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Having a ball at Black Bear

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Harry Trotter never left the gate in race No. 3, but Forrest Jump sure gave Brittany Spurs a run for her money during the first ever horse races at the Blue Jean Ball. Of course, the horses were two-feet-high and raced across a green and white grid at the whim of two giant dice, but that meant zero injuries and no mess, just good clean fun.

The horse races were just one of many ways to entertain guests at the annual Blue Jean Ball Saturday, where supporters of the Cloquet Ed Foundation (CEF) and schools came to have fun and spend money in the name of education at Black Bear Casino and Resort.

CEF Executive Director Jean-Marie Kermeen said some 376 people attended this year's ball — most wearing their best blue jeans — which raised more than $51,000 for the special educational grants that CEF awards each year to teachers and students across the district.

CEF Board member Mike Owens informed the crowd that the CEF endowment fund had crossed the $2 million mark this year, and also set a record for the number of grant requests received. The foundation awarded $69,000 to 33 different grants, from sending all the fifth graders to Wolf Ridge together this year for the first time, helping with fee waivers for families that are struggling, to helping fund things like robotics and science fair.

"We have 2,700 students in Cloquet and over half of them are living in poverty," Owens said, explaining that CEF exists to give all students a chance to have a great educational experience here.

The ball is CEF's biggest fundraiser, Kermeen said.

"I'm grateful to be a part of such an amazing community and school system and I'm grateful for all the support the community gives to the Cloquet Educational Foundation," Kermeen said, noting that the table decorations — each themed table is decorated by a local business with individual gifts and a centerpiece prize — and silent and live auction items were fabulous.

"Our goal was to host a 'FUN'draiser, so you can imagine how exciting it was to see so many people having so much fun while raising money to support the mission of the Cloquet Educational Foundation," she added.

Next year's event is set for Feb. 2. Find out more at cloqueteducationalfoundation.org.

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