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Grand Canyon Rotary celebrates Valentine's Day with 20s-themed dinner and dance
NPS Chief Ranger named Community Leader of the Year

1920's costumes and dances set the tone for the night's festivities at the 2020 Grand Canyon Rotary Valentine's Dinner Dance Feb. 14 at Big E Steakhouse in Tusayan. (Abigail Kessler/WGCN)

1920's costumes and dances set the tone for the night's festivities at the 2020 Grand Canyon Rotary Valentine's Dinner Dance Feb. 14 at Big E Steakhouse in Tusayan. (Abigail Kessler/WGCN)

TUSAYAN, Ariz. — Area residents and visitors arrived in Tusayan to party in style this Valentine's Day.

On Feb. 14, Grand Canyon Rotary hosted a Roaring Twenties-themed dinner and dance fundraiser to celebrate the holiday.

This is the first year the club has hosted a Valentine's dance — usually their annual party happens during the early winter holidays. However, after more than 20 years of this tradition, they decided to postpone it to try something new.

The event has always been themed, however, and in that spirit, this year's dance was very similar. The Grand Canyon Visitors Bureau website referred to the holiday dance as "the community's premier social occasion." Rotary holiday dances also function as a fundraiser for local scholarships.

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Party-goers line up before the start of the Charleston dance competition at the Grand Canyon Rotary Valentine’s Dinner Dance Feb. 14. (Abigail Kessler/WGCN)

A raffle ticket came with entrance to the event, and a silent auction was held throughout the night. Most of the items were donated by local businesses, some of which were represented by dance attendees. Proceeds from the event go toward a scholarship for Grand Canyon School.

Early in the evening, couples and families, some tourists and locals gathered in the gently lit back room of the Big E Steakhouse in Tusayan and sat at large tables decorated in red and gold. A DJ on the blue-lit stage in the corner of the room set the tone with vintage-y jazz. To start the night, Big E provided a buffet dinner, with kid-friendly options and muffins.

Everyone received a strand of pearlescent plastic beads at the door, which added a 1920s shine to any outfit. Many attendees came already dressed in themed clothes (20s-era flappers with a distinctly western flair). There were plenty of sequins and suspenders and the occasional feathered headband. A highlight of the night was the Charleston dance contest. For a moment, the floor filled with a variety of energetic swing dancers. A couple children even got up to dance on stage.

Grand Canyon Rotary has volunteered in the area for more than 75 years now, helping out with a variety of local projects. Their stated mission is to be keepers of area youth, which they carry out in a variety of ways. For example, in the last year, the club sponsored a girl's basketball trip to San Francisco, and sent one student to Africa as an extension of their work with Crutches for Africa. Closer to home, they are also behind the summer food program and Grand Canyon High School's Interact Club.

Community Leader of the Year

Another tradition associated with the Rotary holiday dance is the announcement of the Community Leader of the Year. According to Rotary President Susan Winchester, the award is meant to highlight people who help bring the Tusayan and Grand Canyon communities together.

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Grand Canyon Chief Ranger Matt Vandzura was named Community Leader of the Year by Grand Canyon Rotary Feb. 14. Vandzura was recognized for his support of community health and wellness in Tusayan and Grand Canyon Village. (Loretta McKenney/WGCN)

"Were all here for the same purpose," she said. "We need to make sure that our visitors are taken care of, that our employees are taken care of, and that people make memories."

This year, NPS chief ranger Matt Vandzura was presented the award for his encouragement of overall community wellness.

In the presentation of the award, Rotary Treasurer Mike Scott cited multiple behind-the-scenes contributions to the community. Of special note was Vandzura’s support of Victim Witness Services and his organization of aid during the 2019 government shutdown.

"He's a friend to anyone with a project that will benefit us all, quietly opening doors," Scott said during the presentation.

Vandzura was attending a training conference in Colorado and was unable to accept the award in person. There will be a follow-up event at a future meeting of the Rotary Club once he is back in the area.

One couple (Mark and Nancy), who were visiting from the Seattle area, said they wandered into the event because it seemed like a good time. At the end of the evening, they said they had an all-around great night.

"Great dinner, great entertainment, and some really nice people," Mark said.

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