Passport to Paradise carries theme of ‘Wild West’
“Wild West” is the theme of the 14th annual Passport to Paradise at SentryWorld from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22.
Passport to Paradise is the annual themed dinner party fundraiser for the Stevens Point YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club of Portage County, and guests this year are encouraged to dress in attire matching the theme. Music, prizes, food and décor will fit the theme
Tickets are $25 in advance at the YMCA, 1000 Division St., Stevens Point, or through online registration at the YMCA website at www.spymca.org/passport-to-paradise or at the Boys and Girls Club website at www.bgclubpc.org/passport-to-paradise. Tickets are $35 at the door.
While urging guests to dress in Wild West attire, Pete Matthai, senior director of youth development for the YMCA, said people should refrain from including guns in their props.
The Boys & Girls Club includes a message on the Passport page of its website: “A word from the Marshal: Real guns and items that may be considered weapons are not allowed on SentryWorld grounds and not allowed at the Passport to Paradise “Wild West” event. Please plan your costume appropriately – Thank you.”
Matthai said casual clothes are proper if someone doesn’t want to dress in western clothing, but the attire adds to the environment of the event.
“I imagine there will be a mix of styles,” he said. “Some will go back to the Wild West look, while others will just dress normally.”
Brittany Melby, director of development and marketing for the Boys & Girls Club, said a best-dressed costume contest is held to encourage guests to come in costume. “The best-dressed award will be a $50 gift certificate to PJs,” she said. PJs is a restaurant within the SentryWorld complex.
Melby said the event is coming off a record-breaking year in 2015 when about 600 people attended. Attendance had been about 200 to 300 in preceding years, she said, so the cost of admission was reduced to $25, “which is low for what you get, when you consider a meal with the food and live music.
“We hoped to get young professionals to come to the event,” she said, and the reduced price helps attract young professionals among the crowd. “It does attract a large cross section of ages, which is awesome,” she said about the people attending. “I think everyone is looking for an escape from winter in the midst of things.”
The event is able to keep the prices low through the assistance of sponsors, she said. Sponsors help to cover the cost, she said, pointing out that Sentry Insurance is the presenting sponsor and major sponsors include Paramount Farms, Berkshire Hathaway, WSAW Channel 7 and Nrg Media.
A major part of the event is sponsored by Sentry, Matthai said. Sentry is providing all the food, “and there will be plenty,” he said, pointing out that hors d’oeuvres are available early, then other food and snacks toward the end.
The music this year will be provided by Raised Reckless, a popular area band that plays country music and bills itself as “central Wisconsin’s premier country band.”
In addition to the food and music, Passport to Paradise offers a number of prizes.
Matthai said there will be a raffle, a 50-50 cash raffle and a silent auction that has more than 50 different items.
Melby said the grand prize is a $1,000 gift certificate for a trip package on Amtrak, plus a $500 VISA gift certificate, and that package is valid for seven years, so it doesn’t have to be used all at once. The prize was donated by John and Patty Noel, who won it at the United Way of Portage County drawing following its 2015 campaign.
The silent auction includes a pair of snowshoes, a SentryWorld golf package and gifts for Wine and Cheese, Taste of the Town, the Children’s Museum, the wellness Spa, Camp Glacier Hollow, a patio grill and a Valentine’s Day package, she said.
The YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club began planning for the event about six months ago, Melby said.
A committee of about 15 people does the planning, she said, and things speed up the closer the event is, as members get the donations and decorations. “We couldn’t do it without volunteers,” she said, “even setting up. It’s awesome to have that help.”
Despite the efforts, Matthai said there are still some things the committee feels are needed. “We are looking for saddles and hay bales and those types of things,” he said. “We want to give the atmosphere a Wild West feel.”
Passport to Paradise has experienced a change in themes every year since it started as Passport to Paradise in 2003. The themes changed to Jamaica Me Crazy in 2004, Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude in 2005, Cheeseheads in Paradise in 2006, Surf ’n’ Safari in 2007, Treasure of Portage County in 2008, Fiesta Portage County in 2009, Mardi Gras in 2011, Las Vegas in 2012, Love Boat in 2013, Havana Nights in 2014 and Roaring Into the ’20s in 2015.