Next week’s State of the City address is a big deal for Duluth and its mayor, Nancy Harris. But it’s equally as important for the group that puts it on — the Duluth Civitan club.
Tuesday's address, held at the Gwinnett Center, is the club's biggest fundraiser and most high profile event. It's a chance not only to promote the city but the club as well. Terry Crouch, sergeant at arms for the Duluth club and a long-time Civitan, is always glad to get the group's name out.
"The Civitans, it's not like we just fell off the turnip truck," Crouch said with a laugh. "When someone asks me what a Civitan is, I always come back and tell them we're like Kiwanis, the Rotary Club and the other service organizations. We're not as well known, but we just had our 95th birthday, so we've been around for a while."
Duluth's city address has also been around for a while -- eight years to be exact. What started out in 2005 as a gathering of 60 or so people at a local restaurant has grown enough to move to its new location at the Gwinnett Center. A crowd of more than 200 is expected, the largest the address has ever drawn. That attendance -- cost is $25 per person or $175 for a table of eight -- allows more people to hear about what Duluth is doing and also directly helps the Civitans (along with multiple sponsorships for the event) support their local charities -- Annandale Village, Camp Big Heart, Creative Enterprises, Inc., Driving Magic and Rainbow Village.
"In a couple of weeks we'll already be cutting checks to make donations to those groups," Crouch said. "It's gotten a little bigger each year, and we've just steadily grown (from the first one).
"The last three years we've been over 150 people (in attendance), so we thought we really needed a bigger place to have it. We always hoped we'd end up at the Gwinnett Center, and now we're there for our second year."
Harris is looking forward to the large crowd. This will be her fifth address (the theme will center on economic strategies that helped Duluth prosper in 2011) and she's put months in to research and preparation. The mayor enjoys public speaking but always has a few pangs of nervousness before giving her speech.
"I enjoy telling the stories of Duluth, but I absolutely get nervous," she said, "and I get nervous because I take so much pride in doing this and because I want to do a good job.
"I'm so glad people are so interested in the city of Duluth."
A business expo is held in conjunction with the event, and will run from 11 a.m. to noon, which is when the luncheon will begin. Crouch said it's the perfect marriage for the Duluth club -- a chance to promote the city and raise money for charity.
"This is all about Duluth and what's going on in Duluth," Crouch said. "It's a fundraiser as well as community service."
Email Todd Cline at email@example.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.