July 27, 2004 was a normal day in Cambridge. Like other small towns speckled throughout Wisconsin folks were at work, farmers in the field and the warmth of the day was around everyone.
That afternoon tragedy struck the little, close-knit community, the type of tragedy that only happens in “other” communities.
It was the year that Dustin Zuelsdorf, a senior and well-respected high school student, was looking forward to.
With football practice around the corner “this would be the year.”
The fans of the sport were certain No. “52,” affectionately known as “Dozer,” would be instrumental to the year’s success. It was the year that CHS hoped to take the championship and move on to the playoffs with high expectations. It was the school year that he and his classmates had been working toward.
The Class of 2005 would complete a chapter in their lives that had been instrumental in building their character, personalities, individualism and creating their dreams for their next chapter.
July 27 was the day that changed many in the community. The grief of losing Dustin in a tragic motorcycle accident was more than some could come to grips with. It was a loss that many knew would not subside with time.
About a year after that tragic day, the Evans family decided to present an idea that would honor the memory of Zuelsdorf.
After formulating a vision for a special day in Cambridge, a small group that included Dale and Kim Zuelsdorf (Dustin’s mom and dad) were gathered to listen to what Joe and Jana had to say.
The intent of the day when it was presented, and what is still the primary focus now, is to have a day to honor Dustin by paying tribute to his memories, celebrating life and creating a legacy that will continue to honor him for many years to come.
As a result, the money raised from the event is placed in a perpetual scholarship fund, titled the Dozer 52 Football Scholarship Fund, to award senior football players that exhibit an outstanding commitment to the Cambridge Football Program, their fellow classmates, family and community.
With skeptical looks and laughs and the sounds of “you have got to be kidding” subsided, many agreed to “give it a try,” and the Dip for Dozer was brought to life.
With no budget and crazy ideas of how it would/could work, the first “Dip for Dozer” was set for Saturday, Feb. 11, 2006.
With no funds to cover the cost of the event Jana Evans turned to her employer, Badger Bank for financial assistance.
Badger Bank continues to be the sole sponsor of this event.
The first “Dip” was considered a success by the committee that worked hard to put it all together.
The event started with a small tarped tent for the waiting dippers, a pickup truck and ice shanty where they could change out of their wet clothes, and a small hole cut by whom are fondly now called the “Logistics Committee.”
The temperature was 29 degrees, there were 27 dippers and they collected $3,964 in pledges.
In addition, raffles and drawings were offered to raise additional funds that day.
In May of 2006 five scholarships were awarded for $1,052 each.
“In our minds it was a huge success, so it was decided to make it an annual event,” said Jana Evans. “Each year we have seen steady growth in the event from the participants, pledgers, spectators and the amount of money raised. In addition, we have grown out of our small tarped tent, pickup and ice shanty. We now have three 20x30-foot heated tents, restroom facilities and a larger sound system all thanks to the generous sponsorship of Badger Bank – Cambridge.”
In 2011 organizers added turkey bowling to the slate of activities to honor Erik Beirmeier, another member of the community that lost his life at a very young age.
Although very young, Beirmeier had a passion for bowling, so funds raised through turkey bowling are placed into the Lake Ripley Lanes Bowling Buddies fund in his memory.
Last year, when the temperature was a frigid 17 degrees, organizers were two dippers shy of their goal of 100 dippers, but still raised $16,578.73.
“Our events at Lake Ripley Park now include the Dip for Dozer with a costume contest, turkey bowling, ice sculpting, kites on ice, hot food and more,” Jana Evans said. “We continue to follow up our event each year by celebrating our successes and announcing winners of our various categories at Rockdale Bar. We have raffles and free food available in addition to live entertainment to cap off the day.”
To date, this day, always the second Saturday in February, has raised in excess of $110,000 and has provided 34 scholarships totaling $61,768.
Most importantly it has brought the community together to celebrate memories, life and provide healing.
As the years evolve the core committee that met back in 2005 continues to work together to plan the events at Lake Ripley Park and Rockdale Bar. They are overwhelmed with the achievements of the “Dip for Dozer” and the fact that other organizations desire to be a part of their continued successes and what they have created as a special day in Cambridge.
“We have not only drawn participation from Cambridge and other Wisconsin communities but have had folks join us from Ilinois, Minnesota, Ari-zona and Texas,” Jana Evans said. “This has prompted many organizations in Cambridge to want to be a part of the second Saturday in February.”
The Chamber of Com-merce, Cambridge Collective (Frosty Frolics), CAP and the Quilt Show organizers have all planned separate events to provide visitors and community members additional activities to choose from when visiting Cambridge.
New for 2013 will be outhouse races sponsored by Kurt’s Place.
Races will take place in downtown Cambridge following the Dip.
Winners qualify for the Trenary Outhouse Classic Races in Trenary, Mich.
To make a tax-deductible donation to the Dip For Dozer, make checks payable to: The Cambridge Athletic Booster Club, and mail to:
c/o Jana Evans
PO Box 7,
Cambridge, WI 53523
For additional information, contact Jana Evans at Badger Bank (608) 423-3241, or visit the Dip For Dozer 2013 event on Facebook.
“Mark your calendar; we look forward to seeing you on Feb. 9,” said Evans.