And if you’re looking for a school fundraiser play, there’s nothing better than one of these shows for your middle school drama group! They can be done with small casts, large casts, small drama groups, big drama groups–possibilities are endless. These flexible, fun scripts can be a play for a group of 10, a play for a group of 15, a play for a group of 20, or for any number of kids on stage for your next theater event!
All of these playscripts offer the possibility of being a successful fundraiser. I promise you they will put the “fun” back into fundraising!
Ingredients for your own Pie Palooza
Okay, okay. I’m going to confess something to you right now. I had always disliked—no, detested--fundraising. I know to some people, organizing fundraisers is exciting and easy, but I never found them to be either of those things. But then the idea of a pie palooza came along and it changed everything. The pie palooza actually put the “fun” back into “fundraising”.
I’m sure the whole concept of a pie palooza is as old as the hills, but it’s definitely a refreshing change from car washes and bake sales. The event is designed to be part play performance, part pie contest, and part pie auction. You can mix and match those elements, or you can easily include all three in one spectacular event. The brilliance of a pie palooza is that with a simple and inexpensive investment, you get a great return—the perfect fundraising formula.
The Pie Palooza Plays
Always start with one of the Pie Palooza Plays. They are a trilogy, so it is best to begin with the first: In a Pickle at the Pie Palooza. And after you’ve performed the first play, I just know the following year you’re going to want to perform the second play: A Question of Pie. And after the crowd begs for more (which they will), go on to perform the third and final play: All’s Fair in Love and Pie. No one will be lost if they see one without the others, but they are at their very best when performed as a trilogy. And once you’ve performed them all, bake and repeat! Performed in a cycle of three years, the Pie Palooza Plays never get old, and they are destined to get easier and easier as you accumulate costume pieces and fine tune your stage set-up. They have been kept short (half an hour or so) on purpose. They leave time for you to add on other pieces (the pie contest and/or the pie auction) without losing the enthusiasm of your audience.
The Pie Contest
Pies and plays. They were made for each other. Since all three of my Pie Palooza plays reference a fictional pie contest, a real pie contest is a perfect addition to the show. The amateur bakers in your community are bound to get riled up, and you can charge a fee to enter as a small fundraiser (or not, if you’re raising funds through the pie auction). Either way, the perfectly delicious advantage of the pie contest is that your refreshments are completely taken care of. Once the judging is done, all of the leftovers can be served up to the crowd!
Pie Categories and Judging
To get organized, first decide how many pie categories you’d like to have. If want to keep it simple, I’d suggest going with “fruit,” “cream,” and “other.” But if you can’t help yourself and want to add more, then “nut,” “custard,” and “savory” are additional possibilities. Depending on the scale of your event, decide how many judges you will need for each pie category and how many place-winners would be appropriate. Again, if you’d like to stick with simple, then one judge for each category, and a first, second, and third place winner within each category is straightforward.
Design a pie judging sheet which helps the judges keep track of the pies they are taste-testing. Traditional pie contests have the judges critique the following: overall appearance (beauty, creative details, how it slices), crust (texture, flavor, color), and filling (texture, flavor, consistency). The judges award a number value for each of these categories, and these values are then totaled for an overall score for every pie. Depending on your school or organization, you may also want to offer possible bonus points for creative names, use of locally-grown ingredients, etc.
Make sure to recruit some very hungry, but very discerning pie judges for your Pie Palooza. They’ll have to choose winners in their assigned categories with swift confidence, and together they’ll need to pick a Grand Champion. Hopefully, they’ll be able to accomplish this mission without a lot of heated discussion, and, heaven forbid, pie flying. You don’t want to find there’s nothing left for refreshments at the end of the evening!
Several years into their annual pie palooza events, my school invested in official looking chef’s coats for the pie judges to wear on the big day. Embroidered with “Pie Judge” and pockets for a pencil and notepad, the coats looked very professional. As you can imagine, the judges wore them with big grins!
You’ll want to come up with a way to organize the pie entries as they arrive on the day of the Pie Palooza. In the interest of fairness, you want to be able to match a pie to its baker while keeping the baker anonymous. One straightforward way of doing this is to have everyone who enters a pie fill out an entry card that includes their name, the name of their pie, what category it belongs in, and any other comment they would like to make about their pie. This entry card gets a number and that same number gets taped to the bottom of their tin or written on a flagged toothpick stuck in the pie. These entry cards are handy because they have all the information needed for the person announcing the winners following the play.
This will take some finesse, but the play performance should begin once the judges are about half an hour away from making their final decisions. This way the play and the judging will be wrapping up at about the same time. The announcement of your pie contest winners can take place at a number of different times, depending on your preference. You can take a short intermission before the final scene and announce the winners then. Or you can wait until the play is completely over and make the announcements. You might even considering splitting it: category winners before the final scene and the Grand Champion after. Maybe the judges need a little more time to decide on the overall winner or maybe you’d just like to build a little suspense. Any way you choose, be prepared for some gasps of surprise and tears of joy. Bakers have been known to become a little emotional over their pies.
If you anticipate hosting a Pie Palooza more than once, consider creating a traveling trophy for the Grand Champion pie baker to take home and return the following year. Spray paint a pie pan gold. Gussy up a whisk. Carve into a cutting board. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just something official looking. This will pass from one proud pie baker to the next as the years go on.
Following the play and any pie contest announcements, put on a jumbo-size pot of coffee for the crowd and recruit some folks to serve the pie left over from the judging. Pie can be a messy business, so aprons for your servers are a really excellent idea. My school invested in a set embroidered with “Pie Palooza Staff”—which was a fun touch. You may even want to set aside the winning pies on a separate table and offer them on a first come, first serve basis. To be sure, people will be anxious to take a bite out of the Grand Champion Pie. As I’ve mentioned, the most delicious advantage of the pie contest is refreshments are automatically provided!
The Pie Auction
If you’re interested in raising some really impressive funds, then you need to add the pie auction option onto your event. You can host this in addition to the pie contest or in lieu of the pie contest. If it’s in addition to the pie contest, then ask your pie contest participants to bring in two of every pie they plan on entering—one to be judged and one to be auctioned off. If this seems daunting to some, then you can always offer to take single pies for just the auction portion of the event, too. If you choose to host just the pie auction without the pie contest, then you’ll be asking folks to bring in pies for the auction and then maybe begging for some extras to serve as refreshments.
Now, this is important. Go on the search for someone, anyone with some auctioneering experience. I guarantee it will be well worth the effort! A professional auctioneer can sell Grandma Esther’s sweet potato pie for a hundred dollars without breaking a sweat. When it comes to pie and a good cause, you’ll be amazed at what people bring out of their pockets with a little expert encouragement. You’ll also find that people will show up just to enjoy the auction, not plan on bidding on anything, and get caught up in the competition of winning something! Chalk it up to the magic of an auction…or the power of pie.
After the performance of the final scene of the play (and after the announcement of the pie contest winners), the pie auction can begin. The auctioneer might start with the winning pies or end with those. Any way they slice it, the auctioneer will find those entry cards the pie bakers filled out to be handy in describing any particular pie before the bidding begins.
The Silent Auction Option
If you can’t seem to find a true auctioneer or anyone who is brave enough to act like one, then a silent auction would be another way to go. When the pies arrive, they can be set on a table with a piece of paper set next to each pie for bidding. You can establish a starting bid (or not). You could also tape the entry card filled out by the baker next to their pie. A time is set when the bidding is closed, and then the winning bids are announced. It’s a more low-key option, but a nice plan B.
Final Notes for the Big Day
Putting the Word Out
You’ll want to start marketing your Pie Palooza several months before the big day. If you advertise the pie contest and/or pie auction with enthusiasm, you’re bound to get the local bakers of your community excited. Posters, ads in the local paper, and an e-mail chain are all effective ways of getting the attention of pie bakers and pie eaters alike. It also never hurts to plant a few people around town who will brag about how they’ll win the pie contest with one hand tied up in their apron strings. There’s nothing wrong with nurturing a competitive community spirit—not when it comes to a Pie Palooza.
Organizing your Space and Helpers
Plan out the areas you’ll need for your Pie Palooza: the stage, the judging table, the auction table, and the entry station (which should also double as the “pay station” following the auction). And if you find yourself running out of table space for pies, consider setting up some shelving instead—a total space saver!
For the big day, recruit several energetic people to be your pie runners. In the beginning of the event, the pie runners will take pies from bakers and place them in the appropriate area: the judging tables or the auction tables. Later, the pie runners can hold up individual pies for the auctioneer and then deliver them to the winning bidder in the crowd. And as I mentioned, you’ll also want some folks to be pie servers when refreshments are served.
A Final Crumb
The Pie Palooza fundraiser can be held any time of year, but it may be some welcome relief from “cabin fever” in the dead of winter. In any season, it’s a wonderful way to bring community together. I would highly recommend it to any school or organization looking for a way to raise some funds and dig their fork into some prize-winning pie!
Cowgirl Cookie to the Rescue Fundraiser Options
I’ll just mention this. Fundraising is not something I love. I feel stressed out just thinking about car washes and candy bar sales. However, I am very, very happy to report that incorporating a fundraiser into any one of the Cowgirl Cookie plays has proved to be both painless and profitable. Maybe it’s because great entertainment naturally makes people hungry, and when you bring out the barbecue or baked goods, everyone wins. So, if you’re ready to put the “fun” back into “fundraising,” it will be Cowgirl Cookie to the rescue! Check out the following ideas:
A Wild West Dinner Show
It’s entirely possible to turn a Cowgirl Cookie play into a Wild West dinner show. It’s been done quite successfully and without much fuss. Anyone who loves comfort food is not going to object to buying a show ticket that promises pulled pork, baked beans, and coleslaw as part of their evening. Keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to sell tickets in advance for a dinner show. This allows you to make sure you have enough seating, and you can plan for how much food you will need to prepare for the hungry crowd.
The easiest way to host a Wild West Dinner Show is to set up a buffet before the show begins so that folks can fill their plates, settle in, and enjoy a great meal during the performance. Anything in the theme of stick-to-your ribs, chuckwagon-style fare would be appropriate. Think barbecued chicken, potato salad, and corn-on-the-cob. Or chili, cornbread, and green beans. The menu possibilities are endless, but the advantage with a buffet is that everyone has some choices.
Use the intermission to break for dessert—which could be as simple as a wide assortment of homemade cookies. With a pot of coffee on and cold milk available, everyone’s bound to stroll away happy!
A Cowgirl Cookie Contest
Well, considering that Cowgirl Cookie is our main character and that all types of cookies are mentioned in all three plays, a perfect fundraiser would be a Cowgirl Cookie Contest. There’s even mention of a town cookie contest in the first and second shows! So it can’t be denied. Cowgirls and cookies and contests were meant to be together.
In the weeks prior to your show, you’ll want to advertise the cookie contest and ask participants to bring in several dozen of their particular cookie entry. Organize the cookie entries as they come in, set a few cookies aside for judging, and display the rest on a table for the crowd to buy and enjoy. With coffee and milk standing by, refreshments are suddenly checked off the list!
You could keep the judging simple and just have your selected judges choose a Grand Champion, or you could break things down into categories (traditional, unusual, drop cookies, bar cookies, etc.) and have a winner in each category. Make sure your judges are not only hungry but swift and sure in their decision-making. You could go so far as creating a formal judging sheet…or let them wing it. Instead of using a panel of judges, you could also just devise a way for the crowd to vote for their favorite. Cookie contests are one of those things that can stay casual or explode into fierce competition. Create what you will.
Use the intermission built into the script to announce the cookie contest winners, if you like. Or skip the intermission and keep the suspense going until the show has finished. Keep in mind that if you’re performing the first Cowgirl Cookie play, someone will need to cover Grandma Sugar’s ears while the announcement of the “prize winnin’, blue ribbon” entry is made. If she doesn’t win, she’ll throw a hissy fit, for sure.
A Good Old-Fashioned Bake Sale
Ah, don’t underestimate the beauty of a good old-fashioned bake sale. And don’t deny the enthusiastic bakers of your community the opportunity to turn their ovens on! With enough advance notice, they’ll be bagging up all kinds of treats to be sold. You could even encourage them to bring in the cookies mentioned in the play: chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, gingersnaps, molasses spice cookies, macaroon meringues, peanut butter cookies, shortbread, thumbprint cookies, butterscotch cookies, and (for a challenge) key lime cookies. A bake sale is a modest fundraiser, but so very easy. Why not go for it? The play is under an hour and folks will be drifting about afterwards, looking for a cookie. Take advantage!
Serve Up a Supper with your Shakespeare
Both of my Shakespearean Spoofs, Much Ado About Soup and Midsummer Night’s Spaghetti, can expand into supper shows quite easily, if you wish. Given that we’re talking about soup and spaghetti, you don’t need fancy accommodations or expensive ingredients to pull off something fun and delicious. Consider the following possibilities:
Supper with Much Ado About Soup
Don’t underestimate the power of soup. There’s nothing like it as far as satisfying hunger and nothing easier to make for a crowd. You can even make sure to have vegetarian, vegan, paleo, and gluten-free versions to address everyone’s taste buds. Soup is simple to serve, easy to eat, and needs nothing more than a nice piece of bread on the side to be a meal. Soup gets better with time, too. Plug the crockpots in before the curtain raises and pull off the lids after the final bow. Your meal is ready to go!
One idea I heard from a successful soup party hostess was that she had her guests bring their own bowl and spoon to the event. Ingenious! No dishwashing! Another possibility might be to sell mugs or bowls for a profit to audience members who not only want to sample soup but hope to take their serving ware home with them. One middle school drama group partnered up with the art department of their school, and art students made handmade clay bowls for the event. Brilliant! Your soup supper can be set up as a community potluck, a soup buffet with a donation jar available, or a dinner show in which tickets are sold ahead of time. The possibilities are endless!
Supper with Midsummer Night's Spaghetti
Think pasta, add sauce, and suddenly you have a meal that appeals to most everyone. Spaghetti dinners are popular for a reason—they’re easy to put together and feed a crowd like nobody’s business. Everything can be prepped far in advance—the salad, the bread, the sauce—and there’s even a trick to keeping pasta fresh and hot. If it’s been sitting for a while and gotten clumpy, you can simply run very hot water over it to loosen it up and it’s suddenly revived and ready to serve.
The other advantage to a spaghetti dinner is that it’s relatively inexpensive to pull off. If you sell tickets ahead of time, then you’ll know how exactly how much to invest in boxes of pasta and cans of tomatoes. And who doesn’t love a fun show and delicious supper combined?