The Reedsport/Winchester Bay Chamber of Commerce is celebrating the end of a wonderfully successful event and summer tourist season. The perfect weather and a record-breaking fishing season were the foundation of a great year for our businesses, and the attendance at our events was off the charts.
The biggest event of the year sponsored by the Chamber was the recent DuneFest. It’s a massive undertaking for our small chamber and run almost entirely by volunteers. We hire one person (Jesse Meyer) to get sponsorships and vendors for the event, and we pay for professional security, but other than that we rely on about 175 volunteers to work in the registration booths, bulldoze the sand, set up camp areas, create racetracks and entertainment areas.
It’s an amazing sight to see the cool, placid dunescape be transformed literally overnight into a booming metropolis. From a lookout point above the dunes the ATVs travel on sand highways to neighborhoods of RVs parked in the sand, and the busy city teems with a population of approximately 10,000. The sand city offers games and competitions, racing and exploring the trails, plus a vendors’ row filled with the newest vehicles from manufacturers, accessories, clothing and food from every corner of the world.
Every year the sponsors and attendees hold a charity auction as a way to thank our community for the hospitality. They donate a variety of prizes, bringing in an average of $5,000 that goes directly to charity organizations in the Reedsport area. This year the auction was given a gift that is legendary in its generosity. A Polaris dealer sponsored a booth at DuneFest and the manufacturer donated a package of items for the Treasure Hunt and the auction, amounting to about $10,000 in cash and product.
But there’s more. A subsequent meeting with a manufacturer’s representative resulted in the largest gift the chamber has ever received, a brand new 2014 Polaris RZR for the auction. The timing was perfect with the RZR set to be unveiled next summer. The RZR at the DuneFest Auction was the first official sighting of one and the very first one anywhere to be sold.
Word spread like wildfire and ATV lovers started heading this way, planning to be in the front row for the auction. The winner of the RZR was a man from Utah who flew in specifically to bid on the Polaris. He won, parting with $36,500 cash for the pleasure of owning the very first one.
As a bonus, the Polaris advertising crew came along to film the new owner enjoying his toy on the dunes in Winchester Bay. We’re already included on the website for Polaris and will be featured in upcoming TV and print advertising for the company.
On Sept. 12, a ceremony was held to distribute the funds from the 2013 Charity Auction. A whopping $42,500 was distributed to 28 local organizations, covering everything from emergency backpacks for children taken into foster care to installing safety curbing at the animal shelter. Food pantries for the elderly and low-income folks were stocked, the dial-a-ride van got a trust fund for repairs and Christmas gifts for children.
The list of recipients is a who’s who of agencies, organizations and clubs that do good work: The Spirit of Christmas, Family Resource Center, Lions Club, Rotary Club Dental Van, textbooks for charter school, PUD help for seniors/low income, Lower Umpqua Ministerial Association, Highland Pool, Beautification Committee, CASA, Senior Services, Tree of Giving, Reedsport Education Enrichment Foundation, Reedsports Farmer’s Market and many small groups that requested modest amounts for specific needs such as goggles for elementary swimmers and extra swimsuits for low-income children.
• Nancie Hammond is president of the Reedsport/Winchester Bay Chamber of Commerce.