Keremeos Elks will live beyond the potential sale of their hall.
Covid-19 brought an end to fundraising, as well as the Keremeos Rodeo and Bluegrass Festival, and made keeping the Hall with its $10,000-plus in insurance property tax untenable.
“Once we kind of got our head around it, as much as we hate to sell the hall because of the presence we have in the community, the work that went into it and all the men who came before us, it sort of makes sense,” said Elks president Bruce Dennet.
The idea was pitched, and the Elks membership made the vote to put the historic hall on the market.
The listing doesn’t tell the whole story, like how it is 77 years old and predates the village’s incorporation, or how it had been built from the timbers of a building in Vernon, ferried down in pieces across the lake and over dirt roads.
Although they may not be able to run their usual bingo nights out of the rodeo grounds, there will still be the Elks Rodeo, the Bluegrass Festival, and other events in the future once the pandemic does come to an end.
“The Elks are still here, and we’re still doing what we’re doing,” said Dennet.
The only other time in its 81-year history, before COVID-19, the rodeo had been cancelled was more than 30 years ago due to an overwhelming amount of rain.
It’s a difficult situation and leaves the Elks with an uncertain future, especially for the many members who grew up with the Elks Hall. Dave Barker, a member of the Elks for 48 years, is the second generation to be a member of the Elks.
“We’re taking one day at a time right now,” said Barker. “Nobody liked the idea of selling, but when the issue was presented, we didn’t have a choice.”
He, like Dennet, is certain though that the future will also still see the tradition of community donations from the Elks, and other efforts that they don’t publicize, continue on.
“Like my dad would say, it takes community to make a community,” said Barker. “There were all sorts of things that were done, not for any recognition, it was done because there was a need.”
With the funds from a potential sale of the Elks Hall, the future may include an expansion on the rodeo grounds, and other opportunities.
“It would be less expense for us, and we could do more for the community,” said Dennet.
The Elks had reached out to the Village in an attempt to get relief on their property taxes for the year, but were turned down.
Reached for comment, Keremeos mayor Manfred Bauer noted that the village has a policy of not giving any permissive tax exemptions due to the small, and vastly residential property base in the municipality.
“If we offered to take those taxes off, it would be picked up by our residents,” said Bauer. “It’s not because we don’t appreciate what the Elks are doing; of course we are. But there are many other agencies that do great community work, and that’s why we have that policy in place, so we don’t have to make a decision of ‘You get it, you don’t, you get it, you don’t.’”
Bauer also noted there were other options, such as grants, GoFundMes and online bingo, for COVID-19 alternative fundraising.
The GoFundMe is an option that Dennet said had been discussed, but like other offers of donations, it was dismissed as it would only stave off the situation instead of solving it.
Already, there have been some individuals interested in the property, but the eventual sale, and the rest of their future, will be up to the Elks membership to decide.
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