Jaycees disband, but leave a rich legacy
The Park Rapids Jaycees, an organization that started in the 1960s and whose members shaped much of what Park Rapids would become, has disbanded. "We were down to the minimum number of 20 and we are getting close to 40 (the maximum age limit)," s...
The Park Rapids Jaycees, an organization that started in the 1960s and whose members shaped much of what Park Rapids would become, has disbanded.
"We were down to the minimum number of 20 and we are getting close to 40 (the maximum age limit)," said Amy Andersen.
She also said younger people haven't been interested, but added that is probably because current members are all in about the same age group and hadn't recruited younger members.
And, she added, as happens in other organizations, the few who are active get tired.
Andersen said the group made the decision about Jan. 1 and, while they have some finances remaining to be put in order, they disbanded as of July 1.
In recent years, the Jaycees' biggest and most visible project was sponsoring the 4th of July fireworks display. Earlier this year, the Park Rapids Rotary Club agreed to work with the Jaycees this year to learn the ropes so Rotary can continue the Park Rapids tradition.
Although small in numbers, Andersen said the Jaycees contributed approximately $3,000 to the community last year, including $1,000 to the Food Shelf, $500 to Kinship, $500 to the Park Rapids Early Childhood Initiative, $500 to the city K9 Unit, $250 to Hospice and $250 to the Park Rapids Memorial Scholarship Fund.
The Jaycees also sponsored the Jump-a-thon for Heart, organizing the fundraiser and purchasing the prizes for student participants.
They sponsored scholarships, gave money to school projects, organized Punt Pass and Kick and took turns with Rotary and the Lions Club sponsoring the Community Awards Banquet.
Since 1964 the Park Rapids Jaycees presented the Distinguished Service Award at the annual banquet and 24 of the 41 recipients went on to be named one of Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans (TOYM). At last count, no other Jaycee chapter in the state had chosen as many (TOYM) winners.
The state president spoke at a banquet when the Park Rapids Junior Chamber of Commerce - as the organization was then called - was charted in April 1962.
At that time, "all men between the ages of 21 and 35" were eligible.
Fifty-one charter members were listed in the Enterprise with George McFarren elected as the first president and Dick Ness first vice president.
A year later, the Jaycees started Logging Day, an event that expanded until it drew competitors from Australia, New Zealand and Canada, vying here for Minnesota State Logging Championships in such events as chainsaw cutting, axe chopping and throwing, two-man bucking saw and others.
The celebration also included a parade, which at first, was comprised mostly of high school bands. (In 1971, there were 25 high school bands here for the parade. The secret was the Jaycees fed them.)
Logging Days continued until 1990. It became an attraction for tourists, who made reservations to stay at local resorts the third weekend in July so they could join in the festivities.
The Jaycees usually spent more money on Logging Days than they made, but made up for it with other fundraisers throughout the year. They put on an annual smelt fry,
They also fulfilled their charter mission of "service to humanity," donating money to community projects and sponsoring events, ranging from kid wrestling to rabies clinics and a Christmas tree pickup.
Membership remained strong. In 1980, the year of Park Rapids' centennial celebration, the chapter had 64 members.
Many of these members remain active in the community today, in service clubs including Rotary and Lions, as members of the Park Rapids Fire Department and in leadership positions in their professions, churches and elsewhere.