A New Way to Think About the Lodi Grape Festival
The Lodi Grape Festival is about a lot more than just a festival. When most people think of the Grape Festival, they think of things like corn dogs, rides, and live entertainment. But for a lot of nonprofit organizations in Lodi, when they think of the Grape Festival they think of fundraising. Every year the festival brings in thousands of people ready spend some money on a good time, and every year organizations line up ready to deliver. They bend over backwards during festival week pouring icey beers, frozen margaritas in light up cups, and helping festival attendees get in the door. All that hard work generates some serious revenue for their group. I personally didn’t realize what a huge fundraising event the festival was until our Rotary group took over the margarita booth a few years ago. It’s now our most profitable fundraiser of the year. With this story I want to shed some light on the indirect impact the Grape Festival has on nonprofits in Lodi. I’m highlighting the Satellite Rotary group, but every group has their own reason to value the festival, and at the end of this article you can find out for yourself why you should value the festival too.
The Satellite Rotary group is the newest Rotary group in Lodi and the smallest. It’s a younger group so what we lack in personal funds we make up for in high levels of volunteering and enthusiasm. When we took over the margarita booth about three years ago, it was the perfect fit. Since most of us are around 30 and newer to Rotary, we’re not (yet) as well-connected to get a lot of those big sponsorships which means fundraising takes a little more time. But what we do have is a lot of friends willing to volunteer, especially when there’s margaritas involved, and thanks to that, the margarita booth was a huge success for us. The festival quickly turned into our most profitable fundraiser and gave us the opportunity to support some of our favorite charities. Thanks to the Lodi Grape Festival, the Lodi Satellite Rotary was able to donate $10,000 towards helping Animal Friends Connection (AFC) spay and neuter rescued cats and dogs last year and plans to do the same thing this year.
Ty Kneeland is overseeing the margarita booth for the second year and as stressed as he gets, (it’s a LOT of work), he does a killer job. Ty is also a huge pet lover. He is the type of person to drop everything to help a furry friend. Being able to hand over one of those oversized checks a couple of months later, and know he’s making a difference in reducing the medical cost for AFC definitely motivates him. “I have 3 kids, Bodie Randy and Kitty. If you couldn't tell, they are my dogs and cat,” shared Ty. “They are all rescues, and my best friends. I like being a part of the margarita booth, because it goes to something I'm very fond of, the animals. Animal Friends Connection is a no kill shelter that houses and finds homes for these less fortunate creatures, and it's taking place right here in our community.”
Each organization at the festival has their own reason to be grateful for this major fundraising opportunity. It brings in a ton of money that allows them to support charities they’re passionate about, like Ty and the Satellite Rotary being able to support Animal Friends Connection. Yeah, it’s really (really) difficult to find volunteers to man the festival at all hours for four days, but it’s worth it to be able to raise funds while taking a much appreciated break from asking for sponsorships and donations.
This is one of the many reasons to get out there and visit the Lodi Grape Festival. It’s a good time and allows you to indirectly help charities in our city. As if you needed any more reasons to enjoy a beer or margarita, right? Below is a list of many of the booths and services manned by different community nonprofit organizations, along with what opportunity the Lodi Grape Festival presents for them. So this September, grab your friends and family and head to the Grape Festival for a fun way to give back to the Lodi community.
The one that everyone is probably most familiar with is the grape and commodity murals. Those intricate designs can score some nice cash for an organization! If you look at the artists behind the murals, you’ll see a lot of school groups and nonprofits. The prize money for winning grape and commodity mural is anywhere between $200 to $2,000 for their group!
You know all those guys out there helping with parking? Well they are part of the Lodi Chapter of DeMolay, an organization that strives to shape young men into leaders. The group runs all three of the parking lots for the festival and in return receives a portion of the parking revenue (anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000). They use that hard earned cash to: 1) send their members to an annual conference where they can celebrate accomplishments, 2) send their young men to camp to learn important life skills such as budgeting, planning, and teamwork, and 3) help run general operations, which includes teaching their young men how to event plan and fundraise.
You know who this is- it’s Lodi Police Department’s friendly Partners! Every year the Partners come out to welcome you to the festival, hand you a map, and that little fly swatter (which comes in handy). The Partners receive a stipend from the Lodi Grape Festival which allows them to raise money to cover their general funds. They don’t do fundraisers, so this event helps them raise money to purchase things like patrol cars.
Loco City Roller Derby Girls and the Pacific Futbol Club are split responsibilities taking tickets at the door. This deal is more like the barter system; the groups actually don’t get paid. However in exchange for their services, the Lodi Grape Festival allows the groups to use their grounds.
Pacific Futbol is an organization dedicated to providing more opportunities for young soccer players in Lodi who love soccer. The Loco City Roller Derby Girls are Lodi's first non profit roller derby league. For these ladies, not paying to rent the space frees up their income from ticket sales and skater fees to support charities like Case for Kids, local roller derby league when one of their skaters passed away, a local photographer who's equipment was damaged, and Cancer Kids of San Joaquin.
These Lions bring in about $18,000 in beer sales and that all goes back to the community, including charities such as Emergency Food Bank Of San Joaquin County, Children’s Home of Stockton, Haven of Peace, Women’s Center, Community Center For The Blind & Visually Impaired and Stockton Shelter for the Homeless. The club also uses funds to assist children with obtaining eyeglasses, they host an annual student speaker contest for high schoolers and an annual peace poster contest for middle schoolers, as well as supporting the Youth Lions All-Star Football game each June.
These Lions have the beer booth by the stage. They raise about the same amount in beer sales and also put that money back into the community. Like a lot of the other groups, these Lions also diversify their funds. Money raised goes to charities including Toys for Tots, Children’s Dreamworks, Lodi and Tokay High FFA groups, the fire department, B.O.B.S., eyeglasses for kids, food for the Clements Community Church, GOT Kids, Stomp Out Cancer, highschool sports teams and more.
This is the Odd Fellows first year working the beer booth. They’re planning on putting a lot of money back into the community. A few of the organizations they support most often include Lodi Adopt-a-Child, Grace and Mercy, St. Mary’s Dining Hall, and the Salvation Army. Each year they also sponsor 2-4 local kids to go to summer camp at Mi-Wuk Village.
The Lodi Satellite Rotary group will be running the margarita booth. The majority of funds will go to Animal Friends Connection, remaining money raised will be split between different Lodi charities.