Boot Hill Museum hosted its Eighth Annual Boots & Beer Auction Friday night, with the highlight of the evening being an announcement that the Mariah Fund is awarding the museum a $500,000 grant for its planned expansion project.

Jeff Thorpe, president and CEO of the Mariah Fund, made the announcement during the annual fundraising event at Hoover Pavilion in Wright Park. The grant is intended to augment the museum’s expansion efforts later this year.

Through the Dodge City STAR Bond projects, Boot Hill Museum is planning to construct a 12,000-square-foot building to house eight new exhibits, a lobby, a gift shop, a covered back patio, and a 3,000-square-foot temporary exhibit hall. The museum must raise more than $1 million to cover the interior costs of the new building, and all money raised from the auction is being dedicated to the project’s funding.

"This was the motivation we all needed to keep moving forward," said Laura Tawater, the museum’s donor relations and marketing manager. "It gives us all hope, and we are so grateful."

The museum’s staff and board of directors were present for the announcement and appreciated the Mariah Fund’s grant.

"The Mariah Fund has been so generous to Boot Hill Museum for many years, and we are so appreciative for all that they have given us," said Boot Hill Museum Director Lara Brehm. "This grant will help fund a huge portion of the new exhibits building."

The Mariah Fund will be given authority over naming rights to the 3,000-square-foot temporary exhibit building. The organization, a 501(c)3 private foundation that provides capital funding to nonprofit organizations in Dodge City and other western Kansas communties for the purpose of enhancing regional tourism, maintains an interest in temporary and traveling exhibits that bring locals and visitors new experiences on a regular basis.

The Boots & Beer event featured gourmet food from Boot Hill Casino Firesides, Prime on the Nine, Guymon Petro, Bella Italia, and Boot Hill Casino Conference Center. Beer and cocktails were provided by Boot Hill Distillery, Dodge City Brewing, and Western Beverage.