In 1942, northern Michigan Rotarians needed to energize the Club membership and raise funds for community projects. The inaugural Rotary Minstrel Show had a lofty fundraising goal of $500. In true Rotary style, they met and exceeded that goal – by $7. The profits paid for a new water well at the scout camp, where oil wells would eventually generate the vital revenue that supports Rotary Charities today.
Minstrel shows had been performed for years, blending music with good-hearted humor. The first show was held on two evenings at the old Lyric Theater (now the State Theater) and was performed in black-face, as had been done traditionally around the country for many years. In the 1960s, increased awareness of the racial insensitivity led to the elimination of the black-face makeup, and the event is now simply referred to as the Rotary Show.
Referred to by the press as a “…tradition of skits and laughs, frolicking and fun that will tickle audiences while helping the community,” the Rotary Show now runs four nights in late April or early May, and raises between $60,000 and $70,000 annually for good works in our region.