Six little-known Rochester-area clubs

Treasure hunting. Woodcarving. Quilting. Researching ancestry. Checkmating. Table tennis-ing.

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RCTC Table Tennis
Every table is beingused for table tennis inside the field house of RCTC in Rochester on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bullet

Rochester Table Tennis Club

Where: Rochester Community and Technical College Field House, 2900 UCR Place.

When: 6-8 p.m. Sundays.

Cost: $65 for a quarterly season pass, $60 per quarter for members. Or pay a $5 drop-in fee when you come to play.


What to expect: “Expect a very friendly group where you can interact and come and exercise and have some friendly competition,” says Chi Lam. “If you want to be just casual and hang out and play with people, you can do that. If you want to be super competitive, we have some of the best players in the state.”

Best in the Midwest. Qi Wei, a U.S.A. Table Tennis coach and founder and owner of XNT5 Table Tennis Club in Rochester, coaches many of the club members. Wei is one of the highest rated table tennis players in the Midwest.

Play here, there, everywhere. Get a combo pass with the RTTC and XNT5 Table Tennis Club for $100 per quarter and play table tennis up to six nights a week.

Think big. Play for the love of the game at a local table or compete for a chance at an international stage. Two members of the club are representing the U.S. in international tournaments this year.

Rochester Magazine - Rochester Woodcarvers
Rochester Woodcarvers member Angie Zeimetz on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, at her home in Spring Valley.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Rochester Woodcarvers

Where: Zumbro Lutheran Church, 624 Third Ave. SE


When: 9:45 a.m. on the third Saturday of the month starting September (off for the summer).

Cost: $10 per year for one person and an additional family member.

What to expect: “The club is for people that are interested in woodcarving, but we have no requirements that you actually do any,” says Mike Snyder. “We have some members that do very little carving directly. But we have talks about how to carve, how to make faces and do all sorts of things like that, all sorts of things that might be related to carving wood.”

Get a ‘whittle’ work done. Outside of monthly meetings, club members gather for biweekly “carve-ins” to carve and talk. These meet from 9 am-noon at Zumbro Lutheran Church on Wednesdays and at 125 Live in Rochester on Tuesdays.

Not just carving, not just wood. Some club members prefer woodburning, rose enameling, or other types of woodworking over carving. Others carve, but practice their craft on other materials, like egg shells.

Showstopping tree. Members carve the wooden ornaments and decorations for the club’s tree at the Hiawatha Homes Festival of Trees. They’ve been one of the most popular raffle items for the fundraiser for over a decade.

Rochester Quilters' Sew-ciety
People gather for a Rochester Quilters' Sew-ciety meeting on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, at Evangel United Methodist Church in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin


Rochester Quilter’s sew-ciety or

Where: Evangel United Methodist Church, 2645 North Broadway Ave.

When: 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. first Mondays of the month.

Cost: $35 per year.

What to expect: “This is a group of individuals who love to make and admire beautiful quilts,” says Mary Severson. “This group empowers members to be creative. We also have a variety of classes, an extensive library for members, and activities on how we can become more involved in our community.”

Quilts for the community. Sew-ciety quilters made and donated 40 quilts to the Jeremiah Program’s Rochester campus when it opened in 2020. The group also regularly donates quilts and pillowcases for neonatal and pediatric patients at Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center.

Global reach. New quilters will be in good company, as the Sew-ciety boasts many notable members who have written books and invented popular quilting tools. One such member is Susan K. Cleveland, an internationally known quilting author and teacher and patent holder for two quilting and binding tools.

Wear your work. Quilting is an expansive term, referring broadly to any sewing which joins at least two layers of fabric. Many Sew-ciety members incorporate quilting into their personal fashion with wearable pieces.

Rochester Magazine - Zumbro Valley Treasure Hunters
Randy Kuznicki, president of the Zumbro Valley Treasure Hunters, on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Zumbro Valley Treasure Hunters and Facebook

Where: Ascension Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2207 11th Ave. SE

When: 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month

Cost: $25 per year.

What to expect: “We were founded by people who were interested in metal detecting on public and private land,” says Randy Kuznicki. “Since then it’s developed into a great group of people to visit with and share things, with a lot of knowledge there and experience. Something we take pride in is helping find lost things and returning them for people.”

Lost and found. Treasure hunters armed with metal detectors have found items lost in the Rochester area from as far back as the early 1800s (coins) and as recently as last month (post office keys).

Trash or treasure? Sometimes both. Club members follow a code of ethics to leave the ground better than they found it, collecting any trash they dig up or find on the surface. Treasure hunters sometimes put in hours of research to identify things they’ve dug up, sometimes allowing them to return them to descendants of the original owners.

History of their own. ZVTH dates back to 1980.

OC Genealogical Society
Olmsted County Genealogical Society newsletter writer Walt Rothwell intorduces speaker Linda Coffin to the group gathered at the meeting inside the Olmsted County History Center on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bullet

Olmsted County Genealogical Society and

Where: History Center of Olmsted County, 1195 W Circle Dr. and online.

When: 7-9 p.m. second Thursday of the month. In person May-August and online Sept.-April.

Cost: $20 per year per household.

What to expect: “The purpose of this group is to share resources for doing research on genealogies,” says Barb Virnig. “We are people who share information and learn about doing research on ancestry. Most of us are trying to find information about where our ancestors came from, why did they come, where did they live when they were here, what did they do, what did they look like.”

How far back? Some club members have traced their ancestry back as far as seven generations. Roots have been traced to any number of countries as well as to Native American peoples who originally inhabited the land.

More than DNA. Although DNA testing is an invaluable tool for genealogists, members turn to archival research to fill in the blanks of how their ancestors lived and died

Olmsted County and beyond. Many club members are residents of Olmsted County, but others take advantage of online meetings to tune in from afar to learn about family members who lived and worked in Olmsted County long ago.

Chess Club
People play chess during a chess club meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, at Harwick Cafeteria in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Rochester chess club

When: 6-9 p.m. every Tuesday.

Where: South cafeteria in the Harwick Building, 205 Third Ave. SW.

Cost: $25 per year for adults, with discounted memberships for seniors, kids, and families.

What to expect: “Half our members are scholastic players and half our members are adult players,” says Dennis Mays, the club president (and a guy we call the “Godfather of Rochester Chess.” Though he hates it when we call him that.) “We play a tournament once every month and then between those times we play casual chess or blitz chess or other formats that are up to the members to decide. On the scholastic side, we give chess instruction and coaching, especially to under-served youth in Rochester to give them skills like critical thinking that are important in life and in STEM and their occupations.”

Knight takes rook(ie). The club is open to everyone regardless of age or experience. And RCC sees all ages and skill levels every week. Though competition might look steep at first, new players can utilize matches with club members to practice and improve—or the club occasionally offers instructional chess camps and coaching.

70 years of RCC. The Rochester Chess Club’s history dates back, as far as they can tell, to 1950. In 1958, Rochester hosted the prestigious U.S. Chess Open Championships at the relatively new IBM site. (It’s considered a breakthrough moment in modern chess history, in that computers—maybe for the first time ever—were programmed to set the pairings and total the tournament’s complicated tiebreaking system.)

Fischer. Then Harmon. Like a lot of chess clubs, RCC saw attendance boom in the early 1970s, when Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky in that 1972 “Match of the Century.” The broadcast of those games is still the most popular televised chess match of all time. Today, that boom—and all stats point to chess popularity is on the upswing, with an estimated 300 million regular players worldwide—has come from the rise of online play during the pandemic and the Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit” (and fictional player Beth Harmon).

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