Peter and my first attempts at a Hero Appreciation program began with a single month, the month of March 2007, in which several local businesses joined together with us in providing our Veterans 20% off what we normally charge for our products or services.
Then our local VFW Post 3939 decided to hold an Open House at the Three Rivers Veterans Memorial Building, on a certain Saturday during that same month, and several Chamber members contributed refreshments. Anne Lang brought her own delicious cream cheese and pepper jelly dip with crackers. I believe We Three Bakery contributed breakfast pastries, Three Rivers Bed and Breakfast brought chicken and sausage gumbo, and I can't recall who else contributed, right now.
I do recall that our Post was hoping the Open House might strengthen their numbers by attracting new members to their organization. However, for one reason or another, our Veterans were unable to really get the word out, so attendance at the Open House was low. As a result, Peter and I ended up just hanging out at the Memorial Building that day, mainly visiting with members of our Post.
I especially remember laughing and listening to Dean. Actual conversation was difficult since Dean is hard of hearing, but we enjoyed his cheerful personality and his amazing stories. I also remember listening to and visiting with Zap (now deceased).
Our Post did manage to reach a Veterans group located in Lancaster, and one member from that group came and chatted with us, saying how much he loved the idea behind the program. He even took the letter, which Peter and I had wrtten in an attempt to explain the program, with him when he left, saying he was going to follow that template and initiate the same program in Lancaster.
For the most part, we all just visited and ate ourselves silly that day. The Chamber wasn't yet involved in any material or official way. I don't think the board of directors understood the program yet, or believed that we could actually get it off the ground and running, but Peter and I had put our collective toes into the water, we were excited, and we knew it could be done. Of course, all the details of all the various program ideas have taken time to grow and develop, but our community and our local businesses were supportive and providing wonderful input from the very start, loyal to the program through all the twists and turns and changes that have taken place over the years.
We extended the program to 3 months (January through March), and included anyone who had ever served in the Military (not just combat Veterans) and anyone who had ever served as a First Responder. Firefighters/EMS personnel would receive their 20% off during the month of January, Law Enforcement/Peace Officers would receive theirs in February, and Military/Veterans in March. We said we wanted to thank people for their service, so it did not matter if someone had retired or been discharged or changed careers for any reason, since then. What mattered was their service.
Also, this was the first year the Chamber was officially hosting the program. Click here to see the official Heroes Months Blog.
At the request of the Chamber board, we initiated the idea of allowing all 3 groups to enjoy their 20% off thank you discount during the entire 3 month program. At first, Peter and I were worried that the people we were trying to thank would feel slighted. Each group would lose their own "special month", so we watched people very carefully that year, and listened, trying to make sure our Heroes were still enjoying it. They were. The board was right, and we haven't changed that part of the program since.
We also created a Celebration night for each group we were honoring: We gave Firefighters/EMS a Celebration on the last Friday in January, Law Enforcement/Peace Officers were given a Celebration on the last Friday in February, and our Military/Veterans would have their Celebration on the last Friday in March. During the Celebrations we had refreshments, handed out awards and certificates, and listened to the stories told to us by our individual honorees.
Local Veteran and metal artist, Dave King, made a beautiful trophy for each honoree that year.
We issued an invitation to the children attending TRUS, through Sue Sherwood, principal, to participate informally by submitting short essays and/or posters for each month, to be posted around town for everyone to see and appreciate. Jamie Beck's 5th grade class got into the challenge in a big way, by providing haikus along with original work, which were then displayed around town.
The beautiful trophy which each honoree received in 2010, was the result of a combined effort between Stewart Laser Designs in Exeter and a couple of Three Rivers residents.
We also held the 1st of our free Family-Friendly Events: a Picnic with Bathtub Race at Lake Kaweah, on the last Saturday in March. The Race was a great success, with 4 teams turning old cast iron bathtubs into boats with only the materials provided, then racing across a shallow lagoon located in the Kaweah Recreation Area of Lake Kaweah. A good crowd showed up to watch the building and the race, armed with picnic lunches they'd made at home or purchased around town, and the Sheriff's Explorers ran sack races for the children. At times, the boat building got a bit wild, most especially when the necessary floatables, including plastic bottles of all shapes and sizes, finally arrived. To record this moment of pure joy, Boy Scout Troop 274 Leader Brian Keithley shot a video, entitled "Feeding Frenzy".
No one knew who'd won the Bathtub Race until the very end, when the Three Rivers Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance Team, who'd been looking like a slam dunk throughout, suddenly "exploded" their boat upon their return to shore and sank, right near the shoreline. Then the Gateway Team, racing at the last minute on behalf of Three Rivers Bread Basket, suddenly pulled ahead of the Lake Kaweah Volunteers Team, and were declared the winners. As a result, the charity prize of $1000 went to the Three Rivers Bread Basket. Any surviving tree branches, rope, and string were carefully collected and retained by the Boy Scouts. The plastic bottles were given to Ramon's Recyling in Three Rivers. This popular Race remains a part of the program today. Click here to see the stories and photo in the blog.
Local Veteran and gourd artist, Ray Gardner, provided the beautiful trophy for each honoree.
We initiated 2 more free Family-Friendly Events: a Snowman Building Contest on the Saturday that falls during the Martin Luther King, Jr. 3-day holiday weekend in January, and a Learn to Square Dance Party on the Saturday that falls during the President's Day 3-day holiday weekend in February.
The Square Dance was held at the Three Rivers Memorial Building, with local Veteran and retired professional caller Mark Robb calling the dance. It was pouring down raining that night, but that didn't stop our square dance enthusiasts! For many years, we had square dance clubs in Three Rivers and throughout the Tulare County/Fresno County area, but over time those clubs had gradually disappeared. People still missed the dancing, however, and they came from Three Rivers, Visalia and even as far away as Fresno that night. To our amazement, several local residents contributed homemade goodies that night, without being asked. People just kept showing up and dropping off various desserts, including some delicious animal "pops" (iced cupcakes, made to look like the head of an animal, on a stick). Three Rivers Bed and Breakfast brought strawberry lemonade and cocoa cookies. We also brought long sheets of butcher paper and magic markers, to give the little ones something to do whenever Mark gave the dancers a well-earned "break". People enjoyed it so much, they asked if we could do it again next week! Ha, ha! We said we couldn't, but we also said the dancers could form a new square dance club, if they liked, and Mark said he would be happy to be their caller. Click here for pictures, video, and stories in the blog.
The Snowman Contest was originally scheduled to be held in the parking lot of Three Rivers Mercantile, but we were unable to bring the snow down from the Park to Three Rivers, ahead of time. In the end, we just moved the venue for the Contest to Wuksachi Resort in the Park. Staff at Wuksachi were amazing, and really helped to make this Contest a wonderful event. Every family building a snowman won a prize, and Wuksachi provided free snowshoes for the duration of the Contest. You needed them, in order to reach the meadow where the snowman building would begin! Three Rivers Bed and Breakfast provided hot spiced cider for the participants and the Chamber added some "chamber bucks" to the gift certificates provided by Wuksachi for prizes. Based on this success, we decided to keep the Snowman Contest as a Heroes event, and hold our future Snowman Contests at Wuksachi. Click here for pictures, stories, and video in the blog.
Rain reduced the size of the crowd watching the 2011 Race, however, it didn't dull the enthusiasm of the Racing Teams! Comfort Inn & Suites of 3R, having learned some important lessons from the 2010 Race, looked like a shoe-in until they lost some of their floatables while reaching out for their designated balloon at the limit line, and quickly sank in deep water. One of our sponsors, Frank Root of Kaweah Whitewater Adventures, was right there to rescue the team and Lake Patrol retrieved their sunken "boat". In the end, Boy Scout Troop 274 from Tulare prevailed, taking home the $1000 charity prize for themselves. During the boat building process, Frank Root took turns giving the children rides on his raft and lessons in boat safety, while the Sheriffs Explorers ran sack races for them. Clearly, the children had a great time! Click here for stories, pictures, and video in the blog.
Click for the full Participant List
Click for Events List
Click for Participant Thank You
Local Veteran and laser engraver Derek Nelson, through his employer the Red Barn, provided the beautiful award for each honoree.
Snowman Building Contest
Due to an insufficient amount of snow, the Snowman Building Contest was not held, but the Learn to Square Dance Party and the Picnic with Bathtub Race were held once again.
Due to the flu, many people who wanted to come were unable to do so this year. However, the enthusiasm of those who did attend was not dampened, and we were asked if we could hold a series of 4 weekly lessons next year, so that attendees could improve beyond the basic skills level. Mark and Dot Robb agreed. Now we are just waiting to hear if the Three Rivers Memorial District board will be willing to let us use the Memorial Building again, for free, 4 weekly evenings in a row. Cross your fingers! Click here for the photo album. Click here for the video.
We began with 5 teams, but dropped to 4 on the day of the Race. No matter. The rain held off (YAY), and the remaining 4 Teams: Comfort Inn & Suites of 3R, the Tulare County Sheriff's Explorers, Pro-Youth HEART, and Boy Scout Troop 274 from Tulare, were all ready to go. Last year, the entire race lasted 31 minutes. This year, the Boy Scouts won in 18 minutes flat. This year, we were also joined by some kayakers from Lemoore who promised to return next year, with a Navy team. We told them to go to threerivers.com for more information. Meanwhile, we issued them Heroes cards and a Participants List, since they wanted to have dinner in town that night. Click here for the photo album. A video will be posted shortly.
Click for the full 2012 Participant List
Click for Events List
Click for March Celebration Flyer
Local artist Anne Brown together with local engraver Derek Nelson, through his employer the Red Barn, provided the beautiful award for each honoree.
Snowman Building Contest
Snowman Building Contest a success!
The first Family-Fun Event of the 2013 Hero Appreciation Months was an unqualified success. Held in a perfect little meadow at Wuksachi Lodge in full view of the restaurant windows, this year's event attracted families from as far away as Orange County, CA. With the snow at just the right consistency and temperature for snowman building, the meadow was soon filled with snowmen of all shapes and sizes. Judging by the smiles and laughter, this was a good family fun event.
Click on the image for the full photo album
John Hanggi and Dave Bartlett honored.
John Hanggi, Tulare County Firefighter/Three Rivers resident , and Dave Bartlett, newly retired Fire Management Officer for Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, were honored at the Firefighter/EMS Celebration, part of our 7th Annual Hero Appreciation Months event. At the January 25th event, hot soup, delicious desert, and drinks were served to an audience of over 30. The honorees each received an award custom-made by local artists Anne Brown, with nameplates provided by The Red Barn.
Click on the image for the photo album.