Rotary car on thin ice maybe

Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Photo submitted

OKOBOJI Thermometers have been up and down this month as the thaw and freeze of late February has rocked back and forth. But few can be sure how thick the ice is beneath a lone, black car in Smith's Bay on West Lake Okoboji. By this time last year, the focal point of the Iowa Great Lakes Rotary fundraiser had already made its way to the bottom of the lake before frigid temperatures sealed the four-door beneath the ice again.

The fundraiser actually began as a local Kiwanis event, according to IGL Rotary Publicity Chair Peggy Gustafson. She said the local Kiwanis chapter partnered with Rotary to sell tickets and the tradition passed into the Rotarians' hands approximately five years ago.

"I think it's a great, fun thing, especially in the drolls of winter," Gustafson said.

But Gustafson said the weather doesn't impact the public's chances of winning the $1,000 prize so much as simply buying a ticket does.

"It doesn't matter what day the car falls in for the person who buys the ticket," she said.

Rather, it's the minute.

The car is fitted with a specialized clock, which will stop the very minute the waters of West Okoboji meet the timepiece. Recent conditions have no doubt helped the car stay topside so far, outlasting the previous year's car, and that's not a bad thing, according to Gustafson.

"It does provide everybody a chance to buy a ticket," Gustafson said.

She said the IGL Rotary sold approximately 420 tickets last year and hopes to sell tickets for each of the day's 720 minutes a ticket is good for both the a.m. or p.m. this year. Gustafson said, if no one's ticket matches the time recorded on the car's clock, the Rotary will award the prize to the ticket holder with the nearest minute.

"One year it actually went between two ticket holders, so they split it," she said.

But the $1,000 prize isn't the real payoff of the event. The funds raised for Rotary will be put back into the local community through service projects and the support of various causes, Gustafson said.

"It's one of the biggest fundraisers after the Boji Brew Fest that we started last year," she said.

Proceeds have helped the Rotary make improvements to Shelby's Playground in Elinor Bedell State Park and supported the donation of dictionaries to area third-grade students. The service club hopes to support an exchange student program this year. An Okoboji student will be traveling to Germany next school year and the Rotary intends to support a student from a yet-to-be-determined country who would join classes at a local school.

Tickets are on sale for $10 at the Dry Dock Lounge and The Hutt in Arnolds Park or from any IGL Rotary member.

"We're about 54 strong right now," Gustafson said.

Tickets are also available online this year at

Forecasts call for the mercury to rise just above the freezing point several times in the next week, and the car could possibly take the plunge soon.

"Lots of tickets don't get sold until it gets nice out, and people figure they've still got a chance," Gustafson said.

But the public may not want to wait too long the car finally broke the ice on March 6 two years ago.

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