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Dinner Party - Cougs Thinking CougsFirst!

CougsFirst! Dinner group shot

The invites have been sent, the RSVPs are filing in and it is official—you are hosting an event.

Now the pressure is on to have premium goods on-site, from the food and drink to the cookware, appliances, music, landscaping, rentals and even the party planning itself. Fortunately, as a proud and savvy Washington State University alumnus, you know there is a Cougar-owned or-operated business that can check off every box on your event checklist.

To showcase how Cougar products and services can take part in event planning and everyday life, a variety of CougsFirst! businesses donated a high-profile dinner to the Cougar Athletic Fund’s annual auction, “A Night with Cougar Football.” Hosted by alumni Michael Mills, vice president of Mills Music, and Mary Jo Bradley, owner of Avid Events Inc., the lucky donors of the auction item were wined and dined at the couple’s private home—all with Coug-owned and-operated products and services.

“We have an outstanding university [where] we pump out some unbelievable entrepreneurs, managers and owners of businesses and we need to intentionally think about supporting our fellow Cougs,” says Jack Thompson, former WSU football athlete star and founder of CougsFirst!. “Why wouldn’t I want to give another Cougar an opportunity to earn my business? That’s the essence of why we started CougsFirst! to begin with.”

CougsFirst! dinner group cheers

Taking lead in the kitchen for the Coug-centric night, Mills says he and Bradley wanted to offer something that made an impact to their fellow alumni and Cougar network. “We wanted to give back to the Cougar Nation, to show products and services offered by Cougs to host dinner parties,” Mills says. “Anything to do from the barbecue to the setting to the food and wine is all from [someone] who is in a Cougar business.”

Guests arrived to the dinner in style via MTR Western transportation to take in the collaborative menu from Mills and Bradley that sported the finest in Cougar fare and football, with pigskin legends Thompson and Mkristo Bruce also in attendance. A spread of Washington State wines were poured and paired with precision alongside the six-course meal, including selections from Gordon Estate, Doubleback, Ste. Michelle Estates, Frenchman Hills and Goose Ridge Vineyards.

The diners enjoyed a delicious assortment of Coug-based plates from stuffed mushrooms with Special K Ranch ground beef, Savory Spice Shop spices and Beecher’s Cheese to Special K Ranch tenderloin steak au poivre and Simply Sweet Cupcakes Red Velvet and Salted Caramel alongside Seely Mints.

Bradley’s event planning expertise allowed the evening to ebb and flow from dinner and drinks to trivia and door prizes. Guests also enjoyed swag goodies from Washington State Connections that allowed them to don their crimson and gray during this proud Cougar moment.

Tim Melton, owner of Creative Closets, was drawn to the Cougar Athletic Fund auction item because it supports athletic scholarships and CougsFirst!. “CougsFirst! is all about the networking and business opportunities—for employment, for sharing ideas, for trading things and supporting all of the other Cougar-owned businesses,” Melton says. “We all have events where we are having people over… the list goes on of all of the Cougar-owned businesses that you could reach out to and get almost anything you need at any event.”

For Mkristo Bruce, former NFL defensive end, WSU football all-star alum and Brotherton Cadiallac Buick GMC sales manager, the evening and its cause were near and dear to his own collegiate experience. “Donations like the CougsFirst! dinner are huge,” Bruce says of the Cougar Athletic Fund donors and scholarships. “The big thing for me personally was that I earned a scholarship, got to play football and got to earn my college degree. I met my wife [in Pullman], we had our son at Pullman Memorial Hospital so for me, I have all of these things that I wouldn’t have got unless I had donors out there to help pay for a scholarship for me to play. Without those donors, I wouldn’t have my beautiful wife and family.”

Bruce says he was originally connected with CougsFirst! through Jack Thompson and founded his career with Brotherton through that family network. “Events like this are so huge because it’s building a network,” Bruce says. “When doing business with other people, why not think CougsFirst!? It is reaching out to different people in the Cougar family and connecting them together.”

This unique CougsFirst! event is easily replicable for your next dinner party, Cougar tailgate, work luncheon or even baby shower. Go Cougs! #CougsFirst!

CougsFirst! Dinner Video

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