OWOSSO — As the clock winds down on the annual Mr. Owosso contest — a feature of the Curwood Festival — this year’s four candidates are winding up for a flurry of last-minute fundraising.
Whoever earns the most points for money collected and participation wins the prestigious honor. Fundraising proceeds go to the local nonprofit organization for which each man is campaigning.
“Probably the best way to put what it’s been like, is riding a wave,” candidate Justin Horvath said. “Once you start riding, there’s no stopping it. We’ve seen great interest and support, and I’m very happy about that. It’s been a great experience, and I’m looking forward to finishing strong Saturday night.”
The winner will be crowned during the Mr. Owosso finale, set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday inside the Outpost Entertainment Tent.
The candidates include Horvath, the president and CEO of Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership, who is raising funds for the local Habitat For Humanity. Hartmann Aue, a former Shiawassee County commissioner, is supporting The Arc.
“The Arc does great work,” Aue said. “They don’t receive state or federal dollars, but work entirely on people’s generosity of spirit. My mom taught people with disabilities, so this is a worthy cause that’s dear to my heart.”
Charles Dahl, loan officer at Metro Mortgage, is collecting for the Shiawassee Family YMCA. Owosso firefighter Lt. Patrick Bradley is raising money for a Shiawassee Firefighters Memorial.
Fundraising events have been jammed into three weeks, the length of this year’s contest. They continue through this week, with a Redneck Wine and Cheese event (Dahl), Bourbon, Bowties & Bonnets (Horvath) and Burgers and Brews (Aue).
“All of my events have been packed with people,” Bradley said. “We’re getting a lot of support on Facebook because a lot of people like the cause. It doesn’t matter to me if I win. I’m here to raise money and raise awareness for the memorial.”
Bradley serves on the city of Owosso firefighters memorial committee. The plan is to build a structure that will display and preserve the city-owned 1921 LaFrance fire truck — the first gas-powered fire truck owned by Owosso. The memorial will also include plaques to recognize firefighters killed in the line of duty, artifacts and benches for visitors.
On Monday, Horvath conducted a roof-sit fundraiser on the roof of The Armory, recorded live for Facebook. He said his beneficiary, Habitat For Humanity, fits in with one of SEDP’s current missions: expanding the housing stock in the county in order to boost business development.
“Habitat For Humanity can build subdivisions and rehab existing homes. The organization helped out some of the people hit by the tornado (on March 14),” Horvath said. “To me, they are solving a major issue of concern to SEDP.”
The candidates agree that the most challenging aspect of running for Mr. Owosso is the amount of time a strong campaign requires.
“It’s the time commitment, every single day,” Dahl said. “But we’re doing OK with fundraising. I’m thankful to my family and the Y family. They have been extremely supportive. And I’m a total believer in the mission of the YMCA.
The YMCA was a haven for Dahl when he grew up in Detroit, the youngest of 13 children. He serves on the Y board, and his four children have all participated in Y programs. In addition to his job at Metro Mortgage, Dahl is a coach for the YMCA, and a coach and coaching director for the Owosso Soccer Club.
Despite his schedule, Dahl has hosted a fundraising event nearly every day of the campaign.
Earlier this year, the Curwood committee that organizes Mr. Owosso announced changes to encourage participation. First, chairman Joe Petersen announced the campaign length would be cut in half, from six weeks to three.
“We would rather have six candidates raise $10,000 each, rather than two candidates raise $30,000 each,” Petersen has said. “Increased participation will spread the available community funds to various community nonprofits, as well as, expand the overall community involvement in the contest and festival.”
Second was a move to a points system, instead of crowning the man who raises the most money. Now, candidates will earn points for money raised, as well as for participation in various events during the campaign and festival weekend.
“This change is going to raise the level of participation, enthusiasm, involvement and energy,” he said. “We want to encourage engagement by the candidates and their teams throughout the entire Mr. Owosso experience.”
This year, the candidates have even supported each others’ campaigns, with the four attending events for their rivals.
“We’ve all had a lot of fun with it,” Horvath said. “The other candidates are doing a great job, and have extremely worthy organizations they’re raising money for. I have attended one of everybody’s events.
“I hope we all raise lots of money.”