Each year, thousands of boy scouts, cub scouts, school groups, christian youth groups, High School Marching Bands and youth athletic teams utilize our Christmas Wreath Fundraiser to earn money to sustain their members through the years. Mickman Brothers strives to bring you current, useful fundraising tips, steps and information to help you have the most successful fundraising season to date!
Mickman Brothers Wreath Fundraiser donated custom designed Wreaths and Garland to the Minnesota Governor's Residence. The are festively displayed at the Governor's Residence for the 2012 Holiday Season. Happy Holidays to all our customers. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
As is the case with
any worthwhile endeavor, having an end goal to establish progress along the way
and to reward goal achievement is essential. So it is with your Christmas
Wreath Fundraiser; how much money does your organization need/want to earn? How
many products do you need to sell to achieve this goal and how many products
will each member need to sell to get there?
The following short
story is an interesting true tale regarding the value of establishing goals –
of know where you’re going...
Many years ago, while traveling through Asia, I visited
the peninsula colony of Macau. This community, while in China, was at the time
under lease to Portugal, much as Hong Kong was under lease by the UK. I was
with my wife Wendy and my good friend Bill’s Hong Kong Housekeeper Vie, a
beautiful lady from the Philippines.
Even back then, Macau was a gambling Mecca and we walked
through a couple of these casino’s to see what they looked like. All the
gamblers were Asian men that were serious gamblers. It was dark and smoky, and
none of the games they were playing looked anything like the ‘nickel, dime,
quarter’ card games my buddies and I play for fun. We received many glaring
looks by both the players and the staff and it was made clear that we were not
welcome. That was OK. None of us were
gamblers anyway; I guess it showed.
The three of us went back into the warm, welcoming
sunshine and began strolling through this exotic sea port city. Of course there
were street vendors everywhere in both temporary and permanent shops selling
wares that ranged from skins of exotic animals to cooked geese plucked and
gutted - and hanging by their necks on strings in the open air – by the dozens.
We guessed that a cooked goose was a popular dish in Macau. We didn’t purchase
Many shops were selling rare(?) antiquities - like pots
from the Ming Dynasty(?). They may or may not have actually been from the Ming
Dynasty, but these items were extremely interesting. We stopped at one of the more exotic looking
shops, and began browsing through the many items that were reputed to be from
the Ming Dynasty, bronze tools, flat ware, porcelain bowls, etc., and some wild
looking pipes. I guessed that these pipes were for smoking opium, since tobacco
came from America a couple of centuries after the Ming Dynasty. However, since
the little old Chinese man shopkeeper didn’t speak any English, we weren’t sure
(all he could say in English was “Ming Dynasty”). This old man had a mole near
his chin, with a foot long wisp of white hair drooping down. These wispy moles
seemed to be a thing to be revered, since many older men sported them.
We stopped at many booths on our way to Fortaleza de
Barra (The Barra Fort), a 16th Century Fortress on the bluff overlooking
the harbor area. The old fort had a commanding stance over the bay and harbor
and successfully defended Macau from the treat of a Dutch invasion in the 17th
Century. There were a dozen old guns atop the 16 foot thick walls which were
rusty and decrepit as one would imagine.
I thought how amazing, that the gun handlers of old were able to
actually hit anything with these primitive weapons. But, they must have had
some level of luck keeping the pirates and Dutch invaders from their colony,
because it was still held by Portugal.
Well, we climbed down from the old fort and began walking
through the town again. At one point, I pulled a map from my pocket to figure
out where we were. Unfortunately, both the map and the street signs were in
Chinese characters. This required me to stand on the corner, and look back and
forth from the map to the street signs, and back again, in an effort to match
up these foreign hieroglyphics. It was frustrating, but I decided to figure out
where I was before we moved on. Macau is a pretty big city, and although we
weren’t lost, I sure didn’t know where we were. I didn’t expect help from any
locals because they were all Chinese and not overtly friendly.
After many minutes of focused effort, an old man
approached me and asked, “Young man, would you like some assistance”, in
heavily accented but surprisingly good English. He was short and slight, had a
long wisp of white hair growing from a mole on his cheek and was dressed in a
long, white flowing robe. His arms were tucked onto the sleeves of his robe
much as you would expect of a Buddhist High Priest. I was relieved and said,
“Yes, I’d appreciate your help. I’m having trouble matching the Chinese
characters on the map and am trying to figure out where we’re at.” The wise old
sage looked at me for some time, then asked, “Where are you going?” I scanned
around the intersection for a second or two, and then replied, “Well, I don’t
really know where I’m going, I just want to know where I’m at.”
Then, without a smile, or for that matter, any expression
at all on his face, the old sage said, “Young man, if you don’t know where you
are going, what does it matter where you are.” And with that, he began walking
away from me and didn’t look back. I exclaimed, “But sir, can’t you just show
me where we are?” Nothing; the old man just kept walking. I never saw him
As I watched him seemingly float away, his long,
immaculately white robe flowing behind him, I realized the wise old sage was
correct; ‘If I don’t know where I’m going, what does it matter where I am?’
I’ve tried to heed this advice over the years, and always have some semblance
of a plan in place; I wish more people did.
Groups have achieved success by enlisting the support of their Church
Communities to help fund their activities. This is particularly true if your
group is directly affiliated with a church, or if your group is sponsored by a
church. However, even if your group isn’t, the Fundraising Committee can ask
for the support of their own churches to assist your organization in achieving
its fundraising goals.
The Victorian Wreath
A Sample Wreath is one of
the best ways to obtain sales—and is available at NO CHARGE. If your
congregation has a time after Sunday services when coffee and donuts are
served, this is a great time to display the sample and take orders. The
fragrance of the Balsam Fir, the full rich look of the Wreath, and the texture
of our highest quality Bows—all make these products easy to sell. Keep in mind
that you are offering a delivered product that most people would like to have,
at a price that is less than retail PLUS they are supporting your group.
Who could resist!
The Fundraising Poster is
an excellent way to announce to members of your congregation that you are
having a Fundraiser. Be sure to highlight on the Poster how to place orders and
the Sunday date of pick-up
Other Church Groups
One of the best ways to
enlist the support of your congregation is to seek the advice of your Pastor.
As the leader of your Church Community, they will be able to guide you on the
best ways to promote your Christmas Wreath Fundraiser. There are probably other
groups such as the Men’s Club or Choir Group that would welcome the chance to
purchase a Christmas Wreath to support the activities of your group.
Remember, the Wreath is a traditional symbol of friendship and
hospitality. What a wonderful way to promote fellowship within your Church
During the sale after
Sunday Services, be sure to offer Holiday Gift Products (HGP) to the members of
your Congregation. What a perfect Christmas Gift, at a reasonable cost, for the
family and friends of your congregants! To facilitate the sale of HGPs to
your Congregation, make sure you have HGP Order Forms available for them
to complete. Remember that when you sell a Holiday Gift Wreath, you don’t have
to worry about distribution of the product—Mickman Brothers will send the
Product along with the personalized Christmas Card directly from our ‘Wreath
Shop’ via FedEx.
Ease of Distribution
Distribution of Wreaths using
our Traditional Program to members of a Church Congregation is extremely
easy. Because the congregation meets every Sunday for Services, you can have
your customers pick up and pay for their orders at the end of the Service –
just in time for Holiday Decorating! (Be sure to choose just one Sunday for
Note: If you are planning on distributing the
wreaths on a particular Sunday after Services, please mention this to your
Mickman Brothers Holiday Fundraiser Customer Service Rep so we can schedule your shipment accordingly.
(This is the second in a 2 part story of our dad’s
Rice Creek Rancho business. He had purchased about 60 wild burros from Mexico,
and kept them in a 40 acre, rented field across the street from our suburban
home in Fridley, MN.)
8-year-old John S. with baby Burro
Even though my brother Mark
and I were still little kids, right from the get-go dad got us up on the
burro’s and away we went. He had purchased some really cool leather saddles
with brass and chrome studded medallions accented into the inlaid leather work.
All the saddles he brought home had ‘horns’ on them, were very shinny and
initially that was how we stayed on the burros; after we learned to ride, we
just held on with our knees, many times without any saddle at all.
However, the big problem
was that all these creatures were wild, right out of the Mexican desert, and
had never been ridden. Although not nearly as big as a horse, or even a mule,
these burros were whirling dervishes in every way. Kids came from miles around,
jumped over the fence, snuck up on the burros and took them for bare-back
rides. Much of the time the bucking
burros would run directly toward the low hanging branches of the numerous Box
Elder trees which studded the field. Many a rider was knocked clean off their
willey burro as it galloped under a tree branch. All told, I can only remember
one kid getting really hurt, but he only broke an arm. Considering the big
picture, not too bad…
Off all the burro’s back
then, ‘Jock-o’ was the absolute wildest burro in the corral. He was jet black
with a pure white star on his shoulder, and a longer black mane than the rest
of the burros. We couldn’t even get on Jock-o. Somehow, without looking
backward, he could tell when we were in range, and quicker than quick, Jock-o
would whip a hind leg out and kick you in the ribs – hard. Nope, none of the
kids bothered with Jock-o, for a few years anyway, but that’s another story…
In the meantime, little by
little, dad’s herd of burros started dwindling, although we had the burros for
many years. So, dad thought to himself, ‘with
sales lagging a little more than the initial business plan had taken into
account, how else can I make money with these burros? How about a concession at
the MN State Fair!Now there’s a
So started our many
adventures working the burros at the State Fair. Our concession was on top of
the knoll at the west end of where the Sky Ride is now located. For a half
dozen years we would go to the Fair and dig 2 concentric circles of fence
posts, and string rope between the two circle outlines – making a circular,
rope ringed track. It was a pretty big track, probably about 200’ in diameter.
Dad had an old, rickety, white washed work bench with a drawer that he kept the
‘money box’ in. He painted a sign of sorts that said, Mexican Burro rides,
25 cents- we were in business. To attract attention to
his fabulous State Fair Exposition, in his HUGE, LOUD VOICE, dad would yell
for a ride on a Mexican Burro. Who’s up next?” Honestly, you could hear
my dad from over a block away, even with all the commotion of the fair. (For
those that don’t know, 2-bits equals twenty-five cents.)
We had a very busy
concession. Like all of these businesses, dad did all the thinking, as well as
the working part that we kids couldn’t handle. But he was a great mentor, and
showed us how to do as much work as possible, as soon as possible. There were
many things to think up.
Us kids’ main job at the
fair was to keep the stubborn burros moving around the ‘ring’ when we had
riders, which was from dawn to dusk. The burros would get tired, and we had
some extra’s to trade off during the day. But even so, many, many times each
day one or more of burros would just stop. Well, this was a perfect job, not
only for Mark and me, but also for little brother Jimmie and best friends Cris
and Brian Archibald (who lived across the street in Fridley). This really was a
good job for kids that were from 6 or 7, all the way up to 10 or 12. I mean
really, can you picture a grown man walking around behind these little burros
just to keep them going? I can’t, but then, I was kind of protective of my job
back then too…
Anyway, we each had our
own favorite stick to slap the behinds of the burros when they wouldn’t
cooperate, and 95% of the time, we could get them going again. However, if we
simply couldn’t get one or more of the burros started, ‘the big gun’ would be
called in: Dad. Our dad had huge, strong, callused hands and when he slapped
the butt of a burro you could hear it for a hundred yards. Right when he would
make the connection, huge hand to butt, he would yell out, “On delay”(it’s Spanish; we
didn’t know what this meant either?). The little burros ears would go back
and they would leap into action, not to stop for quite some time.
After one or two of these
encounters, the stalled burro in question would crane his head, and roll his
eyes all the way back to see if dad was indeed coming after him. When the
stubborn creature was sure it was the target of ‘the big gun’, the burro would
tuck his tail between his legs and start running around the ring – with a
little kid on board – bouncing (and sometimes, crying) all the way around the
ring until dad could catch up to the now stampeding herd of jackasses. Are we
having fun now, or what!? The show was just beginning.
Most of the time our days
were spent taking turns walking burros around the ring, and when it wasn’t our
turn, we would go down the Midway where we had made friends with the kids of
the professional ‘carnies’, the guys that ran all the Midway rides. We kids
became compatriots because we all ‘worked’ at the Fair and our gang would get
free rides in the Midway, and the Midway gang would get free rides on the
burros. It was a good deal, and cooler than heck.
If you can imagine being a
little kid whose job it is to walk behind burros in a circle for 12 hours a
day, you can get a taste of working at the fair at the Mexican Burro concession.
We liked it, and were able to go down to the Midway and everything, but it was
still a lot of boring work. So, we had to make up some games. One of them went
Of course, being creatures that ate, the burros of
course had to poop too. Because we all did such a good job keeping the burros
moving, they could poop on the fly. Many people, maybe most, haven’t really had
the opportunity to study the hind end of a burro for days on end. Well, I’m
here to tell you that there is a certain sequence of events that occurs as the
burro is working up to this particular project.
Our ‘honey-bucket’ was a wheelbarrow that we kept in
the middle of the ‘ring’; we kept the show shovel in the honey-bucket for
picking up after the burros. The contest was that the kid that was ‘up’, had to
recognize the symptoms of the next bowel movement for one of the 6 or 7 burros
working, run to the honey-bucket, get the snow shovel, run back to the burro in
question, and catch the poop in mid-air, before it hit the ground. We developed
a point system for winning points for perfect catches, and losing points when
the one that was ‘up’, got the snow shovel and there was no action; this was a
serious loss of points. The winner wouldn’t have to put the burros away that
night. I really hate to brag, but I usually won this contest.
When I think back on this
whole affair, I’m pretty sure that the parents had just as much fun as the kids
did when they visited our dad’s Mexican Burro concession. There was always
plenty of action and interesting things happening.
As for our wages, ‘we
weren’t cheap, but we could be had’. Each day we earned $3 each, and all the
chili-con-carne and Dinty Moore Beef Stew we could eat. Of course we got free
rides in the Midway, and we had an old, miniature travel trailer on the site
that we could sleep in. That way, dad wouldn’t have to pay to get us into the
Fair every day. A pretty shrewd move on his part, and we all liked to camp out
anyway; we didn’t have to take baths when we slept over, were play around at
the Fair, and got to spend all kinds of extra time with the burros. We loved
the State Fair!
By the time the fair
ended, we were all pretty tired, but rich. We all had the money we earned at
the fair and for the set-up/tear down, and on really good days, dad would give
us more money as a bonus. He would take out all the money he earned and we
would help him dump it on the big bed in mom and dad’s bedroom. You’ve never
seen so many quarters in your life (at least we hadn’t). Then we helped put all
the money into the little paper tubes so dad could bring the money to the bank,
in bags. A lot of bags.
To all of us kids, our dad
was the richest dad we knew, and as I came to realize when I became a father,
he was richer in more ways than one.
Our dad, John V. Mickman, was a perennial entrepreneur
whose business pursuits were unique in many ways, but mostly because few people
would ever have thought of these business opportunities in the first place. His
foray into the Mexican Burro adventure is a good example. Here is how I
remember my dad telling me about how Rice Creek Rancho began:
In the mid 1950’s he and
our mom, Lucy Mickman, decided to drive down to Mexico for a vacation. Why? I’m
sure the original intent was simply for pleasure. However, dad was one of those
rare individuals that learns foreign languages easily, and while in Mexico for
those two weeks, he learned Spanish. 40
years later in the mid 1990’s, Mickman Brothers hired two Hispanic workers through
a temp agency and none of us spoke Spanish. So, I called my dad and asked if he could remember
enough Spanish to ask these workers if they were getting paid properly, how
they liked working for us, etc. He said, “Well, I don’t know if I can remember
enough Spanish, but I can try.” He met with the two workers and said, “Hola, Buenos
tardes.” The two guys looked surprised, replied in Spanish, and off they went
on an hour long conversation…….. Amazing!
Anyway after he picked up
the language during the vacation, dad was driving mom through the Mexican
countryside and stopped to get gasoline. While he was fueling up, dad looked to
a mesa not far off and spotted a small herd of burros. Dad asked the attendant
what they were, and was told that they were wild burro’s; no one owned them,
they just lived there in the semi-arid land. “Well”, my dad said. “I wonder how
much they are worth if a guy wanted to buy them.” “Buy them?” the Mexican
replied. “Why would anyone want to buy them? You can just go out there and get
them if you want them!”, he replied in Spanish.
My dad said, “I don’t know
if I want them or not right now. But, if I do want them, how much would it cost
to have you or your buddies go get them and put them on a truck? I’m going home
from my vacation with my wife and don’t have time to get them right now.” The
Mexican began stroking his long black mustache trying to come up with the right
number; too much might scare this gringo away, but it would be silly to ask too
low a price. “Amigo, I think my brothers and I can get some of those burro’s
for $2.50 each. What do you think about that?”
Boy, this seemed like the
deal of a lifetime to my dad. $2.50 each plus somehow getting them up to
Minnesota. He was sure he could sell
them for over $50 each, maybe more. “Mi amigo, how many of those burros do you
think you can catch?” The overwhelming opportunities seen by the Mexican were
similar to my dad’s. “Senior”, the Mexican replied, “how many burros do you
want; that’s how many we can catch.”
So the negotiations and
logistics were worked out standing there at the gas station in northern Mexico.
My dad gave the Mexican a small down payment to show that he was serious about
this business opportunity, and the Mexican assured dad he would take care of
everything. “Don’t worry Amigo, this is going to be a good thing for you…”.
My mom (a very nice, very
clean lady) was extremely surprised (and concerned) when dad got back in the
car, drove away, and told her of his grand new plan. The problem was that we lived
in a subdivision in the new suburban community of Fridley. Mom was sure we
couldn’t keep burros in our back yard and we had no other place for any
livestock. Dad was an aeronautical engineer at Honeywell and it was important
that he stayed focused on his job since she was busy with 5 kids under six
years old at home.
As it turned out, there
was an undeveloped 40 acre field across the street from our house that had an
old dilapidated barbed wire fence around it. When they returned to Fridley, dad
met with the old farmer that owned that field and asked if he could rent it for
a year or so. “Young man”, the farmer said, what are you going to do with 40
acres? You’ve never farmed in your life.” Here was a critical time in the new
enterprise for my dad; he didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag with his
new idea in case someone else heard about it and captured the market before he
even got started. But, after going back and forth a couple of times, it became
apparent that the old farmer wouldn’t lease the land to dad until he knew what
he was going to do with it.
Finally my dad told him
the plan, but that the plan was to be in strict confidence. “I’m going to keep burros
in the field” dad explained. “What burros!” the farmer asked. “What are you
talking about? How many burros?” Dad replied, “Well, I was thinking about 50 or
60 burros, from Mexico.” “From Mexico!” the farmer exclaimed. “What in the name
of Pete are you going to do with 60 wild Mexican jackasses?” This seemed to be
a funny question to my dad, because, from the instant he had the idea, he was
certain his plan was a fabulous business opportunity. “I’m going to sell those
burros, for $75 each!” dad announced proudly.
So the deals between the
Mexican and the old farmer were struck (much to mom’s dismay). I’m not sure about the logistics of getting
the burros to Minnesota or how the money was exchanged with the Mexican, but
somehow dad arranged the whole thing. He repaired the run down barbed wire
fence and fashioned a corral from some old lumber not far from our house. My
younger brother Mark and I tagged along behind dad much of the time, but we
were only 5 or 6 years old so weren’t able to help much. We really didn’t even
understand what was happening – until the big day.
Dad with burros
So on one fine, early
summer morning in 1956, our dad woke Mark and me up and while walking across
our dew covered lawn, we watched the biggest truck we had ever seen, back up
next to the corral in the 40 acre field. Then, when we reached the back of the
truck, our dad yelled out to the truck driver, “Let ‘er go!” and the trailers huge
tailgate dropped down to the ground, making a steep ramp. As it dropped, 60
wild, Mexican jackasses began stampeding down the ramp. They had not seen the
light of day since they left the old country and were raring to go, literally. They
jumped, and bumped and farted their way from the truck and ran away into the
field like there was no tomorrow, happy to be free again. They were wild indeed
and had never been fenced in. Mark and I crawled through the barbed wire and
started running after these wild creatures; what fun!
My dad called this
operation, RICE CREEK RANCHO, and he made the newspaper many times over the
next few years as word spread about all the Mexican Burros in ‘friendly Fridley’.
Even now, whenever I see a burro in Minnesota, there is little doubt in my mind
that this is a descendant of one or more of those first 60 burros my dad
brought to Minnesota in the ‘50’s. And, the good news is that this business
turned out to be a pretty lucrative venture for our dad, and certainly a
learning experience for all of us kids.
But to my little brother
Mark and me, this wasn’t a business, this was by far the most exciting event in
our young lives; we were going to be cowboys! We simply couldn’t believe that
all those ‘little horses’ were ours. But, as you can only imagine, the fun was
Find out what happens in Rice Creek Rancho, Part 2. Coming soon!