At the time of its formation, the Waconia Lions Club recognized that the community was in need of house numbering, street signs, mail delivery, and garbage disposal services. The club quickly formed special committees and went to work on all of these projects.
OPERATION CHERRY TREE
he club sponsored “Operation Cherry Tree” in the late 1940s to remove dead trees and brush that had grown along the south shore and beach areas of Lake Waconia after the level of the lake fell drastically in the 1930s.
Lakeside Park, the beach and picnic grounds on the east side of Lake Waconia, was also created through the efforts of the Waconia Lions Club. The club raised the funds necessary to purchase the land, develop the picnic area of the park, and provide both a steel dock and a lifeguard boat for the beach. In the summer of 1948 the club built a crib for storing live fish as a first step in getting more desirable fish into Lake Waconia. This fish seining operation was continued by the club for several years thereafter. Lakeside Park was finally given to the city by the club in 1965, and has subsequently been turned over to Carver County.
ISLAND VIEW GOLF COURSE
In 1958 the Waconia Lions Club members helped in the development and clearing of the land for a golf course. The final result was Island View Golf Course, which included both clubhouse and dining facilities. In September 1977 the club began holding its meetings at Island View and we have been meeting there ever since!
As members of our community, the club members understand the importance of having easy access to good health care. Over the years the Waconia Lions Club has played an active role in sponsoring, improving, and providing health care options to area residents. Highlights are as follows:
- Pledging $6,200 to the Ridgeview Hospital building fund in 1961
- Providing $2,000 to Ridgeview Hospital to furnish a semi-private hospital room
- Sponsoring a Heart Fund Drive
- Working with the Fire Department to sponsoring free chest x-rays
- Donating to the Health Fair held at the hospital in 1981
- Purchasing 3 specialized geriatric chairs for the Nightingale Nursing Home in 1993
- Sponsored numerous glaucoma clinics & the bi-annual American Red Cross Bloodmobile
- Contributed $100 toward the purchase of CPR training equipment
- The purchase of eye glasses for those in need
- Contributed toward the purchase of an ambulance for Ridgeview Hospital
CITY SQUARE PARK
In 1990, the Waconia Lions Club funded a $20,000 gazebo construction project in City Square Park. Lions Will Yetzer and Ron Machtemes chaired the project and many club members assisted in the painting and finish work. The gazebo not only enhanced the beauty of the park, but has come to serve as the center for concerts, events, and pictures for special times in the lives of area residents.
In 1994 the club donated an additional $6,000 to install new benches in the park and the contributed another $3,000 to Christmas lighting. In 2013 the club donated $8,000 for the installation five flag poles equally spaced around the USA flag pole and veterans memorials in a concentric circle. The new poles feature an internal crank mechanisms and will display the flags of the five military branches — Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines. The project also included landscaping, lighting, and a new decorative gold ball for the USA flag pole.
CHRISTMAS LIGHTING CONTEST
Sponsored by the Waconia Lions Club in cooperation with Waconia Businessmen in 1948, the application for the annual Christmas Lighting Contest stated that the goal of the event was to “Make Waconia The Brightest Christmas City” during the holiday season. During the early 1950s this contest created statewide attention and the prize winning displays were featured in the Minneapolis Sunday paper. Records from the Waconia Patriot also show that the event gained national recognition via a magazine article. The tradition lasted for over 20 years until the national energy crunch made it no longer feasible for enough area residents to participate.
CHILDERNS CHRISTMAS PARTY
Beginning in 1946, the Waconia Lions sponsored an annual Christmas Party for area children. The event included a free matinee at the Waconia Theater and gift bags handed out by Santa to all children who attended. The matinee for each child was donated by Lions Gabe Deluhery. The gift bags consisted of candy, nuts, and fruit and were assembled by large contingent of club members via a “super production line”. Santa and has helpers distributed the gift bags from Santa’s sleigh (a.k.a. – Lion Joe Riebe’s Motor Express truck). Records show that in at least of the events over 1,000 children received a free matinee and gift bag. This very successful tradition lasted for 17 years and was later sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
In the summer of 1953, the Waconia Lions Club donated a brand new $375 aluminum diving board to Camp Manakiki (a.k.a. – Pillsbury Camp). The club also sponsored an annual Carver Country Fair Day for underprivileged children at the camp starting in the early 1960s. This tradition lasted until 1989 when Camp Manakiki was closed.
Waconia Boy Scout Troop 327 has been sponsored by the Waconia Lions Club since the troop was originally organized and received its charter at the Lions meeting in February 1946. John Scheuble was the first Scott Master for the troop and Lion Will Yetzer acted as its first Assistance Scott Master. The Waconia Lions have continued their relationship with the troop by providing financial backing, sponsoring Eagle Scout projects, funding summer camp transportation, and holding special Scout Nights during club meetings where Scouts and their Scout Master are honored guests. In May of 2015 the Boy Scouts of America recognized the longstanding relationship with the troop by presenting the Waconia Lions with the “Outstanding Charter Organization Award”.
In 1995, the Waconia Lions Club donated $30,000 toward the construction of a new baseball field for Waconia at the southeastern corner of Brook Peterson Community Park. In recognition of that donation, the baseball field was ultimately named Lions Field. The club continued support for the field by helping to finance ongoing maintenance costs for the field. In 2014 the Waconia Baseball Association determined that it was time to launch an effort to improve the grandstand area for the field and the Lions again heeded the call by committing $125,000 to the project.