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Highlights and Achievements: Inside Shriners International's 2023 Imperial Session in Charlotte

Shriners during parade

The 2023 Imperial Session took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sunday, July 2, through Thursday, July 6. Thousands of Shriners, ladies and family members from all of the world joined Imperial Sir Kenny Craven and Lady JJ in Charlotte for the five-day event, celebrating the fun, fellowship and philanthropy that connects us all.

The 2023 Imperial Session was a great success, and we are already looking forward to next year’s event, which will take place in Reno, Nevada, June 30 – July 4, 2024.

Please enjoy some important highlights and updates from the 2023 Imperial Session:

Imperial Session Brings New Leadership

James E. “Ed” Stolze Jr. Elected Imperial Potentate

James E. “Ed” Stolze Jr., Arizona native and member of El Zaribah Shriners, was elected Imperial Potentate, part of the 12-member body that helps govern the Shriners fraternity, during the 2023 Imperial Session. He is serving his 10th year as a member of the Boards of Directors for Shriners International and Shriners Children’s. As Imperial Potentate, Ed will lead our fraternity as the highest-ranking Shriner in the world.

To Ed, family is everything. It’s this family bond that Ed wants to nurture in the fraternity. He is honored to serve as Imperial Potentate, in support of Shriners International and Shriners Children’s, and looks forward to a successful year serving the fraternity that is his second family. 

Ed Stolze and JoLynn Dickens

In addition to the Imperial Potentate, several others were voted into fraternal leadership positions during Imperial Session.

Four Shriners Receive Award of Merit

The fraternity’s highest honor, the Award of Merit, recognizes Shriners who have made an outstanding and lasting impact on Shriners International and Shriners Children’s. Each year, Shriners gather at Imperial Session in anticipation as the Imperial Potentate announces the recipients.

This year, four distinguished Shriners were honored with the Award of Merit for their outstanding achievements and selfless contributions. Congratulations to these extraordinary Shriners:

Fun & Fellowship Competition Winners Announced

Shriner leading children during cooking class

This friendly contest promotes and recognizes fun and fellowship throughout the fraternity. With its focus on existing and new events, the contest brings inspiration to Shriners looking to have fun while supporting the philanthropy.

With 116 entries from 58 temples, one common theme was clear: Shriners from around the world are planning fun and creative events that raise awareness about the fraternity and engage Shriners, families and the community.

Winners in each of two categories were announced at Imperial Session:

Emirat Shriners took the top prize for their Children’s Cooking Class in the Existing Shrine Center Events category. Headquartered in Germany, Emirat Shriners has clubs throughout Europe and the Middle East. The winning event was held by the Sicily Shrine Club, which partnered with a local hospitality school to hold a cooking class for children with disabilities or those facing a cancer diagnosis.

In the Event Concepts category, Mecca Shriners of New York City took home the win. The idea for the Mecca Shrine Polar Explorers Club was inspired by the iconic NYC polar bear plunge, and taking a festive group of Shriners standing on these same shores – wearing gaudy robes, pins, plastic fezzes and causing a stir. The plan is for the club to hold events to expose its members to chilly happenings in New York: ice skating, ice cream adventures, trips to spas with cold pools, and so on. All of this culminates with the polar bear plunge, followed by a family-friendly winter tailgate.

Fun & Fellowship Competition winners and finalists:

Winner – Existing Shrine Center Events

  • Emirat Children's Cooking Class

Winner – Event Concepts

  • Mecca Shriners Polar Explorers Club

Finalists – Existing Shrine Center Events

Finalists – Event Concepts

Learning and Celebrating at Imperial Session

For Shriners who aren’t attending the fraternity’s business sessions, the Office of Membership Development offers a range of events, activities and resources throughout the week for Shriners and their spouses.

Hall of Fame Luncheon Honors Temples’ Growth

Shriners holding awards and celebrating

A highlight of Imperial Session is the Membership Hall of Fame Luncheon. The Membership Award Program recognizes temples that experience a net gain or improvement in regular membership during the calendar year. This year, 400 Shriners attended the luncheon to celebrate 31 gold temples, 47 silver temples and 32 bronze temples.

  • Gold Award: A temple shows a net gain or no loss in membership, and members more than two years in arrears for their dues must have been suspended or have dues remitted by Dec. 31.
  • Silver Award: Temples demonstrate overall improvement of more than 2% from the previous year.
  • Bronze Award: Temples show overall improvement up to 2% from the previous year.

Shriners Share Ideas, Build New Skills

Shriners sitting at large round table

Several educational opportunities were offered for Shriners at Imperial Session in Charlotte, North Carolina. Presented by the Shriners International Education Foundation (SIEF) and designed to be engaging, with practical takeaways, presentations had a theme of overcoming barriers and offering value to members.

  • The Membership Summit attracted more than 350 participants who gathered to hear from subject matter experts on a variety of topics, including insights on identifying areas of interest to members, creating and marketing clubs and units, club and unit success stories, tap rooms and cosplay units.
  • At the Learning Center, about 60 Shriners participated in small-group sessions focused on improving clubs and units by crafting annual plans and meeting members’ needs in order to attract and retain members.

Fraternity Fosters Relationships with Grand Masters

Shriners meeting, wearing business suits


The Grand Masters Summit, hosted by the SIEF, was an engaging two days of fellowship, and personal and professional development. The event attracted an international crowd and a record number of participants, who in turn represent more than 600,000 Masons.

The small group setting provided Grand Masters the opportunity to share rich conversations, discussing in depth topics that were immediately relevant to the health of ancient craft masonry. Hosting the Grand Masters Summit is one way the fraternity builds relationships within the Masonic community.