Bluegrass Music in the Park Lions in Rolla, Missouri, know how to pack a park with happy people. Offer free bluegrass music and some great food, and it’s a sure thing that the community will turn out by the hundreds to enjoy themselves. For the fourth year, Lions’ “Bluegrass in the Park” captivated music fans and helped raise money for club service. “The weather was perfect, complete with a big ol’ moon overhead,” says Mark Leathers, one of the club’s 139 members. “More than 300 hamburgers and 100 hot dogs were served up by the club. The featured hamburger was the ‘doughnut burger.’” He explains, “Yeah, that’s right, a hamburger served between sliced glazed doughnuts, lightly toasted on the griddle. It was quite the rave among patrons.” Lion Ray Heniff, chair and organizer of the festival, believes that Rolla, located in south central Missouri, is fortuitously home to some of the area’s most talented bands and performers. From his perch in the sound board control area, he saw the crowd’s exuberant reaction. “People clapped and tapped along [during the five-hour stage show]. You could tell they were enjoying themselves.” Next year Lions plan to mix it up a little by including rockabilly music to entice younger music lovers to attend. Community Teamwork Sets Example Members of the Elburn, Illinois, Lions Club never have to second- guess themselves about how they can top the previous year’s biggest fundraiser. They found a winner a long time ago and they’re sticking with it. Located approximately 45 miles west of downtown Chicago, the small town of Elburn, Illinois, has a rural feel and a population of less than 5,000. When Lions sponsor Elburn Days during a long weekend in late summer, the population temporarily swells to more than five times that number as people visit 25-acre Lions Park for the festivities. “It’s a collaborative effort utilizing all our members, their families and friends,” says Lion Pam Hall. Lions may sponsor Elburn Days, but they know that it’s as much of a town team effort as it has been a tradition for 82 years. The 171-member club recruits other members of the community to keep things running smoothly. Everybody works together—local Boy Scouts help with grounds maintenance and cleanup and are rewarded with a donation, as are other organizations that provide volunteer labor. “Many volunteers put in hundreds of hours in the months and weeks before the annual festival,” Hall says. Even though Lions have been sponsoring Elburn Days for so many decades, she emphasizes that they leave nothing to chance. Each component of the event has a chairperson to organize volunteers who work on the details of only their particular project. Monthly meetings are held to share progress reports and ideas or concerns. “Once Elburn Days arrives, we all work in our separate areas with our volunteers to run each area as efficiently as possible. By utilizing everyone in the community instead of just members, we can spread the word about volunteerism,” she explains. A parade, craft show, library book sale, rummage sale, dance show, and even an “Elburn Idol” competition, are part of the fun. A 5K run, battle of the bands and live music, tractor pull and the usual carnival rides, games and food stalls, one run by Elburn Leos, are other attractions. “We offer family fun at an affordable price,” says Hall of the festival’s phenomenal eight-decade-long success. “We have something for everyone with no cover charge. We’re a small community with strong family ties.” Hall says she’s struck by how many people tell her that they attend the festival because “it’s a great way to reconnect with folks you’ve lost touch with over the years.” Connect they do—that’s how families in Elburn help keep one tradition alive in changing times. River Race Brings on the Excitement The River Rat Race, an annual event sponsored by the Athol and Orange, Massachusetts, Lions Clubs in early April draws participants from all over New England. The six-mile race begins in Athol and ends at Hachey’s Landing in Orange. With a parade and carnival held in conjunction with the canoe race, it’s a way for New Englanders to celebrate the arrival of spring. The only problem, says Athol Lion Keith Kent, is that sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t take the gentle hint that it’s time for the warmer weather to make an appearance. “There’ve been times when there are tiny chunks of ice on the river because it’s still so cold.” Regardless of weather, the race has been on for nearly 50 years. Lions usually earn about $5,000 from entry fees and by selling concessions during the festivities. Canoes and kayaks— around 300 annually—are paddled furiously by participants who are often dressed in the most outlandish outfits they can find as they tackle the fast-flowing river.
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