Shriner oyster feed draws 425

The Dillon area came out in strong support of Saturday’s Shriner’s Oyster Feed at the Elks Lodge. Over 425 customers paid $25 to enjoy the fine meal prepared by the organization. According to Bagdad Shrine Potentate Jeff Welborn, the event raised over $15,000 and will benefit the program to help children with medical care at the Shriner’s Hospitals throughout the country. Sheridan Shriner Ray Shaw and Welborn display of raw oysters on the half shell. J.P. Plutt photos


The annual Shriner’s Oyster Feed at the Dillon Elks Lodge drew over 425 adventurous diners and raised in excess of $15,000, according to Baghdad Shrine Potentate Jeff Welborn. Welborn says the funds will benefit the transportation fund that helps children and their families who need assistance at one of the Shriner hospitals.

“It was a great night,” said Welborn. “People come out and really supported the local Shrine Club and their endeavors.”

Those endeavors include getting children medical care. Welborn says that most of the assistance in Montana is for children who need orthopedic care and receive that help at the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Spokane, Wash. Welborn says that when other specialized care is needed, the children are transported to Shrine Burn Centers in Galveston, Texas, or Cincinnati, Ohio. The Shriner spinal cord and injury unit is located in Sacramento, Calif.

“Most of what we raise goes for the transportation fund,” said Welborn. “We use that to get kids and parents to hospitals for care. A big part of that fund is used for burn and spinal cord transportation which a lot of time requires air transportation.”

The worthwhile cause received a big boost from the residents of Dillon and the surrounding area. Over 425 paid the $25 ticket to eat oysters prepared in the various methods. With the addition of revenue from the live and silent auctions, 50-50 drawing and various raffles, Welborn estimated that, “we probably raised north of $15,000 on the night.”

The event was far more successful than in recent years. Shrine members recalled that last year the weather was poor, and this year there were no local basketball teams playing at a state tournament, which can be a detriment to attendance at a fundraiser. For whatever reason, the lines were long and never abated.

“We ran right up against the bubble,” said Welborn when asked if the group ran out of food. “We were able to feed everybody, but there wasn’t much to take home.”

According to Welborn, raw oysters on the half shell were the most popular item and the group did run out before the end of the evening, but there was plenty of fried oysters and oyster stew to keep everybody happy.

According to Harvey Frank, the Shriners shucked 220 dozen or 16 bushels of raw oysters. In addition, the Shriners used 64, four-pound buckets of oysters to make oyster stew and for the fried oysters. The cooks used 12 gallons of milk, 15 pounds of butter, 10 pounds of onions and 10 pounds of bacon in preparing the stew. Donated items included two pit hams, 90 pounds of roast beef and 80 pounds of turkey.

In Montana there are three Shrine Centers – Billings, Butte and Helena. Welborn is the Potentate of the Bagdad Shrine in Butte, a center the serves the western part of the state from Kalispell and the Flathead area down through Dillon and over to Bozeman.

“It was another outstanding event, but only because local people make it what it is,” said Welborn. “The part of the Shriner’s that got me interested in the beginning is that all of the money we make is used for our hospitals and the benefit of the families in the network of care. We do not have any overhead, no CEO taking a slice of the pie. It all goes to the people we help.”