Historically, Monticello Women of Today (MWT) members have played a key behind-the-scenes role as a community service organization supporting Riverfest.
“The first time that I recall Women of Today involvement was probably in the early-1990s,” said Cathy Shuman, one of two MWT representatives who attend Riverfest Committee meetings throughout the year.
“We partnered with the Lions Club originally and then became a member of the Riverfest Committee when that change took place some years ago. Annette Schaufler is the organization’s other representative, Shuman said.
“We provide input on the activities that we help with, namely the dance concessions, parade ambassadors, which involves handing out water and duck adoptions.,” Shuman said.
MWT also provides the workers for the Saturday night dance concessions, which will include MWT members and other family members. “We are in the process of signing up people for shifts for grilling and food preparation, taking orders and cash handling, serving food and beverages and keeping everything stocked,” Shuman said. “We also help set up ahead and clean-up afterwards.
Monticello Lions Club members provide background support throughout the evening, which is extremely valuable,” she added.
According to Shuman, the Monticello Riverfest Committee has one person (Kevin Lang, currently) who serves as its main event beverage and food coordinator.
“The committee decides what foods and other items will be served for the various events,” Shuman said. “MWT works with Kevin to figure out what needs to be purchased for the dance concessions and parade water and all purchases are made through the coordinator. This year we will be serving River Dogs and Ultimate River Dogs with chili and cheese, chips, cookies, candy, and pop and water.”
All funds from concessions are collected by Riverfest Treasurer LeRoy Miller and become part of the combined monies that are used to operate Riverfest from year to year, Shuman said.“MWT members really enjoy running the Saturday dance concessions,” she said. “It gives us a chance to contribute to the community and listen to the band while we enjoy each other’s company as we work together.”
MWT has had several members who have been involved with Riverfest for many years, with Women of Today and with other groups such as churches and scouting. When Shuman was involved with the hockey association from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, Riverfest had activities on Saturday in West Bridge Park and the hockey association would sell watermelon in West Bridge Park on Saturday and Ellison Park on Sunday for a number of years, she said.
“During the mid-1990s, we switched to hosting games for children at Ellison Park as part of Riverfest Sunday activities, and we did this for a few years,” Shuman said. In the early 2000s, MWT was asked to help with Riverfest activities in Pioneer Park on Thursday evening.
“We initiated the I.D. screening for children, based out of the Jacob Wetterling foundation which was a state Women of Today programming area at that time, and managed that for about three years,” she said. That project is now handled by the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.
From mid-1990s until 2013, MWT ran kids’ bingo in Ellison Park as part of Art in the Park. Shuman said profits from this activity were usually donated to the Riverfest Committee.
“When the MWT first started to service as Parade Ambassadors, we would use golf carts to hand parade programs in advance of the parade,” Shuman said. “In addition, we gathered at the end of the parade route and handed out bottled water to those in the parade units”
That activity started in the years that Lions Club member Gary Anderson helped organize Riverfest activities, Shuman said. “He was looking for a group to hand out bottled water and frozen Icees to the bands. I offered assistance from MWT for that first year and we have been taking care of the parade water ever since,” she said.
Up until last year, MWT took care of purchasing the water as well as setting up and handing out the water. The Riverfest beverage coordinator now handles the purchase of the bottled water with MWT taking it from there, Shuman said.
“We will pick up the bottled water and ice, set up at the end of the parade route, and be ready to hand out bottles of water when the parade units arrive at the end of the route,” Shuman said. This includes bands, marchers on foot, royalty on floats, politicians, antique vehicles, horse riders and the Shriners.
MWT has a unit in the parade each year. “This is part of our public relations budget and the current chapter president uses her creativity to come up with her own idea, usually something that matches her theme,” Shuman said. “For example, last year’s president, Pam Peterson, had a theme using coffee. She used a trailer as the base and created a huge coffee cup that held several of our members as it was pulled through the parade.”
Shuman said the unit even used a prop to create steam coming out of the cup. Another past president had a theme “Fishing for Fellowship” and MTW used a boat as the float that year.
“Members sat inside holding fishing poles with giant, bright-colored tagboard fish attached,” Shuman said. “We definitely try to have fun when we are in the parade and usually toss out candy or ices along the way.”
According to Shuman, the MWT supports the community in many ways. “We have worked hard to get our name out to the public,” she said. “Riverfest provides a great opportunity for both community involvement and name recognition.
Monticello Women of Today meets the first Thursday of each month at the Super 8 Hotel meeting room starting at 7 p.m.
“In addition to monthly meetings, we hold socials and membership events and participate in a variety of projects,” Shuman said. “We welcome any women over the age of 18. Come enrich your life through friendship, community service, and learning opportunities.” MWT has a Facebook page and the organization’s web site is www.MonticelloWomenofToday.org.
Contact Tim Hennagir at [email protected]