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Volunteers fuel festivals

Mike Ranweiler and Lisa Hynes of the Brandon Lions Club serve a hot dog and chips to Jackie Wagner during Brandon Summerfest Saturday. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

Every third year as part of Brandon's Summerfest celebration, the high school gym hosts a Miss Tootsie pageant. It falls on the second day of the five-day celebration, and isn't any ordinary pageant. This one features guys in drag.

Lisa Hynes has helped with the group putting on the event for a dozen years, and three years ago her husband Mike participated in it. This year her son Jeremiah Bettermann qualified and entered.

And won.

"It's always good to see your children realize they are going to put their egos aside, and do something embarrassing and humiliating," Hynes said, tongue firmly in cheek. "I'm so proud."

Bettermann works the go-cart track at Casey's Amusement Park in Alexandria, and his stage name was Kacey G. Cart. For the talent portion of the pageant he performed to a Beyonce tune, "If I Was a Boy," that includes the lyrics, "I swear I'd be a better man."

It worked for Bettermann.

Getting involved

Thursday night may have belonged to her son, but Saturday was all about Hynes. Her day started with setup around 7 a.m. and didn't end until after midnight.

She is involved with two groups and was pulling double duty at Summerfest, working a concession stand for the Brandon Lions Club, where she is first vice president, and Relay for Life, where she is a committee member for the Douglas County organization.

When she was done serving up burgers and hot dogs, she went to Lions Park to work the Lions Club's fish fry dinner. Then she was back with her Relay team handling concessions at the festival's street dance that evening.

"Sunday I'm going to park my butt on the couch and not move," Hynes said.

As someone who prefers to get involved in things, that's an uncommon occurrence. Her father died from cancer 35 years ago and when her mom was diagnosed with it a decade ago, her family formed a Relay for Life team, dubbed the M&M Gang.

"I like to volunteer and give back," said Hynes, who owned Etc. Signs & Apparel for several years and now works at Moe-Urness Lund Mutual Insurance Co. in Brandon. However, it took a bit of arm twisting by Mike Ranweiler, now the Lions president, to get her to join the Lions Club.

"I had been approached by Mike several years ago when I became active in the community," she said.

In with the Lions

Hynes knew it was a good organization, but instead of joining right away, she waited until two years ago. That's when she began unofficially helping out, to get the full picture of what it was like. She did so for a full year before signing on as a member.

"My husband is a big hockey nut and he started helping with the ice rink," she said. For the past two years the Lions have run hockey tournaments.

When they attended a Lions convention Hynes discovered how many activities the Lions are a part of, not only on the local level but around the world.

"Then you realize yes, you're helping people locally, but you're impacting people worldwide. Something a lot of people don't know is the Lions are very instrumental in disaster relief," she said, noting the Lions are building a big hospital in the Twin Cities specializing in vision care. The Lions also bring in machines that tell kids whether they need glasses.

"I purchased a Lions suit and had my husband dress up as a Lion. Things like that bring a smile to kids' faces," Hynes said.

The Lions also give to multiple school organization, 4-H and youth baseball, and even sponsor a Boy Scout trip.

"There's a lot of things they do for kids, but they do things for all ages," Hynes said.

Brandon students have become more involved with the Lions since Hynes got the Business Professionals of America club going, Ranweiler said.

"We have some very good youth in our school system over here," he said. "They come and ask us for money, but in turn we have asked them to come and help with a project at the Lions Park. These kids overwhelmingly show up to help, and it's so easy to give to that club. It's a very good working relationship we have."

Coming together

The Summerfest turnout may have been down some this year, possibly influenced by the weather. But the regulars showed up in droves.

"It brings the community together," Hynes said of Summerfest. "Not only do they have great food, but it's a great way for locals and tourists and family to sit outside and converse and have a good time. For some people it's their only access to Lions activities."

When the Lions Club was formed in Brandon in 1969, it had 38 members. Ranweiler said the club is down to 21 members, which puts a greater workload on everyone.

"It takes people for these small towns to put these things on, and it takes young people to get the 30- and 40-year-olds," he said. "I've been a Lions member for 37 years, and we're kind of wearing out, some of us."

Hynes is a generation younger than the 68-year-old Ranweiler and others from his generation, who she said are what make the Lions go.

"Mike and Harold Peterson and John Lund have been in the Lions for a long time, and they're crucial for making it a success. They have put in a lot of volunteer hours," she said.

Ranweiler said the Lions, much like other organizations, have had difficulty in convincing younger men and women to join. Hynes plans on making that a priority in 2019.

"That's my goal for next year, to try and get some new members. The more numbers you have, the easier it is for everybody," she said. "The biggest thing is people don't realize all of what organizations do. They don't realize there's all these other activities."

Those who are away a lot in the summers, could perhaps help with the hockey rink in the winter, she said.

"There's different areas within the Lions that can be a fit for them," she said.