A Rotary that grandfather wouldn’t recognize
July 6, 2016
If you stop for lunch at City Park after the parade on Monday, chances are the person serving your burger or pouring your beer will be a member of the Park City Sunrise Rotary Club. The Fourth of July is a big fundraiser for the club, which channels the proceeds into a range of service projects.
But the members of the Sunrise club may have a new fundraiser up their sleeves this year. If all goes according to plan, the Rotarians will take over Historic Main Street on Oct. 22 to try to set a world record for the largest organized shot ski.
"A thousand people holding a bunch of skis that are pegged together with shots on it," explains Sunrise Rotarian Pam Woll. "You have shot glasses on it and everybody’s going to take a shot at the same time. We’re trying to get a thousand people."
A thousand people?
According to Woll, the idea for the "shot ski" originated in Breckenridge, Colo. In 2013, the first year of the event, 192 people with nothing better to do bolted a collection of old skis together to form one 313-foot-long ski and attached shot glasses to it. Then, in one choreographed move, they lifted the ski and drank a toast to Ullr, who is said to be the Norse god of snow. (For an entertaining history of the event, visit the Outside magazine website listed at the end of this story.)
Since then, the shot ski has turned into a contest, with various North American towns contending for the title. Last January, Breckenridge reclaimed its crown, with 831 people drinking from a ski that reached 1,301 feet in length. The spearmint Schnapps was provided by Breckenridge Distillery and the $5-a-person entry fee went to the Breckenridge Mountain Rotary Club.
"We want to beat them and be in the world records, even though anything related to alcohol can’t actually be in the Guinness Book of World Records," Woll says.
To use Pam Woll's words, Sunrise is "not your typical Rotary." And the same could be said for the Park City Rotary Club, says Rotarian Jenni Smith.
"We’re not the Rotary clubs that your parents or grandparents were part of – (or rather) your grandfather or father, because it wasn’t until — I guess it was the mid-80s — that they allowed women (to join)."
Thirty years later, the membership at many clubs around the world is still dominated by men. Not so in Park City, where women play a very active role and the two new presidents are both female – Smith at the Park City Rotary Club and Woll at the Park City Sunrise Rotary Club. The two were inaugurated for the upcoming year (July 1 to June 30) in separate ceremonies last week.
Utah native Jenni Smith is well known to many Parkites as the 35-year employee of Park City Mountain Resort who rose from ticket checker to president and general manager of the ski area. Smith resigned two years ago when the ski area was acquired by Vail Resorts.
Pam Woll grew up in Florida and attended the University of Alabama, then went into business in Tuscaloosa. She moved to Park City in 1998 and was one of the founding members of the Sunrise club in 1999. Today she is the sales manager for the Swag Lounge at Whitney, which sells imprinted promotional products.
"I grew up with a dad that was a Rotarian, and my great grandfather was a charter member of Miami, Florida’s club," Woll says.
The Park City club has a membership of about 100 and the Sunrise club has more than 80 members. "I think it’s unusual for a community our size to have two really active, robust Rotary clubs," Smith says. "A lot of places, they’re losing members. And we both seem to be continuing to grow, or at least maintain."
Both Woll and Smith say they get questions from other clubs wondering how they do so well attracting and retaining members.
"And the answer is: 'We do a lot of service work,' ’cause, you know, our motto is Service above Self," Woll says. "But we have a lot of parties, and we enjoy our time together, and after every service work we have a party. And that is the secret."
"Our club’s the same way," Smith says. "We genuinely have fun at our meetings. We genuinely like each other and enjoy spending time together. It’s a really broad, diverse group of people from all across the community in both clubs. And everybody is very involved in volunteering, in service in the community."
Smith and Woll struggle to identify a difference between the two clubs other than the obvious one: As the name suggests, Sunrise members meet at the crack of dawn (7:15 a.m.) each Thursday while Park City members meet for lunch every Tuesday at 12:15 p.m.
Members of both clubs participate in service projects in Guatemala. "We’ve been doing this, I think, for five or six years, and we work in small villages, and we’re either working on a clean-water project – a gray-water system or bringing clean water to their community – or build stoves," Smith says. "This last year we built stoves, and that was quite an experience."
Each club also organizes the festivities at a major local holiday – Sunrise Rotary on the Fourth of July and Park City Rotary on Miners Day. The Miners Day celebration includes the mucking and drilling contest and the popular Running of the Balls, which awards prizes to the sponsors of golf balls that win a gravity-powered race to the bottom of Main Street. Smith says proceeds from Miners Day are divided among local nonprofits.
Both clubs also conduct annual Christmas programs. The Sunrise club holds a Christmas party at the high school for the Latino community that attracted about 500 people last year. "I mean, it’s a big, big deal that our club puts a lot of time and effort into," Woll says.
The Park City club recently unveiled a Christmas fundraiser called the Giving Tree with proceeds also designated for local nonprofits. "Decorate a tree and it’s auctioned off to the highest bidder," Smith explains. "Last year was our first year and it was successful, but we want to grow that." This year the club is planning a Christmas tree stroll at different locations around town.
Many of the clubs' activities also involve high school students from local Interact clubs. The South Summit Interact Club is sponsored by the Sunrise Rotary and the Park City Interact Club is sponsored by the Park City Rotary.
"It’s amazing to see, when you take the Interact kids on a trip, like to Guatemala, to see them appreciate what they have because of the living conditions that they’re witnessing there," Smith says. "And then how much fun they have and how much they enjoy working in those little communities."
Both local Rotary clubs also fund college scholarships for Park City High School graduates.
Among other projects, Woll says the Sunrise club donates dictionaries to third graders, and holds an annual household hazardous-waste collection day. And the club has just adopted a new cause – serving meals to homeless teens at the Volunteers of America Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City. Woll says she would like to see that project emphasized.
"I feel like that we do a lot of great things, but I really want to see us serve somebody who really, really, really needs it."
Although Smith speaks highly of the Guatemala experience, she says she would like to see the Park City club focus more on projects closer to home.
"I would like to see our club get more involved in doing some service projects down in the Navajo Nation," Smith says. She suggests that the club could partner with another Utah Rotary club or another nonprofit such as The Hope Alliance that already visits the Navajo Nation. "It’s a little hard to get in on the reservations because they’re a little insular and they have different values and different beliefs than we do."
Smith also recognizes that you don't have to look beyond the Park City area to find a worthy cause. "I think everybody thinks this community is really wealthy. There are a lot of people in this community who are in need. And one of the projects that we’re working on is a larger grant process where we spend some money that we have, and we're looking at some of these different projects in the community, whether it’s supporting the first-generation college students in a family, whether they’re Latino or not; or PC Tots, the affordable preschool; or historic preservation. So there’s a lot of things that we’re looking at."
For more information on the local Rotary clubs, visit parkcitysunriserotary.org and parkcityrotary.com. For the history of the Breckenridge shot ski celebration, go to outsideonline.com/2048596/how-pull-world-record-shot-ski.
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