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Jefferson Rotary sets Valentines in Paradise 2014

JEFFERSON — The premier Valentine’s Day event in the Jefferson area, the Jefferson Rotary Club’s “Valentine’s Day in Paradise” gala, will offer local residents an evening’s entertainment, food and drink, and a chance to win more than $5,000 in prizes.

Tickets for the Saturday, Feb. 14, event cost $50 per couple and include food, entertainment and a chance to win a dream vacation. The gala will include island music and atmosphere by steel drummer Bahama Bob, hors d’oeuvres, a sampling of exotic and high-quality beers and wines from around the world, as well as a chance at numerous raffle prizes, all in a cocktail party atmosphere.

“For not much more than the price of a restaurant meal, people can have a really great evening, whether it’s with that special someone or with a group of friends,” said Steve Lewis, past president of the Jefferson Rotary Club and owner of the Jefferson Area Business Center. Furthermore, it’s right in town, he noted — no need to brave potentially icy roads to go to a larger city.

The event will run from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Jefferson Area Business Center, also known as “The old woolen mill,” located at 218 Wisconsin Drive, Jefferson, overlooking the west side of the Rock River and the Milwaukee Street Pedestrian Bridge.

Lewis credited the late Ray Krek, a Rotarian with a huge heart and sense of fun, with founding the event. Since then, the Valentine’s Day gala has become a major fundraiser for the club, boosting the service organization’s charitable projects in the local community and beyond.

Lewis said that Bon Ton Catering provides “fantastic food” for the event, featuring three different types of salmon, fruit kebabs and, of course, delectable sweets.

“People rave about the food,” he said.

Bahama Bob has been a hit in the past, too, said Lewis. The entertainer channels Jimmy Buffett through the steel drums, and his set-up adds to the tropical beach atmosphere, with umbrellas, parrots, a tiki-bar look and faux “fire.”

Lewis said that just being able to peek inside the old woolen mill and to see the improvements to the building is a highlight for some. A lot has changed at the old factory building, now completely remodeled. The building now boasts a full wall of windows looking over the river and a balcony view over a sunken atrium garden.

There is parking both on the street and behind the Jefferson Area Business Center, in the new lot alongside the river.

The top raffle prize is a Caribbean cruise or $2,500 cash, with the second prize being a week-long golf getaway at Wisconsin’s premier Fox Hills Resort in Mishicot.

The third and fourth prizes are one-night stays at the Crowne Plaza, with dinner included, for a $200 value each. Fifth prize is a couples massage from the B.E. Hive of Jefferson, and the sixth and seventh prizes each are a romantic dinner for two at an elegant restaurant right in this area.

Raffle prizes include lots of “sweetheart”-style gifts such as jewelry and pins, each one an elegant surprise in a pouch, valued at around $20 each, Lewis said.

For those who cannot make the gala, but who still want a chance at the major prizes, winners need not be present to claim their prizes.

Past years’ Valentine’s Day in Paradise galas have sold between 100 and 180 tickets, Lewis said.

The past Rotary president said that the event is one of only two major fundraisers held by the Jefferson Rotary Club each year. The club’s big Brat and Burger event takes place in August and raises money for scholarships for Jefferson High School graduates.

Most of the proceeds from the Valentine’s Day “Vacation in Paradise” event will go toward the club’s multi-year commitment to fund the new bandshell/pavilion at Jefferson’s Rotary Waterfront Park.

A small portion of the proceeds will support the club’s other charitable projects, which include its annual Breakfast with Santa to benefit local Jefferson County Head Start students along with support of local and international Rotary charities.

“Just as our Brat and Burger event is dedicated to the scholarships we offer to deserving local graduates, the Valentine’s gala will be dedicated mostly toward fulfilling out commitment to Rotary Waterfront Park and the recent improvements made there,” Lewis said.

Rotary Waterfront Park, established in the mid-1990s as a city park with major financial support and a contribution toward the park’s upkeep, has seen a number of recent improvements.

Since the park won an award in 1996 for its riverfront redevelopment, boat docks have been added, the fish ladder was developed to allow fish to pass unharmed past the dam, and the Milwaukee Street Walkbridge has been constructed spanning the Rock River.

In the last couple of years, the Jefferson Rotary Club made a new commitment with the City of Jefferson to build the new bandshell/pavilion, concession stand and restrooms at the park.

The pavilion project as a whole was estimated to cost $130,000, and the Rotary Club already had been working with the city and the local Chamber of Commerce to raise funds for the pavilion through the sale of bricks.

A couple of years ago, the city loaned the Rotary Club the remaining $80,000 so the project could get started, and the local club pledged to pay back $8,000 per year until the full project is paid off.

In addition, the Jefferson Kiwanis Club and other organizations contributed to install a 60-foot-high flagpole right next to the new pavilion.

Meanwhile, the Jefferson County Master Gardeners have taken over landscaping and maintaining the flowers and plantings at the park, with some assistance from the Rotary Club.

Lewis said that the Jefferson Rotary Club is proud to be part of such a major community project, which will continue to benefit local residents and visitors for generations to come.

Now the community has the opportunity to support that project and the Jefferson Rotary Club’s other charitable works while enjoying a “sweetheart of a deal” on Valentine’s Day.

Rotary’s Valentine’s Day “Vacation in Paradise” gala will give several lucky winners the opportunity to walk away with some fabulous prizes, and should provide a really fun evening for all in attendance, Lewis said.

Tickets still are available and may be purchased through any member of the Jefferson Rotary Club, through the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce at (920) 675-4511 or the Jefferson Area Business Center at (920) 674-9000. With questions, people may contact club President Ron Michaelis at (920) 723-4895 or by email at rjmichaelis@charter.net.

People also may check out information online on the local Rotary Club’s website at www.jeffersonwirotary.com.

Tickets also may be purchased at the door.

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