Raccoon River Valley Trail’s fundraising banquet set Feb. 15 in West Des Moines

Raccoon River Valley Trail’s fundraising banquet set Feb. 15 in West Des Moines  Magician-comedian Ben Ulin is the featured entertainer.  Event helps promote the trail as a major regional attraction.

After anchoring its annual banquet at Panora for the past six years, the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association is beginning to move the event around to other trail communities along the trail, starting with the group’s 2014 event on Saturday, Feb. 15, at the West Des Moines Marriott Hotel.

Also new this year is a major sponsorship for the banquet by Scheels, the West Des Moines sporting goods store.

Magician & comedian Ben Ulin will be the featured entertainer, and the theme of the night is “Raccoon River Valley Trail: It’s a Magical Experience.”

Fundraising auctions during the evening will offer chances on items ranging from a Tri Rad recumbent tricycle; four tickets to March 11 concert of Crosby, Stills & Nash at the Des Moines Civic Center; original RRVT-themed artwork by cartoonist Brian Duffy; spending a day of planting and a day of harvest with Greene County farmers Doug & Karen Lawton; other merchandise, and opportunities.

Of special interest in the auction to trail users will be several packages with overnight accommodations and meals in communities along the trail. And two other auction itemsare being offered again by popular demand – a lunch for two with RAGBRAI director T.J. Juskiewicz, and a lunch for two and tour of the KCCI-TV studios with news anchors Kevin and Mollie Cooney.

The Feb. 15 banquet is open to the public. Tickets are $50 per person, or $500 for a table of eight, and are available online now on at www.raccoonrivervalleytrail.org or by calling the trail’s headquarters (515) 465-3577. All proceeds from the banquet and its silent & live auctions go
to support the work of the RRVT Association, the all-volunteer organization which does the marketing and promotion of the trail.

Social hour begins at 4:45 p.m., with dinner at 5:30, Ulin performing at 7 and then a live auction
at 8:15 p.m.

Magician-comedian Ulin, a Des Moines native, has starred in shows at Adventureland for more than 25 years. He performs regularly at corporate parties and on cruises ships. He’ll be at home among bicyclists at the banquet. When he was in junior high and high school, he rode four of the first five RAGBRAIs. Now, he, his wife Margaret, their son and daughter still ride recreationally.

“I do enjoy riding around the neighborhood and getting on the trails,” Ben said. “We’ll get out there two to three times a week. I don’t do it as a workout, I just enjoy the journey. I hate to say all my bike adventures end at restaurants or ice cream shops, but they do seem to.”

The 89-mile paved trail – one of the longest in the nation – stretches from Jefferson on the northwest to Waukee on the southeast. It includes a 72-mile interior loop. And east from Waukee, it connects into the Des Moines metro area’s trail system.