Rec Commission’s summer kickoff pays homage to early contributors
Tonganoxie residents, furry and not so furry, came Saturday to Chieftain Park to celebrate the Tonganoxie Recreation Commission's 40th anniversary and to kick-off the summer.
"We do this at the beginning of the summer to have the community come out and enjoy themselves," said Ken Mark, the commission's chairman.
To celebrate this milestone in its history, members of the commission dedicated a wall of fame plaque to honor past board members or people who played an important role in the development of the commission.
The first people to be honored were the original board members and two women who helped bring women's sports into the mix.
Don Huebner, Charles Jeffries, Henry Johnson, John Wise and Merle Lamb were put on the wall of fame plaque for their service on the original board.
Huebner, who was the board's original chairman for five years, said it was quite an honor to be recognized for work he had done so long ago.
"Everything went great and I was thrilled to death," he said.
Huebner first got the idea for a recreation commission after he was in western Kansas and was invited to go watch a baseball game at the local baseball field. He was impressed at the lighting system at the field. An adequate lighting system was something the baseball fields in Tonganoxie needed. Someone told him they were able to pay for the lighting through tax money their recreation commission could get.
Huebner came back and started a petition to put the idea of a recreation commission to a vote. On April 6, 1967, the recreation commission was approved, 447 to 384.
"In the past 10 years, 15 years, they have really expanded; it's wonderful," Huebner said. "They've got programs for every age group."
At its start, the recreation commission only sponsored boys summer baseball but started to expand each year. Rosie Drew and JoAnn Poterbin also were honored Saturday for bringing girls softball to the recreation commission.
Huebner, Wise and Poterbin are the only three surviving members who were honored. Family of Johnson and Lamb were on hand to receive a commemorative plaque for their relatives' work with the commission. Members of the Drew and Jeffries families could not be located at the time of the event. The Rev. Dirk Scates, pastor for the Tonganoxie Christian Church, accepted the plaque in honor of Jeffries, who once was a pastor at the church. Drew's plaque will remain at the recreation commission's office until family can be located.
Those who are eligible for recognition on the wall of fame are volunteers who provide an outstanding service to the commission and receive little or no payment, or former recreational commission members. Also eligible are current part-time or former employees, organizations or professionals who provide an outstanding service to the recreation commission.
Nominations for the wall of fame come from either the board of commissioners or from the staff.
Several other events around the park that helped draw the largest attendance the commission has seen in the three years it has done the summer kick-off parties.
"It was our biggest crowd yet," said Gayle Parker, current commission director. "We went through 500 hot dogs and we gave away all of the soda and water that we had. Everyone seemed to have a good time.
Not only was there plenty of fun for the two-legged Tonganoxians, but for its four-legged residents as well.
The Silly Critter Pet Show allowed pet owners to strut their stuff in front of judges for competitions, such as best-dressed pet, a look-alike contest, best pet trick, ugliest pet, "phattest" pet, fluffiest, oldest and cutest pet.
As for expansion of the recreation commission, the organization still is looking into building more ball fields to the north of the current fields at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds and soccer fields at Tonganoxie Middle School.