A holiday blast

Alumni Association’s annual holiday bash spills over with festive cheers

Keeley Gregoire and Sam Melquist with the UND Alumni Association worked to make the annual Holiday Cheers party a "go-to" event. Photo by Milo Smith, UND Alumni Association & Foundation

Keeley Gregoire and Sam Melquist with the UND Alumni Association were part of the team that worked to make the annual Holiday Cheers party a “go-to” event. Photo by Milo Smith/UND Alumni Association & Foundation

They say the secret to a great party is plenty of food, a big crowd, and lots of cheer. And a lot of planning.

It was a great party.

Food, fun and festive flair rang in the season as more than 250 members of the University and Greater Grand Forks community took in the Holiday Cheers party at the Gorecki Alumni Center Monday evening. It was hosted by the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, along with President Mark and First Lady Debbie Kennedy.

The party has grown more popular each of the four years it’s been held, and this year, more than 275 sent in their reservations. Planners originally hoped for 200.

President Kennedy visits with a partygoer at the annual Holiday Cheers party at the Gorecki Alumni Center. Photo by Milo Smith/UND Alumni Association & Foundation

President Kennedy visits with a partygoer at the annual Holiday Cheers party at the Gorecki Alumni Center. Photo by Milo Smith/UND Alumni Association & Foundation

Very merry

From the photo booth to the towering tree, from the chocolate truffles to the tree-shaped cheese tray, it was very merry, said partygoers, who especially enjoyed the live music by Austin Winger, UND instructional designer.

“This is a great chance to get together and celebrate the holiday season,” said First Lady Debbie Kennedy. “I’m looking forward to meeting lots of people.”

“It’s lovely this time of year to have the opportunity to see everyone and connect,” said Anne Kelsch, director of faculty and staff development at the UND Teaching Transformation & Development Academy. “It’s nice to take a break and wish everyone well.”

“I’m new to the community,” said Anna Rosburg, general manager of the Alerus Center. “This is a nice opportunity to come see people outside of UND football games. This is the first time I’ve been to the Gorecki Center. It’s beautiful!”

“This is a beautiful facility and a great environment,” said Derek Hoffert, director of partnerships with Spectra and a 2010 alumnus. “I’m looking forward to a nice, relaxed and elegant evening.”

“This is a great party,” said Jay Friedt, a 2011 accountancy alumnus who is with Bremer Bank. “It’s nice to connect with local alumni and UND.”

“I’m having a blast!” said Mike Compton, who is with Alerus Financial. “I’ve even been able to visit with a high school buddy I haven’t seen in a long time.”

“This is a precious time to see friends and colleagues,” said Mark Langemo, professor emeritus of business and vocational education. “Diane (retired professor of nursing) and I take in as many of these events as we can. They’re always fun.”

“This is fabulous,” said President Mark Kennedy as he greeted a steady stream of partygoers. “The engagement of the community with the campus is part of the lifeblood of the University.”

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UND branding, ‘Brady Bunch’ style

Keeley Gregoire, associate director of events for the Alumni Association & Foundation, looks forward to planning the event each year, along with a host of other staff members.

“People come year after year, and it’s so good to see them,” said Gregoire. “I love planning events and seeing it all come together.”

Planning began in early October, and Gregoire credits creative invitations for some of the larger-than-expected turnout.

“We wanted something lighthearted and fun to get everyone excited about coming together while using the new UND brand,” said Gregoire, who worked with Sam Melquist, associate director of graphic design, on the invitations.

Melquist used the iconic introduction to the classic Brady Bunch television show as his inspiration for the invitations, which have received rave reviews.

“I started playing with cubes and came up with a block design that used the new brand,” Melquist said. “It’s clean and simple, and it fits the UND brand.” He added that the black-and-white color scheme with green accents draws people in.

And drawing people in was the purpose of the party.

“We always look forward to partnering with the University to welcome everyone on campus, alumni across the region, and our greater Grand Forks community to celebrate the holiday season,” said DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the Alumni Association & Foundation. “This is our chance to welcome you to your home on campus to thank you for everything you do for UND.”