Team work

Hockey festival brings town together.

Story by Cindy Conover Dashnaw

Rochester, Minnesota, averages 13 inches of snow every December, but it’s never stopped the Kiwanis Hockey Festival from heralding the winter holidays. Now approaching its 27th year, the event has brought Kiwanis in touch with nearly every family in the city.

The festival centers around a high school hockey tournament that’s run from top to bottom by members of four Kiwanis clubs: Rochester, Rochester-Sunrisers, Rochester Golden K and Rochester Day Makers. 

Deep in serious hockey country, these clubs have to know what they’re doing.

“The clubs bring in all the referees, make arrangements with the facility, schedule the games, get the trophies, plan the ceremonies and ensure everyone’s safety. We have to manage the event and everyone’s expectations,” says Randall Schmidt, 2017-18 lieutenant governor of Division 7 in the Minnesota-Dakotas District. 

Seven Kiwanis members work for 10 months recruiting regional teams, organizing sponsors and selling advertising. At the tournament, which takes place the week of December 25, 50 club members sell tickets, staff the penalty box, move nets, oversee locker rooms and more. 

In 2017, more than 60 corporate sponsors and advertisers provided financial support and staff help. The event has grown enormously since the early 1990s, Schmidt says, when the clubs envisioned it as a way to fill “a quiet period in town.” 

“We have a large number of hotels because the Mayo Clinic is here, so we leverage this quiet time for increased utilization of hotel rooms and businesses. While they’re here, visitors spend over US$400,000 in Rochester,” Schmidt says. “It’s also a way for hockey teams to stay in town with family during the holidays, yet still compete with teams from around the region.”

In 2017, the cost of the project was $31,700, while gross revenue was $46,900. Over 25 years, the event has raised $650,000 for the clubs involved, funds that are divvied up based on participation. Proceeds have funded scholarships, Key Clubs, meals and more.

Schmidt says the event has made Rochester and its clubs a close-knit community.

“I’ve really enjoyed how this event brings the clubs and members together,” he says. “I’ve met so many people from other clubs that I wouldn’t have had the chance to know otherwise, and the same with people in the community. I’ve made some great friends through this project.”

This story originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Kiwanis magazine.


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