When donating toiletries and other supplies to charity The Place of Dawson County during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic, local resident Lance Perry had a eureka moment.
He realized that the next time he and his wife hosted a party at their lake property in central Dawson County, they “might as well ask people to contribute” to local charitable causes.
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This past weekend, Lance and his wife, Sondra, hosted their second annual “Perry Palooza” to benefit The Place of Dawson at RIC-Rack.
Last year, they raised around $3,000, said Lance, and they’re hoping to double that amount with this year’s event.
The couple has taken a unique approach to the “give something, get something” style of fundraising. With a $10 donation, attendees could choose one of three books written by Sondra featuring the character “Henry the Heron.”
Alternatively, attendees could join in on a fun trend that’s come to waterside areas in recent years and buy a lock to put on the property’s nearby bridge.
“You choose a lock and write your initials or your name,” Sondra said. “Then, you keep one key and throw the other into the lake and you put the lock on the bridge, like you [would] do in Paris.”
Free activities included an outdoor arcade with prize games, swimming and canoes with life jackets and a certified lifeguard, bouncy house, fishing and fireworks Saturday night.
There are also food trucks and a Tiki bar on site so people can get either a meal, adult drinks and soft drinks or ice cream during their lakeside visit.
“All the food and drinks, games and prizes are free as our way of welcoming friends and thanking our local businesses and community support groups,” Lance said.
As they host smaller-scale private parties or nonprofit fundraisers, he added that they’re working on logistics like insurance and licensing so they can ideally rent out their property for larger events in the future.
“We’re both retired. This could help create a little bit of extra income,” Lance said.
The “Perry Palooza” land, complete with a lake, shore and multiple buildings, did not get that way overnight.
When he and Sondra moved to the area from California in 2017, Lance explained that there was just a house on property and a cornfield where the small lake now is.
They had a larger house built closer to the entrance of the property. Over the next year and a half, the ground was also dug out to prepare for the lake, which Lance later had filled with Florida bass that are expected to grow between two to three feet long.
Things like installing and extending the beach and bringing ducks onto the property helped “create a little pond ecosystem,” Lance added.
Eventually, they also added extra restrooms, an air-conditioned lifeguard shack and the bar, which Lance said now has TVs to give it a more “sports bar” type of feel.
“Every year, as we move forward, we add a little bit more. Next year, we’ll have a pool over there. We have the hole dug out and everything,” he said.
Lance couldn’t help but smile Sunday as he looked across his lake property at the people enjoying a refreshing swim or cold treat on the hot weekend day.
“It’s a great place to relax,” Lance said. “I remember [that] when my kids were little, I’d bring them to a lake in California. It was not much bigger than this. It had a beach, and it was so fun just to get out.”
“We love this community…we came here, and it was so cool. Everybody was so nice, friendly and welcoming,” Lance said. “Everybody was just open-armed.”