New $100 fundraiser to help mold downtown park

The gazebo at the downtown park will likely be the only change to the park this year as the Community Club raises funds to include a mural and an informational sign. The park will officially be renamed this month by the city council.

By Robert Williams


Wannigan Regional Park is bringing thousands of people to Frazee as the hype around Thomas Dambo’s Troll project continues to swell after the June opening of the art installations.

The leaders of the Frazee Community Club are launching a new fundraising campaign, the $100 club, where they acquire a $100 donation from 100 people to make positive changes in town. Funds from this year’s fundraiser have a specific target in mind in the middle of downtown.

“The money will go to fund the corner project, which means a mural and a community map” said Community Club Vice President Karen Pifher.

The former Sanders/ Seip corner is set to be renamed at this month’s city council meeting. A gazebo has already been installed and results from a survey earlier this year expressed the community’s desire for both a mural and a map that highlights amenities in the area.

Estimates for the mural are not cheap.

Photo by Robert Williams
Wannigan Regional Park is bringing thousands of people to Frazee as the hype around Thomas Dambo’s Troll project continues to swell after the June opening of the art installations.

“It’s likely going to cost $25,000 to do a really nice mural,” Pifher said. “We want it done right.”

“And it’s going to take time,” Community Club President Tom Watson said.

The map is a maybe for completion this year. The Club has received feedback on what residents want the map to show and it centers on public amenities like trails, restaurants and information on upcoming community events.

Watson is still forming a full committee for the corner park.

The fundraiser will create $10,000 to get the project started. 

“That will help us with matching dollars to get a Lakes Region Arts Council grant or some other funding, so that we can finish it,” said Pifher.

With success, the Club is considering making it an annual fundraiser to spearhead future projects each year.

Names of the original donors will be displayed on a plaque by each installation.

The Club has also utilized its membership fees to create three information kiosks, one that was recently installed at the Wannigan Regional Park parking area. A second one is scheduled for Lions Park to tell the history of the big turkey.

The remaining funds will be used for advertising and social media costs.

The Community Club held its annual meeting a few weeks ago and leaders are looking to get a quicker start in 2025 with their fundraising efforts and completed projects. An increase in membership is helping drive a change in mindset and output for the club.

“The exciting thing is we have a lot of new board members and participation and people are excited,” Pifher said.

Success at the Community Club level is tangential to the success of the city’s Economic Development Authority (EDA). Both Pifher and Watson have heard first-hand the newfound excitement and feelings of positive momentum coming to Frazee. Finding ways to engage more people and get them involved via the Community Club is imperative.

“People need to want to come here and be excited about it,” said Pifher.

“We can’t do this on our own,” said Watson.

Pifher and Watson did go out on their own to make changes at the Community Club and find ways to translate that change to town.

“I love working in Frazee and want to keep doing that,” said Pifher.

When Pifher’s company made a successful bid to be the city’s EDA consultant it opened a lot of doors for change.

“One of the things I asked early in the year was if it was okay if my time was used to help develop the community club to support that because in order for us to do successful economic development, attract businesses and work with business owners, we need the community club to be highly functioning and doing well and I think I can help,” she said.

Watson was a key contributor and necessary to help Pifher make that plan a success. 

“We’ve brought some new life and we’ve got new members and new people involved and we’re launching new fundraisers because people want to be a part of something that’s exciting to them,” said Pifher.

Marketing Frazee is another critical part of keeping things exciting, from the new restaurants to a small town that has constructive activities for kids every day of the week.

“We need to market our town better and that’s where our sponsorship money is going to go,” said Pifher. “We have a lot going on; we just need to tell the story now.”

Both Watson and Pifher point to the creation of CornerStone Community and Youth Center as the beginning of big changes in town, which, in essence, was a huge investment in the future of Frazee and well-being of its youth.

The Blandin Foundation is coming to Frazee in September to do a ripple map to show the transformation of everything that happened from the creation of the center.

“The reason they’re coming here is they’re so impressed with what we’ve done with CornerStone and the youth,” said Pifher. 

Blandin Foundation is a private foundation based in Grand Rapids that has combined assets of $474 million. Its mission is to connect, fund and advocate for ideas and people to inspire resourcefulness and move rural places forward. 

“If we want people to invest in Frazee we need to give the reasons to invest and things to be excited about and what I’m hearing is that’s back and people are excited,” said Pifher. “They’re ready.”

Donations can be made online via the Community Club’s website; flyers will be available around town with a QR code, along with stopping into Pifher’s Creating Community Consulting office on West Main Avenue. 

The Community Club holds monthly meetings that are open to the public. The next meeting is Thursday, July 18, at 6 p.m., at CornerStone Community & Youth Center located at 300 2nd Street NW in Frazee.