Last week was extremely hectic. The Relay For Life was scheduled for Friday evening. Gina and I spent the week getting things ready for the big event. All week we kept a wary eye on the weather forecast. We decided that we would have to make a decision on what to do by Thursday. Thursday morning the forecast was for rain Friday and Saturday with the possibility of severe weather Friday evening. We knew that there would be no outside in the park event this weekend. The Christian Motorcycle Association allowed us to rent their large multipurpose building at their Iron Mountain Campground a few miles south of Mena. Because we had to change venues at the last minute we worried that the Relay might not be well attended, but our community made us proud. Attendance was excellent.
Friday morning I was awake early trying to figure out the logistics of moving the Relay. We started setting things up at about 10:00 A.M. Gina and Lisa figured out a way to outline a small track in the building to be used for the Relay laps. All of the teams had to set up around the track. It was very crowded and some of the teams were two deep around the track but we managed to get everyone in.
The Relay started at 6:00 P.M. with the boy scouts posting the flag as Susan Brewer sang the national anthem.
After short talks by Gina and Mayor McKee, the Survivors kicked of the Relay by walking the Survivor Lap.
The next group to be honored was our Caregivers. They play such an important role in the battle against Cancer. My wife, daughter and granddaughters walked in this lap.
After the Caregivers have made their laps, the teams each took a lap around the track. We had 21 teams present representing 382 people who had signed up for Relay to help in the fight against cancer.
When the team laps were completed, anyone who wanted could walk the track. Each team is supposed to have a team member on the track. While everyone was walking we were listening to top notch entertainment from local bands Muzzleloader, Lana Gail McDonald & StormRider, Weird Harold & the RubberBand, HindSight, Katie Beth Head, and Richie Owens & Six Mile Creek. The musicians were great and really got into the spirit of Relay. Here is a video of a lap around the track while Jerod, the lead singer of Muzzeloader came down off the stage and sang while walking with the Relayers.
Here in this video Vinnie Lee, guitarist for Weird Harold & The RubberBand, takes a lap with the Relayers while playing lead guitar.
The youngest entertainer of the evening was my granddaughter Autumn. She came all the way from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with her Mommy and her sister to attend Relay For Life. She wanted to sing, and when you are in charge of an event one of the perks is allowing your granddaughter to sing. She sang Jesus Loves Me.
All of the teams had food and activities throughout the evening. Our team had a jail set up where you could have a Sheriff Deputiy arrest and handcuff someone if you paid a dollar. It cost five dollars to get out of jail, or you had to stay in jail for ten minutes.
At 9:00 P.M. the celebration of the last three hours quieted down and the Luminaria Ceremony began. The Luminaria Ceremony is the opportunity for people to come together to remember loved ones lost to cancer and honor those who have won their battle. This is one of the most moving parts of Relay For Life. The Luminaria line the track, and the name of each person represented there is respectfully read from the stage. Jim Huff read the names while Richie Owens and Bear Barton played softly in the background as people looked for that special Luminary that honored their loved one.
After the Luminaria Ceremony the party that is Relay For Life starts once again and continues on through the night. At this time most of the people from the community who have come to enjoy the evening have left for their homes and just those who are on a Relay team are left. As it gets later we lose some participants, but at 6:00 A.M. Saturday morning we still had 14 teams circling our track. That is a record for the most teams to spend the night at a Polk County Relay For Life. At the 2007 Relay, the first one held in Polk County, there were only two teams left when morning came. To help keep ourselves awake and entertained during the night we had special theme laps such as Pajama Lap, Bell Lap, Stuffed Animal Lap, Cowboy Lap, Blanket Lap, Crazy Hat Lap, Wheels Lap and many more. Everyone seemed to enjoy the theme laps and some of the teams got very creative.
There were people circling the track all night long, but not everyone was able to stay awake. Even Gina took the time to take twenty winks on her cot that her sister Lenora bought for her to take to Relay. Because I had to keep the theme laps going I wasn't able to get a nap in. Some slept on the hard cement floor.
When morning came it was time for everyone to take down their booths and clean their area. By 9:30 the building was once again empty and there were no signs of the crowds that had been there for the evening or the die hard team members that had spent the night. Relay For Life was over for another year. Even with the weather and a change of venue it was very successful. Polk County has raised over 50,000 dollars for the fight against cancer. It had been a Hard Days Night, but I find that working for such a worthy cause and knowing that is it important to so many people makes me feel alright.
Recently my parents went on the Hemmings Cruise 2010. They had a wonderful time and visited with many wonderful people. Whenever old car people get together one of the topics of conversation is always the cars they used to own.
One of my Daddy's favorite car stories is the story of his honeymoon car. It was in 1954 that he spotted a 1949 Frazer Manhattan behind a gas station in Nashville, Tennessee while he was going to college in nearby Madison, Tennessee. The Frazer had been sideswiped and the front bumper bent, but it was only five years old, it was very nice, and it was only 100 dollars.
After buying the car he found out that it had belonged to Rod Brasfield, a comedian on the Grand Ole Opry. That made it a celebrity car. Unfortunately he also found out that number 5 rod was knocking.
With the help of his friend Louie he dropped the pan, pulled the crankshaft, had the number 5 throw ground to .060, installed a new bearing and put it back together. With a little body work and some Bondo, which was a fairly new product at the time, along with a gallon of blue paint it looked good and he was proud of it.
DADDY'S HONEYMOON 1949 FRAZER
The 49 Frazer was the first car that Daddy ever put five dollars worth of gas in at one time. It had a tank that held over 20 gallons and gas was 24.9 cents a gallon. Soon after the Frazer was repaired and repainted it was December 1954 - time for my parents wedding. They headed from Tennessee to cold and snowy Michigan where they were to be married. By the time they got there there was a tic tic tic in the engine. Daddy thought it was a loose tappet, so he adjusted the valves out in the snow.
BOB AND PAT LAWRY
After the wedding they headed for Kansas. As they drove along the "tappet noise" got louder. They only had 35 dollars between them as the traveled, and they spent 5 dollars on a motel the first night. The knocking was getting louder. Daddy pulled off the number 5 plug wire and kept going. At 75 miles per hour in overdrive, you could barely hear the noise. They made it back to school safe and sound and a month later scraped $6.75 together for a new bearing insert and after it was installed the Frazer was running good again.
After awhile they sold the Frazer and bought a 1949 Chevy convertible but that is another story for another time. I hope the Rod Brasfield/Honeymoon Frazer is still alive somewhere. Daddy did find a 1949 Frazer Manhattan for sale at Country Classic Cars in Staunton, Illinois, and just had to once again own a car like his honeymoon Frazer.
Gina and I have been working hard preparing for Relay For Life. Just a few more days until the big event. The USEM Federal Credit Union team has already raised over 5,000 dollars to help in the fight against cancer.
I am involved in Relay For Life for a number of reasons. The number one reason is because Gina is passionate about Relay. She has such a passion for Relay For Life that it rubs off on those around her. Her passion stems from her family history. Her mother died of cancer when Gina was just 21 years old. Her father had colon cancer, and all three of her sisters have had breast cancer. She is the only person in her immediate family that is cancer free.
GINA AND HER SISTERS
Several years ago, Gina's sister Roberta got involved with Relay For Life in Enumclaw, Washington. For a number of years, Gina would travel to Enumclaw to be a part of Relay For Life there. Three years ago, we learned that Polk County was going to have a Relay. We got involved in the 2007 Relay, and have been involved ever since.
My uncle, Delbert Lawry, died from cancer five years ago. I lost not only an uncle, but a friend and someone who was willing to help anytime.
Just a few months ago my sister-in-law, Lenora lost her long running battle to cancer. She participated each year in the Polk County Relay. The Relay this year just won't be the same without her. I am dedicating my participation in this years Relay to Lenora. I have come to realize the importance of the work that the American Cancer Society does. It is involved in research, prevention, and helping those who are dealing with cancer.
LENORA AT RELAY FOR LIFE
The 2010 Polk County Relay For Life will be held at Janssen Park on Friday, April 23 starting at 6:00 P.M. and going on through the night until 10:00 A.M. Saturday morning.
The American Cancer Society Relay For Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone in our community a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease. At Relay, teams of people camp out at Janssen Park and take turns walking around the track. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Because cancer never sleeps, Relay is an overnight event.
Relay starts with a Survivor Lap, an inspirational time when survivors are invited to circle the track together and help everyone celebrate the victories we’ve achieved over cancer. The Survivors Lap is an emotional example of how Relay participants are creating a world with more birthdays like those of each individual on the track.
RICHIE OWENS AND SIX MILE CREEK
There will be live entertainment, food, fun and games during the evening, with all proceeds going to the Relay For Life. After dark, we honor people who have been touched by cancer and remember loved ones lost to the disease during the Luminaria Ceremony. Candles are lit inside bags filled with sand, each one bearing the name of a person touched by cancer, and participants often walk a lap in silence.
LUMINARIA IN JANSSEN PARK
No matter who you are, there’s a place for you at Relay and you can make a difference by attending this powerful event. To find a Relay For life event in your area go here. Thanks to Relay participants, we are creating a world with more birthdays.
Here is a touching video looking back at the April 9, 2009 tornado that destroyed much of Mena, Arkansas
Sunday April 11, 2010 the Polk County Arkansas Long Term Recovery Committee held an event in Janssen Park to recognize those who helped Mena recover from the devastating tornado of April 9, 2009 and to remember those who lost their lives. Mena residents gathered at the park on a beautiful sunny day to remember the tornado that swept through town one year ago.
Here is a video clip of the Fort Smith Channel 5 News report of the event.
THE MARKER REMEMBERING THOSE WHO DIED
DOGWOOD PLANTED IN RECOGNITION OF THE VOLUTEERS
MARKER RECOGNIZING TORNADO VOLUNTEERS
JEFF PARNESS OF THE NEW YORK SAYS THANK YOU FOUNDATION
JAMES REEVES AND TRACY DOUGLASS
MAYOR MCKEE AND TRACY DOUGLASS
TRACY DOUGLASS AND MIKE FRANCIS
JAMES EARL TURNER
KEITH ROSE AND MAYOR MCKEE
MAYOR GEORGE MCKEE
CHANNEL 5 FORT SMITH NEWS VIDEO MENA ONE YEAR AFTER TORNADO
Click on the photo above to purchase my book, The Little Things. $3.58 for the paperback and $0.99 for the kindle version
I was born in 1956 in Madison, Tennessee, while my parents were attending Madison College. I grew up along the Front Range in Colorado, attending schools in Longmont, Brighton, Boulder and Loveland, Colorado. Two years after graduating from Campion Academy, I married my sweetheart, Regina. We lived in Loveland, Colorado for six years before moving to Mena in western Arkansas.
I love the people of Mena and the friendly easy going way of life here. I have owned and operated my own business since moving to Mena. I enjoy the natural beauty of western Arkansas and being out of doors.
My newspaper column in The Mena Star, An Arkie’s Faith, premiered on January 7, 2016. In March 2017, I published my first book, titled An Arkie's Faith, using articles from the column.