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Rotary Clubs to Debut New Fundraiser

September 26, 2017

BENNINGTON - Bennington's two Rotary Clubs are joining forces to put on a new fundraiser they hope will allow them to continue offering scholarships and other services to the community.

On Oct. 7, Bennington and Catamount Rotary Clubs will host "Rotary Roundup," which will feature a tag sale in the morning, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a live auction. The event will be held at the CB Brush building at 190 North Street. In addition to the tag sale and auction, there will be live music and food from Ramunto's.

Catamount club president Jenica McEvoy said that the idea for the event began during a brainstorming session between herself and Bennington club president Vicki Wilson.

Both clubs have struggled to reach their fundraising goals since the Bennington Chamber of Commerce announced in March of 2015 that it would no longer host the Bennington Car Show, which Rotarians had been heavily involved in since its inception in 1966. The Bennington Rotary Club raised about $8,000 annually from the car show, most of which was put toward scholarships. The Catamount Rotary Club, in the show's final years, were making $2,000 to 3,000 selling concessions along with the NorShaft Lions and the Vietnam Veterans of America, said club member Charlie Letourneau.

"When we lost the car show, that was our main event, our signature fundraiser," said Wilson. In January 2016, the club tried hosting a raffle for a cruise to raise the money they wouldn't be receiving from the car show, but ended up barely breaking even.

When the car show started in the 60s, said Bennington club member Ted Bird, there wasn't any other competition, unlike in later years when many car enthusiasts had to choose between the Bennington show and the Adirondack Nationals Car Show in Saratoga, which began in 1989 and also takes place in September. Bird said that the car show really became profitable with the introduction of the flea market, where vendors, several hundred by the end, would pay the club for space.

Then-Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce Joann Erenhouse said in 2015 that the Car Show had been losing money for 10 years. "If you do a business analysis you would look at it and see that it's been an event that has consistently had diminishing returns," she said at the time, noting that in 2013, only $13,000 had been raised by the event, $8,000 of which went to the Bennington Rotary Club for their scholarships. In 2014, she said, they made about $2,000 less, which led to the decision to cancel the event in 2015.

Letourneau said that the Catamount club has been able to keep funding its annual scholarships through last year with reserve funds, but this year, as those funds begin to dry up, the club is considering the possibility of cutting down what they are able to offer to local students.

The tag sale and auction are made possible by donations from community members and businesses. "We're so mindful that in a small town its the same people being asked every time," said Wilson, "and yet they keep stepping up time and time again." Both presidents praised Duane O'Dell of Road Toad Auctions, who offered to conduct the auction portion of the event for a small fee. McEvoy said O'Dell, "has been an immense help with advice and guidance, since this is such a new project for all of us."

In 2016, on the 50th anniversary of the Bennington Car Show, Bert Brown of Pownal organized and hosted the first Green Mountain Car Show and Swapmeet at the Green Mountain Racetrack in Pownal, which has now become an annual event. Proceeds from that show are donated to local charities.

Author: Derek Carson
The Bennington Banner

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