Rotary Club of Snowmass Village gets creative to continue annual fundraiser | AspenTimes.com
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Rotary Club of Snowmass Village gets creative to continue annual fundraiser

Attendees of the 17th annual Snowmass Wine Fest walk by tent three on Saturday, September 14, 2019. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Last year, the 17th annual Snowmass Wine Festival was one of the most successful yet. A record of roughly $125,000 was raised through sponsorships and ticket sales, the weather was beautiful for the wine and food sampling event and the Rotary Club of Snowmass Village, the festival host, was able to award $42,000 to 18 Roaring Fork Valley nonprofits as a result of the annual fundraising event.

But with the current COVID-19 crisis and related cloud of uncertainty over what September in Snowmass Village will look like this year, Snowmass Rotary has had to make some adjustments to ensure it can continue to put on a safe, fun event — and raise money for the local organizations and students who need the extra support.

“Rotary is a service organization, we exist to help and we knew that help was needed now more than ever,” said Tom Fridstein, former Snowmass Rotary president and one of the leading organizers of this year’s event.

“So we tried to invent something new to help fill the gap. It won’t be as successful financially as the wine festivals, but it will be substantial and we’re proud that we can do this.”

Fridstein, who has been a Snowmass Rotary member for four years, is one of the local Rotarians who helped organize this year’s reimagined fundraising event — now dubbed the Snowmass Wine and Golf Festival — set to take place Sept. 3.

According to Fridstein and Martha O’Keefe, a 15-year Snowmass Rotarian, the club felt that hosting a golf tournament was one of the safest, most socially distanced ways to keep the festival alive, and will still allow participants to taste wine and food at nine holes as they play the Snowmass Club course.

People will be able to compete for prizes like best combined score, closest to the hole and long drive for men and women, and must abide by the course’s public health and safety requirements.

“We weighed out all of our options and even thought about not doing anything, but a lot of our sponsors wanted to continue their support and there are so many nonprofits that are really struggling right now, so we decided to get creative,” O’Keefe said. “We are really grateful to all of our sponsors and community members for continuing to support us.”

As of late last week, all 64 spots for the daylong, staggered start golf tournament had been filled, O’Keefe said. However, there may be an opportunity to increase the number of allowed participants depending on the status of the COVID-19 crisis, Snowmass Rotarians said.

On top of the limited golf and wine event, Sherri Goodwin, who heads the committee that oversees the club’s local nonprofit grant program, said this year’s fundraiser also includes an online auction, presenting all area locals the opportunity to win a variety of “distancing appropriate” prizes — like private house concerts with local musicians, guided rafting adventures and private vacation stays in Aspen and beyond — and still support Snowmass Rotary’s mission to give back.

Goodwin explained that every year, Snowmass Rotary works to equally distribute the funds it raises through the Snowmass Wine Festival to local nonprofits and charitable organizations, Basalt High School seniors planning to attend college, and some international projects and programs that make an impact around the world.

Last year, about $40,000 was distributed to each Snowmass Rotary cause through the club’s charitable foundation, Goodwin said. This year, Snowmass Rotary is focusing its financial support solely on local organizations and college scholarships for Basalt High School students.

And to help make an impact sooner rather than later amid the pandemic, Goodwin said applications for the Roaring Fork organization grants are being accepted now through the end of August with the hope of distributing the funds this fall.

“A lot of the organizations we support deal with mental health, stress and help kids, which are all things that are more important now than ever before as we deal with what the new normal is,” Goodwin said.

So far, Snowmass Rotary has roughly $40,000 in sponsorships secured for this year’s Snowmass Wine and Golf Festival — a figure that’s about half of what the club had in sponsorships the year before but that Rotarians are pleasantly surprised with and expressed gratitude for given the negative financial impact the COVID-19 crisis has had locally and nationwide.

And while there is still a chance the golf and wine festival could be canceled, Travis Elliott, current Snowmass Rotary president and assistant town manager, feels confident local Rotarians will still be able to make a positive impact on the community.

“Nothing is set in stone, … but even if the golf portion of the event is canceled, the online auction will still happen no matter what,” Elliott said. “Overall, I think this is a pretty great effort and we’re extremely grateful for the support. It’s definitely coming through despite the circumstances.”

For more information on this year’s Snowmass Wine and Golf Festival and online auction, visit snowmasswinefestival.com. If you are a Roaring Fork Valley nonprofit or organization interested in applying to receive a grant from Snowmass Rotary, email sherrig1218@yahoo.com.


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