Fall in Maine means local Rotary auction fund raising time in my home town.
The local Houlton Rotary Club celebrates its 100th birthday this year. And leading up to Thanksgiving week, the local club members work hard behind the scenes. Preparing for the biggest fundraiser of the year, the fall rotary auction. It started out as radio only for the audience connection. Just tune in, bid high, stick around for all three nights of the Houlton Rotary radio auction.
The first radio auction for Rotary started in 1956.
In time with technology advances, the auction became radio, television and Internet broadcasts options to play the game. There is even a Facebook auction off shoot of the Rotary auction to increase the reach and help the bottom line of fund raising for local projects.
Area businesses donate goods and services to list in the local supplement of auction items to bid on with something for everyone in the small community broadcast listening area.
Those items to use as the bait to bring in bids are a big part of the fund raising numbers. But lots of home made smaller items from folks out in the bidding audience are the cream to raise money.
People scan the supplement list of items hard and mark items to watch and bid on during the three day event. Happy meals from Mickey Dee’s for the kids in the early hours of bidding.
Toys and sport game, movie passes. Bigger three night special items that cost a little more for the older bidders who wear larger wallets. Many hunt down the home made hand knit real wool mittens. Some bid on the Ward log cabin kit and dream of where to put it on a Maine land listing.
Looking for Gladys Dow’s annual chocolate log. Joe Beasley’s cajun Louisiana style spiced jar of sauce. Bob Blanchette’s and Kaye McGinnis’s fudge listings in the local newspaper bid list of offerings advertising supplement.
Or bidding on a local grocery store gift certificate, a case of motor oil, home heating oil, a cord of wood. Something for everyone to bid on. Gift certificates, savings bonds from area banks, books, puzzles, games. Home made cribbage boards go high too.
Home made mittens, cords of firewood, pontoon boat rides around a local lake, an ultralight ride up and over your small Maine town and the countryside.
Everyone contributes to the auction items to raise over $50,000 to pour into local Houlton Maine community projects. Ads from the advertising supplement, oil raffle tickets, and donations to on air causes like the local library, hospital, school.
These revenue streams all part of the gross income and after the expenses create the year’s net profit to divvy up among well deserving projects. Capital expenditures and not a million smaller operating budget contributions the focus.
To do something like an outdoor amphitheater project for the community band, Veteran’s day ceremonies, lots of other uses.
The track building of an engineered hill and garage on top for soap box derby racing. A school performing arts center or much needed medical equipment at a local hospital. All part of the fund raising proceeds placement in the local area.
Some local projects highlighted in the auction advertising supplement are this year’s one time recipients of funding. Other side hustles on air for added awareness and promotion to a list of on going worthwhile projects get attention too.
“Buy a boot, give a hoot”.
The local slogan for small pewter statutes cast 500 at a time to support local health care as our hospital. Bought in honor of a past away family member or a thousand dollars pledged to buy one to park on a fireplace mantel or on a shelve in your home. The money raised supports quality local health care that you or a family member may need.
Small Maine towns are more connected.
The circles we travel are smaller, tighter.
Working on the local service clubs events together helps you know your neighbor. It’s all highly important to the quality of life in these rural areas of Maine. If it was not the local individuals banding together to fund raise and brainstorming to identify the need, it would not get done. The moneys from local government are not there to pick up the bill. Hiring it done is not an option. Plus it would miss the home grown satisfaction that rolling up your sleeves and pitching in causes when the entire village participates.
The Rotary Auction is the week of Thanksgiving.
As college kids return to their home town with several bags of laundry for the traditional holiday break. The auction is an important social stop to catch up with classmates.
The school chums make sure to stop into to the live broadcast auction operation at Watson Hall on Main Street. The local broadcast lets everyone know who is home from college or back to visit from out of town. It’s like old home week and these college kids remember bidding on items growing up in the small town. Many that are local end up working the auction stations and filling the positions of the bid collecting to replace those volunteers that are lost to old age or relocation. We do both in person and ZOOM Rotary club meetings to play it safe and protect the community we love and cherish. This year’s 65th Rotary Radio Auction is November 21, 22. 23, 2020.
There was a time when the auction was at our local high school so we could broadcast it on local cable not yet wired into Watson Hall.
A lot of work to haul items to showcase on air the three blocks away from Main to Byrd Streets in Houlton Maine. And the haul the auction equipment and all that merchandise back after three nights of bid early, bid high, bid often.
Christmas shopping done during the Rotary auction too. Everyone gets excited and in some form or another is part of what makes each year bigger and better than the last auction.
Because we are in Potato Country, in Aroostook County, the garden of Maine, spuds are a big part of the local Rotary auction.
Usually up top in each advertising segment, you will see four or five fifty pound bags of Burbank Russets, Yukon Gold, Superiors, Kennebec or Katahdins potato varieties. The spuds grown locally and donated by area Northern Maine potato farmers. There is a lot of eating in a fifty pound paper bag of Aroostook County potatoes. So many ways to serve them up and prepare the meal for tonight’s supper time ritual. I grew up on a Maine potato and grain club and did not eat a lot of rice as a kid. “Farm to table” was a habit before the catchy agri-tourism term was coined and spun into an “Eat Local” buzz phrase.
This year with social distancing, the inner workings of the 65th annual Houlton Rotary Auction will be different for safety sake.
Crowding around the TV, lap or desk top screen or radio broadcast will still happen out in the audience at home. But the rotary club members will have less handling of bids using the old pegger and sorters method of processing incoming auction bids. Instead, using banks of lap tops to input the bids. The ones received on the phone lines called in to hopefully win an item in this year’s auction bidding.
Here are a couple videos from past Rotary Auctions from our 70 member service club.
Thank you all local Houlton Maine Rotarians for your “service above self” the last 100 years. What does your local Rotary club do and are you a member?
This year’s 65th auction is dedicated to Michael A Clark who passed away this weekend.
The auction this year is dedicated to Michael A. Clark. Mike was a life long cheerleader, ambassador to the town of Houlton Maine, the county seat for Aroostook County. He will be missed an
condolences to his family, his wife Debbie who is our club secretary.
Mike was a past district governor for Rotary International and truly displayed “Service Above Self”.
Playing the drums during summer evening concerts every Thursday night. Tinkling the piano keys too at local rotary events for the background atmosphere. His trailer for band member chairs for the outdoor concerts in Monument Park proudly stated “Houlton, Music Town Of Maine” with lists of Suzuki Strings, Show Choirs, Community Bands. He was right. This is one musical place.
Local ATV and snowmobile clubs work hard too raising money for building, maintaining trails.
Having local breakfasts and dinners to raise money to keep the trails smooth and groomed. This tourism rich local volunteer effort brings in money from out of towners using the trails to explore and discover Northern Maine.
Volunteering, working together for a common cause in Maine small town living.
Pitching in for the greater good. Kids grow up watching their parents, teachers, their neighbors all pitching in to do amazing things as a village. It all enhances our local quality of life in small town Maine. So many in local fish and game, Elks, Kiwanis, local school sports, music, drama, etc clubs raise the funds to make local programs possible that benefit the entire population. And all ages, many talented local folks step up to get involved for the common good.
Fall harvest is wrapping up, the Rotary Auction is heating up time around Southern Aroostook County.
Like all the four seasons, each is a busy time for small towns in Maine where the locals are active volunteering to collectively improve their communities. The local events like the Houlton Rotary Club Auction Thanksgiving week are all part of the traditions. The ones passed down where everyone in the local small towns have a hand. All are part of the pretty impressive volunteer work force. You get to know the folks around you better working on common causes too like the Rotary Auction held during Thanksgiving week for the last 65 years.