Ugly sweater party raises money for local organizations
JANESVILLE--Roxanne Hansen dug out her father's holiday sweater from the 70's, Rachel Knight found her Christmas sweater at a local thrift store, and Mike Knapp was gifted his by a friend of a similar size.
“I just felt an immediate attraction,” Knapp, 41, of Fort Atkinson said with a hint of seriousness and humor about his “ugly” blue holiday sweater complete with snow flakes, snowmen and the American flag.
Knapp, Hansen and Knight were three of many people who began trickling into Black Bridge Bowl on Monday night for Jacob Sailing's annual Ugly Sweater Party.
Sailing, 33, started the event out of his parents' basement in Janesville in 1996. It has since grown from a group of friends donning ugly sweaters and exchanging gag gifts to a community event to raise money for local charities.
“It's meant to be a fun time and to give back to the community,” Sailing said. “It's tough to get people to pay a cover anywhere, but they do for this … because they are giving back.”
For $10, those wearing an ugly sweater were let into the bowling alley, given two drink tickets and invited to listen to live music from the local band Dregs of Bower City. They also were able to participate in an auction and raffle.
The money collected from cover charges will be donated to Project 16:49, a local nonprofit that assists homeless Rock County teens. The money raised from the auction and raffle will be donated to the Rock County Humane Society.
In the past, the event - traditionally held on Dec. 23 - has benefited several local organizations.
Last year, the event raised about $800 for the American Red Cross. This year, the goal is to raise at least that, if not more, Sailing said.
The event is a casual way of spreading Project 16:49's mission, said the group's executive director, Tammy DeGarmo.
“How fun, and what a neat way for the young people to give back,” DeGarmo said. “All those dollars help, and it's a great opportunity to spread our message to a new group of people.”
Black Bridge Bowl has annually donated its banquet room for the event, and facility manager Angie Horkan said she was excited to do so again.
Horkan and her family have donated their time in the past to Project 16:49, and she said she is glad that this year a portion of the donations are going to the nonprofit.
Knapp has attended Sailing's party for more than ten years, each time wearing a different sweater. He has a stockpile of about 10 sweaters and describes swapping them for the parties as if it were a strategic sport.
“You don't keep them. You wear this once and pass it around,” Knapp said, pointing at Sailing's father, Dennis, who wore a sweater with a Christmas goose that had been passed from someone else last year.