ETCETERA - Wagon Wheelers fete 75th anniversary, ready for new year

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As soon as the weather stays nice members of the Walla walla Wagon Wheelers will spruce up the Don Johnson Memorial arena so they can ride outdoors, said Carolyn Hansen via e-mail.

Meanwhile, the Wheelers have been passing the winter months riding in the Walla Walla Fairgrounds Expo Building.

They schedule a bevy of activities throughout the year, including a family night ride at the fairgrounds on Saturday.

There will also be three trail rides, three jackpot barrel races, drill practice, two parades, Ladies ride and steak dinner and bunco night and a Guy's overnight trail ride.

The second event this year will be the St. Patrick's Karaoke night. The first trail ride is the 9-Mile Ride in April where folks from all around the area join them for a poker ride with lunch.

Participants can ride close to the windmills for a firsthand look, Carolyn said.

The Waitsburg parade and picnic arrive in May. The group holds a pre-fair ham dinner for its members, who also participate in the Walla Walla Frontier Days parade and the drill team performs during the rodeo.

In 2010 there were 20-plus riders, an authentic freight wagon pulled by a team of Percherons that led the group. The club van brought up the rear with three more members, who won a second-place ribbon, Carolyn said.

At year's end, they host a family Christmas party potluck where Santa visits the kids, there are gifts for all and they play bingo. A dinner dance caps the year on New Year's eve.

Wagon Wheelers sponsor two scholarships, its youths in 4-H, the High School Rodeo, the Pari-Mutuel horse racing at the fairgrounds and Christian Aid Center.

The group raised most of its revenue with a beer booth and beer garden at the Frontier Days Saloon, operated under the grandstand for three functions at the fairgrounds.

The Wagon Wheelers 75th annual dinner held forth on Jan. 10 in their Wagon Wheeler Kinzer Hall.

The board of directors for 2011 includes: Don Bancroft, Don Blakemore, Harold Brewer, Les Clark, Robert Giger, Clark Hansen, Bill Hof, Mike Humphreys, Mike Mayberry, David Mitchell, Wayne Narum, Wayne Norton, Ernie Schrader, Andy Shaw, AJ Smith, Sam Waldron. From those directors officers voted in are: Les, wagon master; David, assistant wagon master, Clark, treasurer. Carolyn was appointed as secretary.

Directors present at the meeting wore their new Wagon Wheelers shirts, Carolyn said. Re-elected for a three year term were Les Clark, Bob Giger, Wayne Norton, Ernie Schrader and Andy Shaw.

They presented several awards: Wagon Wheeler Honorary Lifetime Service Membership to Dale Hopson; Wagon Wheeler Honorary Lifetime Director to Mike Humphreys; Wagon Wheeler Lifetime Service Award to Bill Hof and Joe Taruscio; Wagon Wheeler Man of the Year to Les Clark and Clark Hansen; Wagon Wheeler Wagon Master Award Sam Waldron.

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Phillip Somers, a freshman at Colorado State University and a 2010 Walla Walla High School graduate, recently received a $750 scholarship from the Washington State Penitentiary Employee Association.

The son of Diane Benfield of Walla Walla and Donald Somers of Dallas, Texas, is majoring in mechanical engineering at CSU. He ultimately wants to be at the forefront of renewable energy development, said his mother.

Phillip is also a member of the CSU Cycling Team and participated in the annual Tucson Training Camp Jan. 9-15.

He's received a number of awards, including the $500 Mary Garner Esary Scholarship from Wa-Hi; $2,000 from the CSU Honors Program and $10,000 per academic year from the Western Undergraduate Exchange.

He received the Blue Mountain Youth Recognition Award co-sponsored by the Union-Bulletin, the Washington State Honors Award for graduating in the top 1 percent of his class and the Award for Academic Excellence from the Washington State Principals for the top 5 percent of his class.

While at Wa-Hi, he maintained a 3.95 GPA his senior year while taking rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement biology, physics, chemistry and calculus at Whitman College.

He was a member of National Honor Society and was drum captain of the Wa-Hi Marching Band. He was actively involved in the College Place Presbyterian Church Youth Group Band, the Community Center for Youth Cycling Team and was a rock climbing instructor at the YMCA. For the past two years, he competed in the Tour of Walla Walla, and numerous stage races around Washington, Oregon and Idaho and the culminating race at the Junior National Championship in Bend, Ore., in June 2010.

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McLoughlin High School's Crimson & Black Choir is raising money to take a trip to Disneyland in mid-April.

Choir Director Melissa Cunnington said the group hopes to sing at the Magic Music Days event and on the Blues Brothers stage in a theme park. Each student needs to raise $850 to go, she said.

A Valentine's Dinner and Concert will begin at 6 p.m. Feb. 14 in the Mac-Hi cafeteria, 120 S. Main St. Admission is $7.50 for ages 10 and up, and $5.50 for ages 9 and under.

They need items to be donated by businesses to auction off at the dinner, Melissa said. Any businesses willing to help out can call her at 541-938-5450 or 509-520-5467. Of the 35 students in choir, she anticipates about 25-30 will go. "We are having struggles with the efforts to earn all of the money. So we will be determining (after the Valentine's dinner fundraiser) if we are going to continue our focus on Disneyland or somewhere closer/cheaper.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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