The Birchleggings Club Annual Meeting was held on September 22, 2023, at the Samuel C. Johnson Family Outdoor Center at the Highway OO Trailhead on the Birkie Trail.
In attendance at the 2023 Birchleggings meeting at the OO trail lodge were the honorable BLC founder John Kotar (and 2nd BLC member after Dave Landgren) and American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) CEO/Director Ben Popp. During the meeting, we learned that Ben has skied 19 Birkebeiners. However, due to his responsibilities as the CEO for the ABSF over the past decade, he has not been able to slip away from his job to complete his 20th race. The 2024 -50th Birkebeiner offers a unique opportunity for Ben to ski his 20th Birkie in the “Open Track” race on Wednesday, February 22, 2023, in the company of Ernie St. Germaine. A goal might be for individuals to sponsor Ben & Ernie for $1 per kilometer each, such that $100 would be raised for the two of them for completing the race. Our goal would be to raise > $10,000 for these two legendary skiers coming down Main Street to wild, raucous cheers on Wednesday, February 21, 2024!
ABSF & BLC LIAISON: Louise Droessler (Birkie Enterprises Retail Manager) will serve as the liaison between the ABSF and the BLC. She will enhance and strengthen the essential relationship between the BLC and ABSF. At present, the BLC lacks visibility and does not have a prominent link on the ABSF Birkie website. This is something that hopefully can be reviewed and addressed in the near future. We continue to lobby for a non-voting seat on the ABSF board. The BLC Bylaws are currently under revision and review.
BLC MEMBERSHIP: There are 314 (~16%) of the eligible 2,000 twenty-year Birkie skiers who are currently paid members of the Birchleggings Club. Increasing the percentage of BLC members can significantly enhance financial stability and provide creative new input to the organization. Ways to generate new membership, particularly in the 40-50 year-old age group, were discussed. A telephone survey/solicitation of ~100 BLC eligible skiers was completed with encouraging results. The opportunity to promote lifetime memberships can provide additional upfront funds for the organization. For reference, of the 11,010 skiers who have registered for the 2024 Birke Races (Birkie/Korte/PH/OT), 1,357 (12.3%) have joined the ABSF.
NEW BOARD MEMBERS: New board members were elected at the annual meeting. These are David Rhude, Jim Haubrich and Gus Virkus. They will be introduced at the October BLC Board meeting. Brian Fitzgerald has volunteered to serve as an unofficial “liaison” to the ABSF for the Birchleggings Club. He lives in the Hayward area and can access and assist with such matters.
DEI & GENDER EQUITY: We continue to honor DEI and hope to expand racial & gender diversity by supporting participation in “Silent Sports” and recruiting eligible 20-year skiers to join the Birchleggings Club.