40 years of rockin’, raisin’ money and building community

By Deb Hadachek  The Belleville Telescope editor

Forty years.

More than 12,000 volunteer hours of rocking, meals, and entertainment.Community improvements totalling in the hundreds of thousands of donated dollars.

Welcome to Cuba, Kansas– population 156 according to the 2010 Census–and its annual Rock-a-Thon, set to kick off this Sunday, March 15. A full week of round-the-clock rocking, cooking and entertainment will run through Saturday evening, March 21.

“Last year’s Rock-a-Thon raised $35,000, and the year before that, it was $32,000,” says Cuba city clerk and Booster Club member Marilyn Junek.

“I don’t remember it every going down.”

No one knows exactly how much money Rock-a-Thon has raised over the last four decades, but Junek estimates the figure exceeds a half million dollars.

This year residents are marking the 40th anniversary of the event that had it’s humble beginnings in a former laundromat on Cuba’s Main Street.

“If anyone needed to do laundry, the cake and cookies were moved aside and they did their washing,” wrote the late Jeannine Kopsa, who conceived the idea of Rock-aThon, in a history for the 25th event. “Before you used the dryers, you had to check to see if anything was stored in them.”

The first event in 1975 was seen as a way to raise money for a big Bicentennial celebration in 1976. Volunteers who manned the rocking chairs that first year solicited donations for every hour they rocked. Today’s event generates most of its income through the noon and evening meals served every day, as well as an auction of donated items Saturday night that lasts for hours.

The event was held at the laundromat for several years, and then moved to the Cuba Community Hall as attendance grew. One of the first large projects in the community funded with the help of Rock-a-Thon was the creation of a new Senior Citizens Center in the lower level of the hall, which was dedicated in 1980.

Family, farming themed events

Evening entertainment this week in Cuba will include comedians, clowns, magic, live animals and Nashville entertainers. Greg Peterson, Assaria, one of the Peterson Farm Brothers who have become international YouTube artists and advocates for agriculture, will appear Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.

“We try to provide entertainment that entire families can enjoy and come back for every night,” says Lynette Beam, who along with Peg Lesovsky, works on the line up.

Friday night will be the first ever Cuba Brew Fest, where home brew wine and beer entries will be evaluated.

Much of the entertainment is presented by local stars, including a “Newly Wed Bliss” contest on Tuesday night.

“Only people in Cuba are crazy enough to carry on a big project like this every year,”

Follow on Facebook! – www.facebook.com/CubaRockAThon