Masonic Union Antique & Classic Car/Truck Show coming June 21
Simply put, the purpose of free masonry is “to make good men better”. True to the motto, members of the Free and Accepted Masons of Wisconsin, Lodge 148 of Wautoma demonstrate great character and compassion for a community that they are dedicated to serving.
To give a history of the Masons would be a long and difficult task, because there is no definitive answer on when the fraternity began.
There is some speculation that the organization has been around since the 15th century, and many people believe it has been around for even longer. The Free and Accepted Masons, or the F&AM, has been credited as being the oldest and currently the largest fraternity in the word. There are roughly 14,000 members in Wisconsin alone, and about 5 million freemasons worldwide.
F&AM is organized locally by lodges, and governed by a Grand Lodge, with Wisconsin’s located in Dousman. There are a total of 183 lodges in Wisconsin, and each strive to positively impact the community, while giving their members a masonic education. Leading each individual lodge is a Worshipful Master, who is elected each year.
Wautoma’s Masonic history began in 1867 when a group of returning union soldiers decided to form Lodge 148 in the Wautoma area, establishing a steadfast organization of service and comradery. To this day, photographs of the original Worshipful Master are displayed in the Wautoma Lodge.
The history of Lodge 148 can be seen in more than just photographs. Masonry is a family tradition with most members. “My father and grandfather were Masons, and so it was expected that I join,” said Tom Williamson, a current member of Lodge 148.
James Szydel added, “Masonry goes back to my great, great grandfather.”
While many current members have masonry in their blood, there are members who were moved to join based on the reputation of and interactions with current members.
“I have no Masonic History in my family, but I met a few [people] who were masons, and knowing them and finding out that they were good men, it became obvious that this was an organization that I wanted to belong to, just to be associated with good people, and to be able to do my little part to help in the community,” said Lodge 148 member Bill Schmitz.
Lodge 148 continues to help the community, as the Masonic Union is a nonprofit organization, and donates to a variety of entities.
Each year, the lodge donates four $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors, one each going to Wild Rose and Tri-County schools, and two to Wautoma High School. Beyond academic scholarships, the lodge also donates to various causes and organizations throughout the community.
“We’ve given money to the food pantry, the K-9 Unit for the sheriff’s department, CAP Services for battered women, Red Cross, and the Honor Flights,” explained Williamson.
The Lodge has also recently joined the Waushara Area Chamber of Commerce.
In order to fund the contributions to the community, Lodge 148 hosts an annual Father’s Day Car Show, with this year being the 13th show.
The car show is held annually at Bird Creek Park, Wautoma, and is the invention of Lodge member Ed Anderson.
“One of our members had a T-Bird he wanted to sell, so we went to a car show in Oconomowoc to sell his T-Bird. It looked like a pretty good program,” said Anderson.
With that, the Father’s Day Car Show tradition began, led by Anderson and Szydel. The effort put into getting the word out about the car show demonstrated truly what it meant to be a masonic brother.
“My wife says I’ve burnt out 14 phones, and I guess I must have,” said Szydel. “I’ve been selling close to 200 or 250 books of tickets since the show started.”
The 2015 Masonic Union Antique & Classic Car/Truck Show will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 21 at Bird Creek Park, and is the lodge’s main source of revenue.
In order for the lodge to fund all the charitable giving, as well as pay the operating expenses of the lodge, members try to get as much publicity and as many sponsors as possible for the show.
Lodge 148 members explained most of the sponsorships come from going out and speaking to people in person, and they believe that personal interaction make all the difference.
“I went around and talked to all these people, and that’s how we got them,” said Szydel. He continued to explain that most of the current sponsors are businesses that have been with the show since the beginning, excepting a few that have been lost or gained over the years.
Another method of gaining publicity is for some of the members to attend different car shows around the state as well as starting a Facebook page to help promote the event.
“We have to go to different car shows throughout Wisconsin, and we hand out flyers and sell tickets at those shows. Without participating in those different car shows, you wouldn’t have a car show [in Wautoma],” explained Szydel.
Beyond the members of Lodge 148, other Wautoma Branches of the F&AM also help with the car show. Members of the Eastern Star, which is a mostly female branch of the organization, serve food and help out with the car show, as well as members of the Royal Arch Masons in Wautoma. An initial goal of the car show was to get these three branches working together, said Anderson.
Right away, the show seemed to be a success, with just under 100 cars entered, and several pages of advertising in local papers. In the 13 years since it started, sponsorship has continued to grow as well as the number of cars entered.
John Jenks explained that the weather adversely affected the show last year, resulting in about 60 cars being entered, though the show typically hosts around 120-130 cars when the weather is expected to be nice.
The Lodge members are proud of the show’s success, as well as its ability to bring the community together. “I think the communities that are alive and vibrant, have these kind of events that happen in their town,” said Williamson. “I think that there are all kinds of things that happen in Wautoma that bring good people in.”
Anderson added, “It’s really brought a lot of the Merchants together. They can get more people into Wautoma.”
As a means of producing revenue, the show hosts a raffle drawing with various prizes, with the top prize this year being $1,000, and the drawing typically being held around 2-2:30 p.m.
To give the show a professional feel, the members always try to get somebody special to draw the raffle tickets and hand out the prizes. Last year, Miss Wisconsin appeared as the special guest, and this year, Waushara Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chelsie Vezina will hold the honor.
In previous years, the show has featured the Wautoma police chief, the mayor, members of the Waushara Argus, the Waushara County sheriff, and other well-known community members.
There is a cost to enter a car with the fee including a dash plaque for the first 100 entries.
The show features free admission for spectators, food and beverages, music, a 50/50 raffle, and Hobo the DJ, a famed attraction at the show.
“[Hobo’s] got a great sound system, he plays great music, he gets the kids out there, and just adds to the general merriment. Everybody has a good time,” said Schmitz.
On June 20, the night before the show, there is a cruise, which will guide participants throughout the area. Those interested, can meet at Bird Creek Park at 6 p.m. and drive their vehicles through scenic areas of Waushara County, stopping at both nursing homes on the way to show the residents some of the antique cars. The cruise ends at Culver’s of Wautoma where the company meets for conversation and a late dinner.
“We want to thank the community. We couldn’t do it without them,” said Jenks. He adds it isn’t just Wautoma, but the surrounding communities as well that help to sponsor and support the show.
Members of F&AM Lodge 148 proudly serve their community in a way only a masonic brother could. It is safe to say that the good men of the lodge have succeeded in bettering the community.