Shrine Game on despite concerns

Despite a September vote by the Concord-based Bektash Shriners to cut ties with the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, the game’s board of directors is going full steam ahead on planning the 62nd annual contest.

Tuesday night at its Lebanon headquarters, the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl’s board of governors voted on a date, Aug. 1, 2015, and location, Castelton State College in Vermont, to host what is the second-longest running Shrine football all-star game nationwide and third-largest fundraising Shrine game.

New Hampshire’s first game kicked off in Nashua back in 1954, and has raised $4.6 million over 61 years, according to board of governors president Rick Ellis. It’s second in longevity only to the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, which has pitted North versus South Carolina since 1937.

“This is an important game for Shriners and especially the kids,” Ellis said. “The players and all the children at the hospitals. That’s what this game is all about and why it is going to continue for years to come.”

The game, made up of 72 football seniors from New Hampshire and Vermont, raises money for the Shrine hospitals in Boston, Springfield, Mass., and north of the border in Montreal. Bektash, Mount Sinai, of Montpelier, Vt., and Cairo, of Rutland, Vt., have been unified for many years to sponsor the football game and pregame parade.

During Tuesday’s board of governors meeting, members of Bektash aired concerns, but also admitted the original intent at the fraternity’s September
stated meeting was to simply discuss the game and questions about its viability moving forward. Somehow, according to Ellis, the discussion turned into a motion to vote. Once seconded, it had to be voted on.

That vote was unanimous to cut ties to the game.

“I think a lot came out of our meeting Tuesday,” said Ellis of the board of governors meeting in Lebanon. “Concerns and questions were raised, but it was a healthy conversation.

“From what I’ve been told, at their next meeting in December, Bektash will bring another vote to the floor to overturn that September vote. So right now we are planning and working hard to get ready for the 62nd Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Castleton State on Aug. 1, 2015.”

The site of the game was a big decision that had to be made Tuesday night.

Because of construction at Dartmouth College’s Memorial Field, the board needed to lock down a one-year replacement site for the game.

Of course, December’s Bektash meeting still holds an unresolved piece of the puzzle. What happens if September’s vote is not overturned?

“Well, if that’s the case,” Ellis said, “then we’re right back to where we were on Monday.”