Clinton-Sampson Ducks Unlimited, recognized yet again as one of the elite fundraising chapters in the nation, is gearing up for what serves as one of its largest and most anticipated annual events.
This year’s annual banquet is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23, at the Clinton-Sampson Agri-Exposition Center. Along with an extravagant dinner, the event includes a full slate of auctions, raffles and a plethora of prizes and games. Auction and raffle items range from limited-edition artwork and expensive guns to exclusive hunting excursions and local business donations.
Last year, the Clinton DU chapter raised a net amount of approximately $75,000 through various fundraisers — the banquet, by far its biggest, accounted for $60,000 of that. Clinton-Sampson DU committee member Keith Jones said he and others hopes 2013’s banquet will surpass that mark.
Jones said the 2012 banquet’s tallies were actually down from previous years, likely due to the economy. He expects funds raised to be at or beyond that level this year, with annual banquets historically raising between $75,000 and $80,000.
The outlook is positive thus far, as tickets are being scooped up quickly for the March 23 affair. The annual banquet regularly hosts 400 or more attendants, and the turnout has been as high as 675.
“They’re rolling in right now,” Jones said of ticket requests. “Between 400 and 450 is a good number for us. It’s tough to tell right now, but attendance (at similar banquets) throughout the region has been up. We’re looking for things to be as good or better as last year.”
Approximately 40 items will be auctioned off as part of the live auction, to include hunting trips, limited-edition DU artwork and sculptures, five or six different guns and even a few puppies.
“We have at least one of two big hunting trips,” said Jones, noting the inclusion of a dove hunt to Argentina in the mix this year. There are also deep-sea fishing trips, turkey hunts, quail hunts and other excursions to local preserves regularly included as part of the auction.
Then there is the huge raffle.
“We have a three-tier raffle that is one of the biggest, the best and most awesome that there is,” said Jones.
The tiers represent items of certain value. While the bottom tier includes items worth between $20 up to about $150, the middle tier contains items ranging from $150 to $300 and the top tier can encompass anything from about $400 and up, from guns to boats and everything in between.
In all, there will be 80 to 85 guns up for grabs, including long guns, hand guns and automatic weapons. A separate exclusive raffle, the “Baker’s Dozen,” will see the sale of just 200 tickets, with 13 winners of guns retailing at a total of about $6,000.
A separate silent auction will contain between 50 and 100 DU-related items and those donated locally, such as merchandise — both for men and women — from Butler’s and Matthews, among other area businesses.
“We have a lot of sponsors, we get many businesses that contribute and we get a lot of support from the community,” said Jones. “And there will be several things on display.”
Taxidermists will be showing off some of their finer work, and dealerships will bring some of their top truck models, four-wheelers and lawnmowers, as well as other equipment.
In a recent announcement, Ducks Unlimited officials credited chapters such as Clinton-Sampson for its efforts.
“These fundraising events are the backbone of DU’s habitat conservation efforts, and the volunteers who make up these chapters are the grassroots force making a difference for North American waterfowl populations,” said DU President John Newman. “The more money we raise, the more habitat we can conserve and the closer we are to preserving our waterfowl hunting heritage.”
Through the efforts of volunteer committees, DU is able to pursue its mission of conserving, enhancing and restoring North America’s wetlands. DU’s event fundraising system has funded a significant portion of the more than 13 million acres of wetlands and associated waterfowl habitat conserved by DU since 1937.
For its part, the Clinton chapter was honored for again making the national top 100 list as one of the organization’s best fundraising chapters in 2012. Being a part of the “President’s Top 100” is nothing new for the local chapter, which earned the spot from among the more than 2,700 DU chapters nationwide.
“We’re pretty proud of it,” said Jones. “That started about 12 or 13 years ago and we’re the only chapter in North Carolina that has been on the list every year since it started.”
The Clinton DU chapter holds five different fundraisers each year, with the others being a sponsor event, oyster roast, reverse draw dinner and the Greenwing excursion. The banquet is the big money-maker.
“The other events don’t raise a lot of money,” said Jones, noting events like Greenwing. “It’s a service-type event. Our goal for Greenwing is to to provide a service to kids and get them accustomed to the outdoors while spending time as a family.”
No matter what the event, the overall cause is a worthwhile one, he said.
“Ducks Unlimited is probably the premiere conservation group in North America. They have major money going into a lot of projects,” said Jones. “You don’t see a lot of those projects just out in the community, because they’re not in the Walmart parking lot. They’re going to be in the woods.”
He noted a specific preservation project being undertaken between DU and Murphy Brown in the Turkey area. While much of the impact of DU in North Carolina can be seen along the coast, the course of bird migration in the winter, DU’s footprint can also be most anywhere there is a wet natural resource.
“They’re primarily looking to preserve wetlands, but deal with anything to do with water, whether it is a stream in Sampson County, Six Runs or the Black River,” said Jones, “or projects like the area in Turkey, where land is being improved for conservation.”
DU, as its mission states, works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. And fundraising benefits such as Clinton’s annual banquet raise money for the cause, while bring a good time to all, not just for hunters or fishermen.
Just because it is not Greenwing, does not mean you will not find couples and families there.
“It’s a very good time,” said Jones. “It’s been good for Sampson County and for Ducks Unlimited. We get a lot of couples and we’ve had a lot more kids (over the years). Ours is getting to the point where it’s a big family affair now. It’s one of those nights where they don’t have to spend a penny or they can spend as much as they want. They can come out for a good time and be assured they’re going to get a 5-star dinner and a lot of fellowship.”
The cost to attend is $50 for a single ticket, $80 for couples. Tickets are sold in advance only, and come with a one-year club membership along with the dinner and open bar at the banquet.
The deadline to purchase tickets is Thursday, March 21. For more information or to inquire about tickets, call Laurice Williams at 910-531-3779 or Keith Jones at 910-590-9335. Tickets can be purchased from any committee member or be picked up at Pizza Inn, Patriot State Bank, the Sampson Agri-Exposition Center or at Crop Production Services on Pugh Road.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.