More than 400 people filled the Expo Center on Saturday, March 23, for the 10th annual Long Branch Area Whitetails Unlimited Banquet.
"We started with 180 people at our first banquet 10 years ago and have sold out the last four years," said Whitetails committee member Shane Petre.
The guests feasted on a prime rib dinner prepared by Noland's Catering of Macon, who are beginning their 10th year in business.
"Noland's has been with us all 10 years," said Petre. "We were one of the first banquets that they served after opening their business."
Following the meal, presentations totaling $9,230 were given to 11 individuals or organizations.
Donations were made to: Macon R-I Archery in Schools Program, Shelby County Archery in Schools Program, Share the Harvest, 4-H Shooting Sports, FFA Shooting Sports, Boy Scout Troop 81, Macon County Rescue Squad, Macon R-I International Agriculture class, two scholarships and Girls Exploring Nature.
Attending the banquet was Dan Vogt of Centralia. "Dan is the Whitetails Field Director for our area," said Petre. "He has been honored nationally as Field Director of the Year for the past two years our Macon banquet is also ranked high among all the banquets in the nation."
Silent auctions and raffles were held throughout the evening. A live auction under the direction of Tim Lolli and Marty Couch was the main event. Although a final amount was not yet available, Petre feels like the total raised will be close to last year's banquet.
A special event this year was the auctioning of deer shed antlers donated by Mark and Terry Drury of Drury Outdoors. Drury Outdoors is a company known nationally for their TV shows, videos and hunting apparel.
"They donated sheds to be auctioned at Whitetails Banquets around the country with the proceeds going to Catch-A-Dream Foundation.
Catch-A-Dream grants once-in-a-lifetime hunting and fishing experiences to children 18 years old or younger who have a life-threatening illness.
Pat Shannon of Iowa bought the shed for the highest bid of $1,500.
"After he had won the bid he told the auctioneer that he wanted to up his own bid by $500, so he ended up paying $2,000 for the antlers," said Petre. "We passed around a bucket in the crowd and collected another $755 to make a total of $2,755 to be donated to Catch-A-Dream."
"The Drury's had told us that we could split the money 50/50 between Catch-A-Dream and our local Whitetails' group, but we decided to donate all of it."
Though the Whitetails Unlimited committee members spend a lot of time working on the banquet each year, Petre says that they could not do it alone.
"Without all the support from the community and local businesses we couldn't make it happen."