June 7, 2017 – West Bend, WI – There was plenty to laugh about at Jansen Family Park last Friday evening at a new comedy night charity fundraiser hosted by the Noon Rotary Club of West Bend. The event was a success in its first year with comedians Michael Thorne and Benny Quash keeping nearly 150 audience members in stitches.
Joel Herriges, president-elect for the Noon Rotary Club, conceptualized and coordinated the event with the Rotary’s fundraising committee.
“We needed (an event) that could generate dollars without too much volunteer assistance,” Herriges said. “Something unique and not dependent upon weather.”
Prior to the comedy night charity fundraiser, Rotary hosted Seafood Fest (later renamed Riverfest) from 1991 – 2016. The food and music festival was held at Regner Park the weekend after Memorial Day with the intent of generating funds to support the West Bend Riverwalk.
Given the unpredictable nature of Wisconsin weather, even in late May, the outdoor event was hit and miss over the past several years.
Current Noon Rotary president Kellie Boone volunteered as a bartender at the new comedy event and likes the potential.
“I thought this event was a great idea,” Boone said. “It was fun, weather proof, and a type of event that is not common in West Bend. I look forward to seeing it grow next year.”
In addition to standard tickets, the event also offered “Corporate Tables” for up to eight. Many local business owners reserved these for employees and clients. Chris Wenzel, Rotarian and owner of Alexssa in downtown West Bend, shared Boone’s enthusiasm after attending the charity event with some of his team members, family, and clients.
“Everyone had a terrific night,” Wenzel said. “I’m excited to see next year’s additions to an already near-perfect event. I thought that (this) was one of the best events we’ve done since I joined Rotary in 2004.”
In order to continue supporting charitable projects, fundraisers like the comedy night are very important to Rotary’s future. Herriges is also eager for a return of this event in 2018 and plans to work with the Rotary fundraising committee to improve upon the successes of this first-year show.
“We have a wrap up meeting in a couple of weeks,” Herriges said. “We are looking to try and make it bigger and better. (Our) projects all improve the quality of life in West Bend and the Washington County area.”
Like most service clubs, members of Rotary pay dues which merely fund the operation of their clubs. While many members also make additional contributions to their club’s coffers, fundraising is critical to contributing to worthy charitable causes both here at home and abroad. All proceeds from events like the comedy night go towards a cause in line with at least one of Rotary’s six areas of focus: peace and conflict prevention, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, and economic and community development.
Some of the local projects supported by Rotary include donations to the Regner Park revitalization, contributions to the new Museum of Wisconsin Art facility, and a face-lift of Old Settler’s Park. Through similar fundraising efforts, Rotary also supports scholarships for West Bend High School graduates, and students at UW-Washington County, and Moraine Park Technical College. International accomplishments by the Noon Rotary Club of West Bend include providing clean water to folks in Haiti, books and education to children in El Salvador, and ShelterBox disaster relief kits for victims of the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
William Schroeder is a lifelong resident of West Bend and has served the Noon Rotary Club of West Bend as Secretary for the past 4 years.