It started with just 50 banners.
The 1991 U.S. Open presented an opportunity for Luke Melchert. The Chaska city attorney and local Lions Club had an idea of hanging up promotional banners around the city before the major golf tournament, and then selling them after the tournament as a fundraiser.
Signed by champion Payne Stewart that year, each banner sold for $250.
Twenty-eight years later, before the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club, the banner tradition continues.
This year, the Lions are preparing 25 banners for the tournament. They are being displayed along Highway 41 over the Highway 212 bridge, in downtown, and in the City Hall plaza.
If demand goes beyond those 25, Melchert said that they could possibly make more. But for now, the banners will be taken down the Saturday of the tournament and sold on a first-come first-serve basis.
Melchert said that the selling price will remain exactly the same as it did during the first go-around. The only difference is the cost to make each banner has risen from $90 to $170. They save some money, however, because the city hangs the banners up for free.
When the Ryder Cup took place at Hazeltine in 2016, Melchert remembered putting up 100 banners in the city. However, they weren't able to even sell 50, even though they were signed by the team captains.
One problem, Melchert thinks, was that the banners were crammed with words. “They were difficult to read,” he said.
Chaska City Administrator Matt Podhradsky has been with the city since 2001. He is surprised that more people in the city are not aware of the Lion's golf banner fundraiser. “I think most people probably don’t know it’s a fundraiser,” he said.
Since 1985, when Minnesota enacted a charitable gambling law, the Chaska Lions Club has raised roughly $150,000 annually, primarily through pull-tabs, to give away to more than 30 local charities, such as the Southern Valley Alliance for Battered Women, Love INC of Eastern Carver County and Bountiful Basket Food Shelf.
Through the banner fundraiser, the Lions make roughly $7,500 every major golf tournament played at Hazeltine.
Melchert said that the board of directors then decides what charities will receive the money and how much of it, with 90% of the money given to local organizations.
In the last 34 years of running charitable gambling, the Lions have raised more than $4 million to give to organizations in the community.
And Podhradsky sees how the city has benefited from the Lions championing the fundraiser.
“It speaks to how powerful a community can be if we work together.”
If you are interested in purchasing a banner, call 952-442-7799.