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Annual Past Presidents' Cookout
For the past three years, John Ruzich, the past President of SKAL New York and SKAL International Auditor, has hosted a great group of Skalleagues at his home in Cresskill, NJ for a Past Presidents’ party. It started as a New York event but there have been as many as seven clubs represented. This year past presidents from New York, New Jersey, Albany, Long Island, Philadelphia and Toronto attended. In all there were over twenty past presidents there. It must be the “place to be”.
The gods must love SKAL because the weather has been perfect all three years. John and his wife, Betty, go all out to provide great food, drink and ambience. It was one of the first joint SKAL events after the pandemic and was just what everyone needed. It has grown in three years and members come from all over. Last year our SKAL USA president, Richard Scinta, flew up from Orlando. Former New York president, Carolyn Feimster, has come from Indiana all three years. And this year our own Carla Plaster-Camp flew in from Washington state.
In my last “gem” I spoke of NASC and the spirit of camaraderie that envelopes everyone. Well! John’s party has that same feel. Seeing old friends and meeting new ones! Sharing old stories and telling tales of our recent travels! This year featured a silent raffle for several amazing prizes e.g. Delta tickets, resort stays, spa vacations and more. All of the prizes were donated. Yours truly won three days at Club Med for a fraction of the cost!
One of the contributors, Dean Fenton, the area manager for Antigua and Barbuda, not only donated a prize but was also a major sponsor for the event. He also gave all of the past presidents a copy of his latest book of poetry, his fourth!
One of the most important parts of the event was the twinning of SKAL New Jersey and New York. This was significant since 15 SKAL New York members split off in 1977 to form SKAL Northern New Jersey. The twinning was long in coming since our members regularly attend each others meetings. I was privileged to talk about the twinning and mentioned that when we formalized our twinning with Mexico City on May 5 at NASC the host club treated me as part of their family. That’s what twinning is to me. Enlarging your family. SKAL New Jersey was represented by Past Presidents Robert Lowell, Bonnie Kessler, Tim O’Neill and Jim Dwyer.
For those who can’t go to a World Congress or NASC I highly recommend John Ruzich’s past presidents’ party. The date is flexible. Last year it was in May and this year in June. Regardless it should not be missed. I guarantee I’ll be there!!!
As most of you know Skal New Jersey (formerly Northern New Jersey) has visited over 30 clubs since 2004. Most of the clubs are in Europe but last year we visited Panama City, Panama and met with the club there. On many of these visits we “twinned” with the host club. Twinning is a concept that bonds two clubs together for both personal and professional reasons. Skal International introduced the idea in the early 2000s and our club has embraced it. Before it was officially recognized by Skal we twinned with Skal Jersey, our friends on a small island located in the English Channel. We made our “bond” official in 2009 at the World Congress in Budapest where we shared flags and gifts.
Shortly after the Congress a small group from New Jersey travelled to Rome where we twinned with Skal Roma at a lovely ceremony at the Hotel Quirinale. This twinning was set up the previous year when my wife and I arrived in Rome after a twelve day cruise. Their president, Alberto Zampi, loved the idea and we started the ball rolling. The following year we traveled to Ireland and met with Skal Kerry and joined with our friends, Mary McMonigle and Sean O’Driscoll, at the Muckross Park Hotel. After the official papers were signed by our president, Bill Gardiner, and Mary Mac at the twinning ceremony we enjoyed a great dinner and some traditional Irish entertainment.
I think twinning is an important aspect of Skal. I’ve been called a serial twinner by some. I view Skal as a family and the clubs we are twinned with are like first cousins. You can always count on them. Skal’s longtime motto has been “Doing Business Among Friends” and I try to live by that motto.
As of 2023 we have twinned with 14 clubs worldwide. Sadly some like Jersey, Malta, Copenhagen, Belgian Coast/Flanders and Girona have had to close but I still maintain a relationship with many of their members. Just before the pandemic we twinned with Skal Arkansas and with Skal Kvarner (Croatia) onboard the MS Symphony of the Seas during the 2019 Skal World Congress.
And the Pandemic didn’t stop us. We virtually twinned via Zoom with Skal Garden Route in South Africa and Skal Mexico City. In fact, the twinning with Skal Garden Route gave rise to a virtual trade show where various members showcased their products.
Last year a group from Skal New Jersey traveled to Panama City where we were wined and dined by Skal Panama before we had a twinning ceremony. At the World Congress in Opatija I invited all of our twins to share a drink together which led to some of those clubs twinning. In May at NASC in Mexico City we plan to formalize our twinning with a small ceremony. It’s all about friendship and bonding.
Call me a serial twinner if you want. I’ll wear that badge proudly!!!
Recently together with Skal members from New York, Long Island and Philadelphia I toured the massive entertainment complex American Dream in East Rutherford.
I don’t use the term massive lightly. The complex has over 3 million square feet of space. It’s divided into several areas including a ski slope where the temperature is 28 degrees, an ice skating rink, a water park at 81 degrees (temporarily closed) with wave pool and lazy river, Legoland and a Nickelodeon themed park. You can literally go swimming in the winter and ski in the summer within yards of each other. And while there is no fee to enter the complex (aside from a parking fee) there are separate fees for each of the various sections. Aside from the fun and games there are numerous retail outlets, both high end and budget stores.
Did someone mention food??? There seemed to be 50 or more eateries within American Dream for the casual as well as the exotic diner. Fast food and elegant sit-down dining. More types of food than I’ve ever seen in one place. https://americandream.com/directory/dining/all-food-drink/
They also have meeting rooms for corporate events which is one of the main reasons we took the tour. Our host, Stan Kravitz, will send us more information on meetings and full day events including families. We could have a multi club meeting there later in the year.
As Skalleagues we are all interested in tourism and should all be showcasing what our particular region can offer tourists. Here is New Jersey we have numerous family entertainment parks and sports venues which are popular tourist attractions.
Representatives from these venues should be Skal members. Skal provides an additional, global, marketing arm for them. I urge all of our members to reach out to these sales and marketing managers and invite them to a Skal meeting. And go and visit American Dream!
One last item is our “new” Skal app. Go to your app store and download it today. It provides fast links to the most up-to-date Skal events including NASC in Mexico City (May 4-7) and the Skal World Congress in Quebec City (December 5-10). I’ll be doing a podcast next week to highlight the app and all it can do.
Why are we in Skal? Friendship, networking, business opportunities? Whatever the reason we have the choice of staying local or branching out. We can enjoy a meal with our NJ Skalleagues in a lovely restaurant or with the Munich club at a biergarten, or with the Venice club on the side of the Grand Canal. This is what Skal is about. We are a global family of travel and tourism leaders who take care of business and take care of each other.
I first caught the Skal “bug” at NAASC in Calgary in 2005 where I met members not only from the U.S., Canada and Mexico but also from Israel, France, Germany and Spain. It totally changed my view of Skal. It made me realize that Skal was going to play a major part in my life.
On social media I see posts every day from members who are in Rome or Sydney or Capetown and I’ll ask them if they have reached out to the local club. Most times they say no because they hadn’t thought of it. Whether I traveled for business or pleasure I always look to see if there is a local club during my journey. I’ve always been welcomed with open arms by members around the world. Next time you travel find the name and contact for the president of that local club and you’ll see what I mean!
With that said we have a Skal World Congress in Kvarner, Croatia next month from October 13 – 18. This will be the first world congress since 2019. Skal NJ will be represented by yours truly along with Deborah Traussi, and past presidents Robert Lowell and Tim O’Neill. I plan to contact all of our “Twin” clubs to celebrate our bond of friendship. There will be members at the congress from Arkansas, Kerry, Mexico City, Garden Route S.A., Panama. Rome, and of course, Kvarner.
Most of you won’t have a chance to go to a World Congress but you can go to a meeting with a regional club. We’re in a unique position in that there are 6 clubs within reasonable driving distance from central New Jersey. Most of you remember the great joint meetings we’ve had in Princeton with members from New York, Philadelphia, Albany, Long Island, Northeast Pa, and Central Pa. We plan to announce all of the regional meetings so you can plan accordingly.
So my message is get out there and mingle! Broaden your horizons! Skal is global and there’s a Skal member somewhere in the world waiting to greet you with open arms!!!
Skal New Jersey is a 501(c)7 non-profit organization.