The Rotary Show


Since 1942, Traverse City Rotarians have been putting on a rip-roaring variety show for a good cause.

It all started during WWII when many area families were in great need. Today, proceeds from the Traverse City Rotary Show fund the club's Good Works Grants

The Cause

Annually, the Rotary Show raises over $55,000 that the club uses for various “good works” projects. The largest of these projects is the Good Works Grant, with the mission of supporting projects in Grand Traverse and Leelanau Counties that address unmet needs in the priority funding areas of Arts & Culture, Basic Needs, Education, Environment, Health & Safety, and Recreation. 


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.

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.

Significantly, this commitment has continued unabated since 1942. Although it would have been easy to abandon the show once oil and gas royalties started coming in, the club remains committed to engaging its members in the bonds of a shared activity that connects the membership and supports the community.

There are many opportunities to be involved in the show including selling ads, writing jokes, and singing in the chorus. Behind the scenes jobs include selling concessions, taking tickets and set up/tear down. This is an excellent opportunity to get to know other club members through club service. The show is an annual tradition that dates back over 78 years and raises money to be dispersed through the Good Works Committee. Everyone involved experiences the joy of hearing nearly 1,000 people in the audience laughing loudly at the jokes and acts performed.


From the beginning, the Club has striven for 100% participation from Club members. Each year local members are challenged to be creative and do just a little more than the year before.


There are many interlocking pieces that come together to create the annual Rotary Show. They include:

  • Work on the Production Team that creates content for the show
  • Select and arrange the musical numbers
  • Sing in the Rotary Chorus
  • Sell ads for the program, which is the major source of revenue
  • Act in one of the many sketches or deliver the news
  • Work tech – set up, stage crew, lighting, sound, tear down, etc.
  • Sell concessions in the lobby and auditorium before the show

There are many months of ad sales, show preparation, music rehearsals, and other groundwork that go into the show each year. Beginning in 2008, the Rotary Club of Traverse City (noon club) invited the Traverse Bay Sunrise and Traverse Bay Twilight clubs to join in the show and to share in the proceeds. The combined efforts of all three clubs help create a variety show that continues to have new energy and fresh ideas.