toast for Scholarships has been great and beneficial for all involved in the planning and execution of a fundraising event. This event not only benefits the community relations efforts of the department and the University, giving students the ability to interact with various sectors of the community in taking what they have learned in various departmental courses, but also with the given aspect of generating scholarships for students within the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management.
The 2012 Event
Off the heels of a successful 2011 event, the planning for the fifth annual Square Toast for Scholarships was well underway. The date, Thursday, November 1, 2012, saw new initiatives emerging from the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, the students, and the Lafayette-Oxford-University community (participating businesses, welcoming venues, and guests). Students enrolled in the Fall NHM 312: Event Management course were ready to leave their mark on the event, just as previous students did, after hearing all of the great things stemming from the event. The real world, hands-on experience intrigued many of them as they were waiting to raise the bar.
The fifth annual Square Toast for Scholarships was the biggest event thus far. Thirty-one participating venues around the Historic Oxford Square opened their hearts and doors to guests attending the event on the night of Thursday, November 1, 2012. Many of the previous venues were participating again, and many new establishments asked to participate with thanks from the Oxford Downtown Council. With an overwhelming expression to participate, the event committee opted to try something new with the 2012 event, as six of the 31 venues were beverage only. The event has grown from just wine to now including light cocktails and beer a joint venture from the brokers partnering with the student steering committee to expand the palate of guests in this ever-growing event.
The Registration and Silent Auction areas for the event moved to The Lyric Theatre, a move away from the Courthouse Lawn, which provided a new test for the students and event planning team in how to dress the space. Champagne was added as a treat to engage guests at the event as they walked through the Silent Auction area. A band was added to fill the rafters of The Lyric Theatre for the full four hours of the event.
The students majoring in Hospitality Management and taking NHM 312: Event Management sold 400 tickets to the event, and obtained nearly 150 items for the Silent Auction, including seven travel packages to regional destinations. The social media landscape of the event grew through facebook and twitter. The students shined as thanks, gratitude, and those participating in the event began to ask for the date of the 2013 event.
The largest amount was raised this year due to the students hard work, the dedication of those involved as venues and brokers, and the community getting more behind the event. A near total of $29,000 was raised, moving ever close to the goal of being able to raise $35,000 to go towards the Hospitality Management Scholarship Endowment each year.
With Square Toast for Scholarships embarking on the sixth year of this grand event, the date has been selected to move to December 5, 2013. Much of this stems from a new theme added to the 2013 event of experiencing a Winter Wonderland with white fabrics emerging as an event management industry trend for the year. The Lyric Theatre will once again house the Registration and Silent Auction area. The Historic Oxford Square will be lit and filled with holiday décor, creating the perfect backdrop for engaging the community in this ever-growing event for students by students.
Planning has begun. Venues are anticipating the night of as they fill with guests to the event. Brokers are selecting their beverages. Marketing plans and ideas are flowing and are coming together. Budgets are set. Students are eager!
* Jeremy Roberts
B.S. Hospitality Management 10, The University of Mississippi
Event Management Coordinator 11, 12, 13