Friday morning, Ballyhoos Eatery and Bluejay Taxi owner Mike Fick presented a check in the amount of $7,503 to Lincoln County Tavern League Safe Ride Coordinator Earl Paul, for continued funding and support of the Safe Ride Home program; which provides free taxi rides for tavern patrons who are unable to safely drive home.
The funds came as proceeds from the 2nd annual Lobster Fest held this past July.
As Fick explains, the festival was organized in 2015 as a means of providing much needed funding to the program, which historically had been funded strictly via surcharges from OWVWI (Operating a Motor a Vehicle While Intoxicated) citations.
“Overall, the amount of OWI tickets are down which is a great thing!” Fick explains. “But it wasn’t good for the Tavern League and the Safe Ride program. In 2014, funding from the Safe Ride Foundation had gotten so low, the program was on the cusp of going broke. We decided to organize Lobster Fest as a means of generating revenue to keep the program alive and well.”
The first-ever Lobster Fest in July of 2015, sold 300 lobster dinners and generated just under $4,000.
With 2016’s festival in the books, the event has generated just over $11,000 and Fick has an even bigger target for 2017.
“Lobster Fest is growing every year and so every year we try and raise our goal of how many lobsters we serve. This year we are hoping to serve 450,” he said. “What’s really unique about this is the lobsters are flown in from Maine, alive and fresh! They are literally brought in from the boats off the Atlantic Ocean the Thursday before the fest. They are then packaged in ice and flown here to Merrill, first class for a party in their honor on Saturday!” Fick adds with a laugh.
This year’s Lobster Fest is set for Saturday, July 22, from 4-8 p.m. in front of Ballyhoos at 124 N. Prospect St.
Tickets will go on sale April 1 for $40 each. As in years past, dinners will be served with corn, potatoes and a dinner roll. For those who wish to attend and support the fund raising efforts, but do not wish to have lobster for dinner, the restaurant will still be serving its full menu.
“Community support for this has just been fantastic from the start. We have started to see people coming from out of town and even out of state,” Fick explains. “Local law enforcement has been very supportive as well. Everyone really gets behind us every year to make this thing go and we really appreciate that. Law enforcement officers don’t want to see any more impaired drivers on the road than they have to and neither do we. And that’s the whole purpose for the Safe Ride program and why we are now doing this every year to keep the program going.”
With each ticket purchase will be automatic entry into drawings at Lobster Fest for various door prizes, and this year’s grand prize will be two luxury suite tickets at Lambeau Field during a regular season game, complete with food and drinks.
Tickets can be purchased at Ballyhoos, Merrill Chamber of Commerce, Twins Bays Resort in Tomahawk and both Trigs Grocery locations in Wausau.
New this year will be the 1.5-mile untimed “Lobster Crawl” Fun Run/Walk, which is currently being organized by retired MHS teacher and track coach Greg Eichelkraut, and Parks and Recreation Director Dan Wendorf.
Although the exact route has yet to be announced, the event is planned from 2-4 p.m. at Ballyhoos on the day of Lobster Fest. Registration opens April 1 and can be done by contacting the Parks and Rec office. Tickets are $5 per person or $20 for a family of four or more. Prizes will also be awarded for the top fund raiser – as participants will have the opportunity to donate directly to the fund raiser – best in costume and top finisher.
“We are always looking for sponsors!” Fick adds. “Any individual or business interested in becoming a Lobster Fest sponsor should contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.”
Fick can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.