League Lines: Thrills and Chills at Winter Jamboree

Bill Cook Chapter Winter Jamboree

With a backdrop of snow and temperatures reaching an average of 29 degrees, the atmosphere is perfect to host a party – a party the Bill Cook Chapter in Wisconsin calls Winter Jamboree. This annual event attracts people from all across the county with activities that showcase Wisconsin’s winter wonderland.

During the rest of the year, chapter facilities are used as an environmental education center. But during the February Jamboree, the scenic 150-acre property is transformed. There is ample space for activity stations – including horseshoe toss, ice sculpting, and broom ball contests – and hands-on demonstrations, such snowshoeing, cross-country trail hiking, and lumber jacking. The pristine pond is available for fishing.

Because fishing was originally central to the event, the Jamboree was called the “Fisheree” when it was launched 50 years ago. That’s right. This year, the Jamboree celebrated its 50th anniversary. Not many organizations can boast a single event that has so steadfastly and successfully continued to grow and become a community favorite. “As you can imagine, many generations attend this annual event,” says Tom Dreier, Jamboree coordinator and former Bill Cook Chapter president. Long-time League member Will Lehner, 91 years young, has attended every Jamboree since the program’s inception. Not just a community tradition, the Jamboree has allowed the chapter to invest in the community.

The chapter started the event to fund conservation projects. To date, this has become the chapter’s biggest fundraising event. With these funds, the chapter provides conservation-themed books to more than 60 area schools through the Portage County Buy-a-Book Program. The chapter has also been able to fund Save Our Streams (SOS) activities, youth events, trout programs, hunter safety trainings, 3D archery camps, and fly-tying workshops. The chapter even generates enough revenue to provide scholarships to college students who are natural resource majors.

The good work chapter members are investing in is just a reflection of the chapter’s wholesome enjoyment and utilization of their winter wonderland. And they’re just scraping the tip of the iceberg.

By Debbie Chopas