It’s 2015 and crowds gather up and down Main Street Fort Benton. They’ve turned out to watch the Summer Celebration parade, same as they do every year. Only this year, there’s a new float in the mix – a Viking ship, adorned with shields and a dragon’s head at its bow. Nearly a dozen men ride it through town, carrying weapons. Each brandishes a helmet and some are clothed with tunics or fur. When the men win first place for their float, people will ask who they are and what they stand for. And they’ll say, “We’re the Explorers Club. We stand for a good time.”
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The Explorers Club was more or less the brainchild of Dennis Mack, a veteran, history buff, and gun collector. According to Mack, the club provides men with similar interests “an excuse to eat ribeyes and drink,” and to an extent, encourages them to explore the world around them. Ultimately, it gives them a reason to have some fun.
As fans of Hagar the Horrible, the group decided to loosely theme their club around Viking culture. In fact, the club is named after a specific Hagar comic. In it, Hagar leaves his wife at home to attend a meeting of the “Explorers Club.” A couple frames later, he is seen standing before a group of men saying, “Tonight we are going to explore the contents of this bottle of 10-year-old scotch!”
While it’s based on a comic strip, the Explorers Club’s name isn’t entirely a joke; Mack and other members have done a great deal of exploring. Since the group’s founding in November 2008, Mack has traveled to many locations around the country, Ecuador, and Peru. He’s visited numerous museums, battlegrounds, and forts, and he’s even toasted to the Explorers Club atop Pike’s Peak. Next year, he hopes to get a group of club members together on D-Day to visit Omaha Beach. “I love to travel,” says Mack. “Gee, we have a good time.”
Scott Simon, a fellow Explorers Club member, believes Mack’s leadership has been a key component in the enjoyment of the group. For instance, Mack spearheaded the plan to build a parade float – the one that came in first place in Fort Benton.
“As we drove down the street I saw older guys watching like ‘Why can’t I do something fun like that?’” says John Silversmith, another member of the club. “Everybody should do something to occupy their time. If you can get involved in something, there’s a lot of enjoyment in your life.”
Although the Explorers Club has decided to freeze its membership, Mack says there’s nothing stopping others from creating their own version of the Explorers Club. All you need is a group of friends, an adventurous spirit, and an excuse to have some fun.