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Braden Lodge #168
Ancient Free & Accepted Masons of Minnesota
5149 Bloomington Ave S
Minneapolis MN 55417
At first glance it may not seem like a natural pairing, a Mason Lodge and a sci-fi convention. Sure, there are works of Heinlein that reference the Freemasons. and the Masons played a role on shows such as Sleepy Hollow, and one might even manage to imagine a certain natural fit for Masons in the Steampunk movement. Still, when the flag of Braden Lodge unfurled over the balcony of Cabana 223, some people must have scratched their heads.
Yet, there we were. Ostensibly our reason for being there was to promote our upcoming fundraisers. A Bump in the Night is a Halloween-themed puzzle room happening in October while our Victorian Christmas Dinner will be taking place at the James J Hill mansion in December. We figured people who like sci-fi also tend to like puzzles and people who are into steampunk might appreciate a Victorian-themed event, so with an attendance over 6,000, it seemed like a good target audience to hit.
To help promote A Bump in the Night, we actually set up our cabana as a puzzle room. We created three new, unique puzzles just for this event. Each puzzle yielded a one word answer, and the three words that served as answers to the puzzles were themselves clues to a 4th word. That word in turn was the password to the balcony and the winner's cricle where we had prizes waiting out there for them.
The convention runs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night and we opened our door from 7pm to 1am each night. We weren't sure what kind of reception we would get, and indeed for the first hour on the first night, only a few people came in, and only one seemed determined to actually solve our puzzles. We started to worry about what we were going to do with all of our prizes. But then it started to pick up and it actually never let up. Our room was pretty much filled to capacity for the remainder of the weekend. I had made up 100 badge ribbons for the winners. We ran out of those halfway through the second night and had to switch to ribbons we had been giving out more freely. Even those were almost gone by the end.
Now to truly appreciate this, you have to understand that there are over 35 cabanas in the hotel, each with a similar party going on. Most are designed to have people come in, get a drink or some food, maybe do some quick activity, and be out again in a few minutes. But people were sticking around in our room 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or even longer to solve our puzzles Some worked on them for a while and then came back later to finish. Many of those who did finish said it was their favorite party room.
But the key thing here isn't the quality of the party. It's that we were Masons, out in the world doing something pretty visible and making a positive impression on those we interacted with. Those who made it out to the balcony got a chance to talk Masonry with the brothers out there. But even those who didn't knew we were there and heard people saying good things about us. We don't know yet if we will get any new members out of this, but I do feel we planted that first seed in many. When they next encounter Masonry, they should have a good impression of it already, and a second or third impression may be what it takes for them to truly check it out.
Another interesting aspect of the weekend was how the whole thing paralleled Masonry itself. People had to work their way through the puzzles to get the password which was sort of like going through the initiations. Once they did all three and got the password, they were admitted into the inner sanctum of the balcony where there were people that had shared the same experience. And once they had the password, they were free to go directly to the balcony any time they returned, as they were now a member of the Winner's Circle. I had suspected we would go through a lot of prizes on Saturday night as people would leak the password around the convention, but that didn't happen. People respected the secrecy of it and that impressed me.
Sunday morning we packed up and moved out of the cabana. It had been a genuinely successful weekend as far as running our room went. We will see if the advertising aspect of it pays off or not. But it was good to have a chance to be "loud and proud" as a Mason. We actually met several other Masons out there as well as Eastern Star members, widows, and children of Masons. We have another lodge that wants to join with us next year to make our party even bigger. We had some long discussions with Masons who had come from other states. All in all, I would say it is something that we will look forward to doing again next year.
Congratulations to the winners of the two Braden Scholarships for the 2017-18 school year:
• Ms Jerrilyn Dvorak of Oakdale MN, who is enrolled in an Orthotic and Prosthetic Applications Program at Century College, in preparation for pursuing a Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics; and
• Brother Erik Fairchild of Roseville MN, a member of Braden Lodge who is enrolled in a Certified ScrumMaster program at the Univ of Minn College of Continuing Education, in pursuit of his Master of Business Administration degree.
Each will receive a $1,000 scholarship to defray their educational expenses. The scholarships are made possible through the grateful support of a matching grant from Minnesota Masonic Charities.
On Dec 1st, 2016, Braden Lodge #168 held its annual Election of Officers for 2017. Tradition prevailed and the Senior Warden, Jeff Koltveit, was elected Worshipful Master for the coming year.
The complete list of elected and appointive officers for 2017 follows:
WB Jeff Koltveit • Worshipful Master
Matt Gallagher • Senior Warden
Brian Silverain • Junior Warden
WB Erick Crail • Secretary
WB David Allison • Treasurer
David Potter • Senior Deacon
Luke Matschina • Junior Deacon
Erik Fairchild • Senior Steward
Travis Thorpe • Junior Steward
Ray Davis • Tyler
Miquel Viana • Marshall
WB John Stitely • Lodge Education Officer / Funeral Coordinator
JP Armstrong • Chaplain
Jay Koelsch • Musician
WB Tim Grube • Historian
WB Jesse Williams • Board of Trustees (thru 2017)
Mark Steiger • Board of Trustees (thru 2018)
WB Andy Harvego • Board of Trustees (thru 2019)
An excellent Installation Ceremony was held Dec 15th, 2016, at which WB Andy Harvego served as Installing Master; WB Steve Leinen served as Installing Marshall; and WB Anthony VanWagner served as Installing Secretary.
Our new Worshipful Master, WB Jeff Koltveit, was raised in Braden Lodge in December, 2009. He has selected “Faith, Hope, Charity” as a central theme for his year in the East.
Pictured at Braden’s Installation of Officers held Dec 15th, 2016, were:
Top (back) Row: WB Jeff Koltveit, Worshipful Master.
2nd Row (from top, L to R): Matt Gallagher, Sr Warden; Brian Silverain, Jr Warden.
3rd Row (L to R): WB David Allison, Treasurer; WB John Stitely, Lodge Education Officer / Funeral Coordinator; WB Erick Crail, Secretary.
4th Row (front, L to R): David Potter, Sr Deacon; J P Armstrong, Chaplain; Erik Fair-child, Sr Steward; Travis Thorpe, Jr Steward; Miguel Viana, Marshall; Ray Davis, Tyler.
For the second year in a row, Braden Lodge has put on a Halloween fundraiser called "A Bump in the Night" and it has proven to be a definite success. The event is part dinner party and part puzzle room, set in a spooky Halloween atmosphere. Guests, who bought tickets at $30 each were treated to a 4 course pot roast dinner during which books fell off shelves, strange moaning sounds were heard, and a ghostly face pushed its way outwards from the photo of the recently departed Master. Realizing it was the ghost of the deceased Master, they communicated with the spirit to try and discover the location to the lost deed of the lodge. The ghost led them to a book with clues in it which in turn led them to the puzzle room in the lobby of the 3rd floor. There they had one hour to solve the various puzzles left behind by the departed Master which would lead them to the missing deed.
110 tickets were sold altogether which was nearly double last year's total of 60. The fundraiser made a profit totalling $2,220. $520 of it was spent to buy and install a new refrigerator for the lodge kitchen as a thank you to Arcana for letting us use the building for the event. The otther $1,700 went to pay for the scholarship fund and relief fund. By filling those holes in the budget, Braden will be able to finish in the black for the year, thereby justifying the decision made in June not to raise dues for 2017.
A Bump in the Night hopes to return for a third year in 2017, bigger and better than ever.
Braden Lodge #168 welcomed two new members into the Fraternal Brotherhood of Freemasons at an Entered Apprentice Degree held Thurs, Sept 15, 2016! Shown in the front row (L to R) are our newest Brothers, Chris Hassinger of Apple Valley, and Eric Moen of Minneapolis. Behind them are our principle officers (L to R), Junior Warden Matt Gallagher; Senior Warden Jeff Koltveit, who did an excellent job serving as Worshipful Master for the evening's ritual; and Tim Grube, Braden Lodge's Worshipful Master for 2016. A nice crowd of 28 Brothers were present for this special evening, and those presenting the Degree Ritual and Lectures did an outstanding job!
Congratulations, Chris and Eric! -- Best wishes as you continue your journey for Masonic Light with the Fellow Craft Degree scheduled for Oct 20th at 7:30pm. Braden Lodge meets at the Arcana Masonic Center, 920 Lowry Ave NE in Minneapolis.
(photo by Erick Crail)