NH Shriners ponder end of Maple Sugar Bowl

The Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl may be a thing of the past. At least from New Hampshire’s perspective.

According to meeting notes published online in October’s edition of the The Bektash News, the official newsletter of the Bektash Shriners, a vote occurred at the Sept. 15 meeting at the Bektash Shrine Center in Concord to end participation in the annual high school football all-star game between New Hampshire and Vermont.

“After several hours of discussion, beginning at our finance meeting and then on to the stated meeting, was a vote to terminate our partnership with The Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl Inc. effective January 1, 2015,” according to notes published by Joel Weinstein, recorder for the Bektash Shriners. “It was unanimously voted by the Elected Divan and a majority vote of the Nobility to terminate our partnership with the Shrine Sugar Bowl Inc.”

The Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl celebrated 61 years this summer with the Granite State upping its win streak to 14 games with a 42-6 victory over the The Green Mountain State at Dartmouth College in Hanover.

The reason given for the termination vote is that the game itself has become the centerpiece of fundraising efforts.

“The game in the last few years has been either at break-even or has lost money with hardly any donated funds going to the Shrine Hospitals. Most of the funds have gone to the operation of a football game,” Weinstein wrote. “The Bektash’s Nobility and the Divan in conjunction with the Bektash Board of Governors over the past few years have attempted to reverse this trend with little success. It is not only that Bektash could incur a financial loss due to the future operation of the game but the main objective of the game is to donate funds to our Shrine Hospitals for Children.”

Richard Ellis, the president of the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl’s board of governors, has heard chatter in the past few years about stopping the game. It’s all come out of New Hampshire’s Bektash fraternity, of which he is a member.

According to Ellis, both of Vermont’s fraternities – Mt. Sinai in Montpelier and Cairo in Rutland – are still fully supporting the charity game, which he says costs roughly $210,000 to put on.

“I’m a member of Bektash, but I wasn’t at that meeting. I don’t know who was,” Ellis said. “They voiced their concerns that we don’t send enough money to the hospitals, and they are right. We try to raise money and send as much of it to the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Boston for burn victims and orthopedic issues in Springfield and Montreal.”

According to Ellis, he has had discussions with those at the Shriners International Headquarters in Tampa, Fla., regarding these concerns.

“I’ve talked to the people in charge at the imperial office of Shrines in Tampa, Fla., and they have said ‘We don’t care about money for the hospitals. We want you out there playing this game and publicizing what Shriners do, what the organization is all about,’” Ellis said. “This is the second oldest Shrine game in the country. They don’t want to lose that. Neither do we as a board.”

Ellis and his fellow board members will meet Tuesday as part of their regularly scheduled second Tuesday of every month schedule. The Bektash vote will be the main focus of conversation at that meeting.

“Right now we have a lot more questions than we do answers,” Ellis said. “We don’t know the answers to these questions right now. Hopefully after Tuesday we’ll have a clearer understanding of what those answers are and where we go from here.”