The Spudman Scores in Idaho Idaho may be famous for its spuds, but you won’t find any couch potatoes in Burley on the last weekend of July. That’s when the Burley Lions Club sponsors its world-famous triathlon, a four-hour event that began 25 years ago when Lions decided to try a new fundraiser. The name was easy to choose— the Spudman Triathlon—because, after all, it was being held in the heart of southern Idaho’s agricultural community. Not only was it fun, it proved to be spectacularly profitable. After a race several years ago that drew 800 participants, Lions did a survey to learn how much money “the Spudman” brought into the community from lodging, food and shopping. The result shocked Lions: the weekend tally was more than $1.5 million. “Now,” Scott Bloxham says, “It’s easily more than twice that amount for each year’s triathlon. We have 2,000 registrants and probably another 5,000 people in the crowd.” So many people want to enter the competition that seven years ago, Lions had to cap the number at 2,000 for safety’s sake. Individual and team entries are now chosen by a lottery. Last year, nearly 2,400 people tried for a spot in the Spudman. Winners in each category receive a small ceramic spud statue. “For the first few years, I was the director, and I also raced until it grew so big that I was unable to do both,” Bloxham says. He has now handed off race director duties to Lion Cade Richmond. “I think the reason the Spudman is so popular is the course itself,” he points out. Triathlons are difficult, but the Burley Lions Spudman is a little different. “There’s a 1-mile swim on the Snake River, 25 miles of biking and a 6-mile run. Swimming in the Snake River is easy,” Bloxham says. “It’s got a 4-mile-an hour current. Some could float it faster than swim it.” The biking and running portion, too, is relatively easy since most of it is on fairly flat terrain. “It’s a lot of fun. We’ve had people from 32 states and Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, England and Ireland compete. A large number of athletes seem to come from Utah, and a lot of families with 10 or 12 people register together. It’s a great course for first-timers,” Bloxham believes. The Spudman gets a lot of press. A national magazine for triathletes has featured the Spudman as one of the best 10 competitions to enter. It costs $5 to enter the lottery, and $80 if chosen as a registrant; teams of two pay $120 and a three-person team costs $160. “We get a lot of help every year from different organizations, and we pay them a stipend,” Bloxham says. Last year, 18 groups including the Burley Leo Club received $18,000 for their assistance. In the 25 years since the Spudman started, Lions have netted more than $700,000, Bloxham says. The money has been recycled back into the community, including donations to the Idaho Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation, school vision screenings, Leader Dogs, park upgrades and many other service projects. “We took in $175,000 last year, but it cost $70,000 to run it,” he reveals. Another bonus: several of the athletes who compete in the Spudman have joined the Burley Lions Club, bringing membership to 48. “That’s good for us,” Bloxham says. “We can use the help.” Fundraising Fun at Lions’ Garage Sale Cook, Minnesota, Lion Mark Eyre believes there’s truth to the saying that one man’s trash is another’s treasure. Every year he watches as lines three blocks long start forming at least five hours before the doors open for the Cook Lions’ “Million Dollar Garage Sale.” The three-day event held on the grounds of a school has averaged about $20,000 in profits for the club for the past 14 years. “The name came about because it was catchy. We kept it because it worked and we do get so much stuff,” he explains. The sale is more popular than ever. Eyre says there are several good reasons to keep the garage sale going—promoting the club, keeping landfills from clogging by recycling used merchandise and helping the local hospital auxiliary by giving volunteers donated clothing to sell (“We got four new members by doing that,” he points out). Cook Lions also recruited new members from their high profile event in a community of 620—“at least six,” Eyre says. “All 47 members are involved in either the collection of donated items, setting up and pricing for several days before the sale, working as cashiers, helping to sell all the items and the cleanup after the sale ends,” he explains. Members of the nearby Orr Lions Club sell raffle tickets from a booth as their own fundraiser, and many other volunteers are needed to help the sale go smoothly. A women’s fraternal organization operates a food stand as a fundraiser—good for shoppers and better for Lions since two of their members joined the Cook Lions Club. There are always a number of boats that draw attention, appropriate in a state that bills itself as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes.” Storage of small and bulky items is not a problem for Lions, who collect items throughout the year for the sale. Lions are able to use an old house they purchased for $1 and three donated storage facilities at no charge. “We’ve sold just about everything,” Eyre says. And that includes the kitchen sink—plenty of them—along with toilets, cars, boats, snowmobiles, six-person hot tubs and lots of new and used construction items. “We had a metal tool two years ago and when the potential buyer asked what it did, no one knew. He bought it for $5 anyway and said it would look good hanging in his garage.” The most expensive sale Lions made was a boat that sold for $3,000. Profits support a food bank, scholarships and community beautification projects, as well as donations to LCIF, Leader Dogs, Minnesota Lions Eye Bank and cancer research. Eyre says that despite the large crowds, Lions have never had any trouble at the sale. There was, however, one slight mishap. “A boy rode his bike to the sale. He parked it—a Lion put a price tag on it and we sold it,” Eyre reveals. “We did recover it later for him, though.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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