Chris Smith Press Democrat Column April 4, 2021

Every friendship has it ups and downs. So it is with the lower Russian River’s linkage with the high-brow, art-graced, frequently scorned, men-only, pee-on-the-trees annual encampment at the Bohemian Grove near Monte Rio.

The kinship goes back an extraordinarily long way, 120 years. A good deal of good came from it even before the arrival of cash gifts from Bohos totaling $110,000 that right now aid efforts to get vulnerable Russian River-area residents vaccinated against COVID-19 and that come as a shot in the arm to other critical missions in the region.

“It’s a great example of doing something tangible for one’s neighbor,” said Dr. Jason Cunningham, chief of West County Health Centers. The nonprofit recently received $50,000 for its vaccination efforts from the Dawn Redwood Trust, a charitable foundation that gets most of its dollars from members of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco, host of the Bohemian Grove campout.

Leaders of the Dawn Redwood Trust also gave $20,000 to each of the three community organizations that benefit from the hugely popular Monte Rio Variety Show. In normal years, the show happens in July, during the Bohemian Grove encampment that often draws protesters worried about the prospect that some of the club’s rich and powerful members meet with politicians out of the public eye.

Each year, performers that have included the likes of Steve Miller, Elvin Bishop, Clint Black, Zac Brown and Roy Rogers venture from the Grove to entertain a great crowd at the open-air Monte Rio Amphitheater. Last summer, COVID regulations forced the show to go virtual.

The $20,000 checks that arrived from the Dawn Redwood Trust were godsends to the Monte Rio School Foundation, the food pantry and other services of St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, as well as the Monte Rio Fire Services Foundation.

“Everybody’s working together,“ said Michele McDonell, the community dynamo who coordinates the charitable Monte Rio Variety Show. ”It’s just a blessing. That’s how we operate.“

McDonell said cash grants from the Dawn Redwood Trust come at a time when fallout from the pandemic deals hardship and misery throughout the river area.

“It’s pretty grim for so many people,” McDonell said. Neighborly help originating in the pockets of Bohemian Club members is helping.

At West County Health Centers, chief executive Cunningham said the $50,000 from Dawn Redwoodd Trust has allowed his organization to contract with a fellow community nonprofit, Corazón Healdsburg, for essential COVID outreach services. Corazón Healdsburg has taken on the challenge of locating low-income people in danger of being overlooked by vaccination programs and helping them arrange to receive the shots

Cunningham said the new dollars made it possible for West County Health Centers to pay for the services of five members of the Healdsburg organization’s bilingual, bicultural vaccination outreach team. Those team members connect people with the vaccination clinics operated by the health centers.

That assistance in attracting vulnerable individuals to the clinics has been invaluable. “I would not have been able to do that quickly without that funding,” Cunningham said.

The Bohemian Grove members who savor the redwood camp and the people who live near it have been neighbors for far longer than anyone can remember. So they might as well be friends.

Thank You from The 109th Monte Rio Variety Show Volunteer Community

We did it! The 109th Monte Rio Variety Show Volunteer Committee wishes to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to all who participated in this year’s Virtual Show. In March it looked like our annual tradition could end its long run of continuous variety show entertainment due to the serious worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

But through creativity, hard work, and the volunteerism of community members and our fantastic supporters, the Monte Rio Variety Show moved forward with the motto “The Show will go on, on virtually, that is”.  With the help of some of our talented producers and directors, a short video was produced with local community members and some favorite past entertainers providing encouragement and inspiration. And with the support of sponsors from past shows and community members, an Online Auction element was created.

And so, the “Show did go on” and the beneficiaries THANK all who helped make the 109th Monte Rio Variety Show another success.  We look forward to seeing you in July 2021 for our 110th annual.

Chris Smith Column in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat July 23, 2020

FOR 108 YEARS, the charitable Monte Rio Variety Show has rocked and awed and charmed the lower Russian River during the mid-summer run of the Bohemian Grove Encampment. The 109th show was set for Thursday.

The exclusive campout of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco was canceled this year because of the pandemic, but the variety show goes on — online.

There’s a virtual performance at Visit the site and you’ll see there’s also an auction that seeks to raise essential dollars for the Monte Rio organizations that every year benefit from the show: St Catherine’s Church, Monte Rio Fire Services Foundation, and the Monte Rio School Foundation.

The auction closes at 9 p.m. Thursday, July 23.

News about the 2020 Monte Rio Variety Show during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Monte Rio Variety Show (MRVS) Committee regretfully announces that due to the risks inherent in the COVID-19 Pandemic the 109th Show is cancelled for July 23, 2020. We are committed to keeping our volunteers and our community safe by observing the public health mandates and not exposing the production crews and entertainers who volunteer their time and talent to our local community each year.

With the loss of this great evening of entertainment under the Redwoods, it also means the loss of necessary funds for the three beneficiaries, St Catherine’s Church, The Monte Rio Fire Department Foundation, and The Monte Rio School Foundation. The committee is exploring various options that will preserve the continuity of the show and its history since it began in 1911.

Shortly we will be announcing how the “Show will go on” where your involvement will be appreciated and our beneficiaries will be able to continue their support in the community.

The MRVS Committee thanks you for your continued support of our Community. We look forward to announcing our “Virtual” 109th Monte Rio Variety Show and providing details of our raffle prizes within the next couple of months.

109th Monte Rio Variety Show is set for Thursday, July 23, 2020.

Thank you to all who attended the 108th Monte Rio Variety Show. This year was one of the most successful shows and the rumor finally came true: Jimmy Buffet entertained the sold out crowd along with many other great performers such as Gary Muledeer, Rick Hartwig, Lawrence Hobgoed, Tim Hockenberry, Bobby Vickers, Tim Huffman, Livingston Taylor, Billy Valentine, Patrick Martin, Carlos Reyes, Metalmucil, Tim Nichols, Bob Dipiero, Kix Brooks, Travis Howard and we can’t forget our outstanding Master of Ceremony this year, Malcom McDowell.

The tradition will continue with the 109th Monte Rio Variety Show on Thursday, July 23, 2020. Make your plans to join the Monte Rio community for another fabulous night of entertainment. Keep checking back for updates on next years show.