St. George Lions: Living legacies of service

ST. GEORGE – Beginning Thursday and culminating Saturday, the St. George Lions Club will host the 80th annual Dixie Roundup Rodeo. The Roundup is three days of dust, cowboys, horses, bulls, sheep and clowns; everything a rodeo ought to be and, thanks to the St. George Lions, it’s a whole lot more.

The Roundup Rodeo is a decades-long St. George tradition and one that Jerry Parker, a 37-year member of the St. George Lions Club, said has not changed much over the years. But the real tradition behind the rodeo is not its raucous thrills and spills but a tradition of service to the community that lasts long after the chutes are emptied and the dust has settled on the Sunbowl.

About the Lions Club

Lions Clubs International is a worldwide civic organization whose website boasts a membership of 1.35 million people serving in more than 200 countries or geographic regions. There are 46,000 operating clubs, all with diverse populations, but this large and varied global group shares a core belief: “Community is what we make it.”

Founded in 1917, the Lions Clubs International has stated a mission to be “the global leader in community and humanitarian service.”

The St. George branch of the Lions Club was chartered in 1934, Parker said, making this year its 80th anniversary.

Cowboy up for the community

The Dixie Roundup Rodeo is the primary fundraising source for the St. George Lions – they also raise money at the Dixie Downs Horse Races – and because of the rodeo’s large scale, the club is able to give generously to charitable causes, Parker said.

“We are a source of money and help that other entities can’t give,” St. George City Councilman Joe Bowcutt, a 39-year St. George Lions member, said. “We are able to donate a lot of money.”

In keeping with the rodeo tie-in, funds that are raised through the Roundup are donated to local rodeo and 4-H clubs. Funds are also given to sports organizations, scholarship funds and community members in need; one year, the Lions helped build a local woman a new house, Bowcutt said.

“We try to keep the door open to people who need our help,” Parker said.

The Lions also help with beautification projects throughout St. George, including building walking paths and park benches and planting trees.

While most of the club’s efforts are focused on the local community, the Lions also participate in global humanitarian efforts, including blindness prevention and disaster relief.

“One year we collected and sent over 50 pairs of glasses to Mexico that were able to be worn and used,” Bowcutt said. “That is so heartwarming.”

“Tough Enough to Wear Pink”

In the past five years, the main effort of the St. George Lions has been raising money for breast cancer research, Bowcutt said. Each year at the rodeo, the Lions dedicate a special “pink” night and ask rodeo participants and spectators to wear pink. For every ticket sold on pink night, $1 is donated to the local Intermountain Healthcare hospital to help with breast cancer research and awareness. Though the amount varies each year, the average annual donation is $10,000, Parker said.

The “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” campaign is a national campaign associated with Western events and rodeos, Bowcutt said, but even though it is a national effort, the money must be spent money locally.

This year’s “pink” night will take place Friday at the Dixie Sunbowl, where those in attendance will see the normally purple wall in the storied rodeo grounds transformed to pink.

“On Thursday it will be purple,” Parker said, “then we will paint the whole thing pink for Friday and then back to purple on Saturday.”

A legacy of service

The St. George Lions club has been giving back to the community for eight decades, providing a living legacy of service that, Parker said, is still going strong.

“I love what the Lions do. It means a lot to me,” Bowcutt said. “They continue to make what was already a good community even better. I can’t imagine not being involved.”

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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