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In the News - Friday, MARCH 2, 2007

Miss Tulare County

is from 3R, naturally

   For Meaghan Swinney, the second Miss Tulare County from Three Rivers in the past three years, the crowning moment last Saturday night at the Fox Theatre in Visalia had a touch of irony. Ironic because this precocious 17-year-old newcomer never considered beauty contests or dreamed that she would win her very first pageant.
   Vying for Miss Tulare County against 11 competitors ranging in age from 17 to 24 certainly didn’t come easy and takes talent and dedication. But Janessa Wells, another Three Rivers-raised kid who won the 2004 contest, told Meaghan she has what it takes to win.

  “While I was in San Francisco last year for a dance recital, I visited Janessa,” Meaghan recalled. “She encouraged me to enter the competition and I started thinking that I might give it a try.”
   At her job as a server and cashier at The Cabin in Three Rivers, others encouraged Meaghan to enter, including Janessa’s father, Jim Wells. Shortly before the November auditions, and after realizing she could win some impressive college scholarship dollars, she decided to give it a go.

  “There were 15 girls who auditioned and they ended up choosing 11,” Meaghan said, “We had an interview and music, so I just made up a dance right there on the spot.”
   Meaghan said growing up in Three Rivers, you really don’t see yourself as a “beauty” because you mostly dress casual, wear jeans, hike a lot, and swim in the river. But because this contestant has been dedicated to dance for the past seven years, she feels comfortable in makeup and performing in front of an audience.
   She credits her successful development at age 17 to the fact that she was schooled at home.

  “Because I was able to get my schoolwork done in two or three hours, I had time to work on something else,” Meaghan revealed.
   That something else was dance centered on formal training in ballet with the Sierra Performing Arts Center in Visalia. The fact that she didn’t start dancing until age 10 meant that she had to work very hard to catch up with her peers.
   When the pageant finally arrived, Meaghan felt confident she could contend for the crown.

  “The talent portion is 35 percent of the judges score and that’s what put me over the top,” Meaghan said.
   But, she admitted, when they started to announce the winners, she had her doubts. There were some very talented competitors, Meaghan said, including Jennifer LaMar, who also grew up in Three Rivers.

  “Jennifer just blew away the audience with her monologue while she painted in acrylic,” Meaghan said. “There was a lot of talent on that stage, so I really didn’t expect to win.”
   In addition to the talent portion, there were formalwear and swimsuit competitions and an on-stage interview in which each contestant has to answer a question. As the winners were being announced, Meaghan said she thought she would land somewhere where the winners were to be positioned on stage.
   Jennifer LaMar, 21, was announced as third runner-up and also received the Top Interview award. Second runner-up is Brittany Castillo, 19, of Porterville; then Katy McElhinny, 19, of Visalia, who Meaghan said could sing like an American Idol, was named first runner-up.
   Then the defining moment arrived...

  “When they called my name, I was shocked and it seemed so dreamlike because I had played that moment over and over in my mind,” Meaghan said. “Then I suddenly became aware that the 2006 Miss Tulare County was crowning me.”
   For Miss Tulare County, the busy schedule of appearances has already started, leading up to the Miss California Pageant this summer. Meaghan expects to make quite an impression but what she says she will look forward to doing most is promoting awareness of alternative education.

  “I want to share the benefits of my experience and tell people how alternative education can inspire and liberate,” said the reigning 2007 Miss Tulare County. “I think growing up in Three Rivers and having a balance between a girly side and rugged mountain kid has definitely prepared me for anything.”
   Next up is the Miss California competition in June. This year’s pageant, featuring a field of more than 50 of the state’s most talented and beautiful, will be staged at the Saroyan Theatre in Fresno.

SCE plans

power outage

on North Fork

   North Fork residents from Flora Bella Farm on up the canyon need to be aware that there is a power outage planned for Tuesday, March 6, from 8 a.m. to approximately 3:30 p.m.
   The reason for the service interruption is so that Southern California Edison workers can safely replace a power pole in the area between the North Fork Bridge and Kaweah River Drive.
   It’s possible the project may be delayed if there is stormy weather or certain technical problems. But, most likely, hundreds of Three Rivers and Kaweah residents should begin to prepare to live the pioneer lifestyle for a day.
   SCE advises that customers take some precautions in preparing for the outage:

  —Back up computer data.

  —Change garage doors and security gates to manual-release.

  —Unplug sensitive electronic equipment.

  —Minimize the opening of refrigerator and freezer doors to maintain temperature, or transfer foods that may spoil to another freezer/refrigerator out of the outage area.

  —Notify pertinent companies regarding alarm and security systems.
   SCE also requests that if a generator will be installed that the company be notified prior to the start of the outage due to the chance of electrical backfeed.
   For more information or to check on the status of the outage, call the SCE toll-free 24-hour customer service center, 1-888-759-6056.

‘Tis the season

to recognize volunteers

   The Eagle Booster Club of Three Rivers School has announced its award recipients for the annual Volunteer Recognition Night. Each year since 1951, Three Rivers School support groups have honored residents for their dedication on behalf of local schoolchildren.
   To date about 70 individuals and one community-service organization — the Three Rivers Lions Club — have been honored.
   This year’s Volunteer Recognition Night will be held Thursday, March 8, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
   The 2007 honorees include four Three Rivers residents who, collectively, have volunteered more than a half-century at Three Rivers Union School.
   Jackie Harris-Groeber— For the past 10 years, Jackie has taught weekly music classes for TRUS sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders. In addition, she has planned and prepared students to sing in the annual Winter Program and during the eighth-grade graduations.
   In addition, Jackie always makes herself available to play the piano for various talent shows and other musical events at the school. In the past, she also taught music for the primary grades.
   Jackie is a clinical psychologist with her practice in Visalia and is choir director at Community Presbyterian Church. She and her husband, Robert Groeber, have two children, Travis, a sophomore at UC Santa Barbara, and Chelsea, a senior at Woodlake High School.
   Steve and Elizabeth LaMar— Steve and Elizabeth have coordinated events at the annual Fall Carnival for nearly 20 years. During this time, Steve has served as the event’s emcee as well as announcing raffle and Pick-A-Prize winners.
   Steve keeps the McDowall Auditorium sound system operating, and both he and Elizabeth make themselves available to operate sound and lights for various school programs. They ensure that the Three Rivers Arts Center is available each May for the eighth-grade drama production.
   In addition, Elizabeth served on the TRUS board of trustees from 1998 to 2004.
   Steve is the theatre manager at the College of the Sequoias. Elizabeth is a program coordinator for California Friday Night Live Partnership.
   They have two daughters, Jennifer, a junior at California State University, Stanislaus, and Tracy, a freshman at the College of the Sequoias.
   Heidi Crouch— Heidi is a longtime director on the Three Rivers School Recreation Committee. She has served in this capacity for more than a decade, helping to organize sports leagues from youth to adult.
   Heidi was also a charter board member of the Eagle Booster Club during the support group’s inaugural year, 2004-2005. As a member of the Three Rivers Union School Foundation, she assists with preparation for the annual fundraising dinner by coordinating raffle prizes and doing computer work.
   Heidi is an administrative assistant and webmaster for the Sequoia Natural History Association. She and her husband, Lee, have one daughter, Hillary, who is a sophomore at Woodlake High School.

Woodlake citizens extraordinaire

   The winners recognized during this year’s recognition dinner, sponsored by the Kiwanis of Woodlake and held Saturday, Feb.24, are Richard LaFleur, Man of the Year; Barb Edwards, Woman of the Year; Woodlake Drive-In, Business of the Year; Lizette Rodruguez and Joseph Spahn, Youth of the Year; Kent and Sandy Owen, Spirit of Woodlake; and David Peden and Alvin Hogue, Distinguished Veterans of the Year.

Rotarians donate dictionaries

   Some Rotarians are on a mission to supply all our local third-graders with a dictionary of their very own… to have and to hold from this day forward.
   In January, Greg Meis of Three Rivers, a member of the Visalia Rotary Club, showed up at Three Rivers School with a batch of dictionaries for Linda Warner’s third-grade class.
   The students were each presented with one, which is theirs to keep for use at school and at home by the entire family.

  “Greg plans on doing this for our third graders for the next five years,” said Sue Sherwood, TRUS superintendent/principal.
   Earlier this week, Viola Faubel, Woodlake Rotary Club president, was accompanied by fellow Rotarians Joe Hallmeyer, Mike Genter, and Irene Bly to present Castle Rock Elementary School third-graders with dictionaries.
   The purpose of the presentation, they explained to the students, is to assist students not only at school but at home to meet their goals of better writing, reading, and creative thinking.
   This local Rotary project is part of an international effort called the Dictionary Project. It began in 1992 when Annie Plummer of Savannah, Ga., gave 50 dictionaries to children at a school close to her home.
   Until her death in 1999, she raised the money to buy 17,000 dictionaries. The project has continued to thrive and, to date, more than five million children have been provided with dictionaries.
The program has been adopted by civic organizations from throughout the U.S.
   The Dictionary Project is funded solely through donations and sponsors. To participate, go to and sign up to be a sponsor, purchase a book for a child, or make a contribution to further the program’s goals of supplying every third grader with a dictionary.

Tajikistani student will

highlight Eurasian culture

   Her name is Diana Zigangirova and she’s very much a typical teenager with hopes, fears, and aspirations. In recent weeks she’s settled in Three Rivers with a new host family and lectured the local Lions Club on the harsh reality of global warming.
   That’s in addition to mastering Spanish as her fourth language and maintaining honor roll grades in senior classes at Woodlake High School. For another perspective at her California high school, Diana is competing in the spring season on the swim team.
   On Monday, March 5, at 7 pm, in the McDowall Auditorium at Three Rivers School, Diana will present a unique and personal glimpse into her homeland and the Muslim culture. The entire community is invited to this free and entertaining cultural exchange.
   Diana, with a little prompting, might even sing the Tajik national anthem, another of her many talents.

  “These kids that we bring to the Valley in this program are extraordinary students and aren’t the least bit shy about singing or speaking in public,” said Adina Escarsega, an English teacher at El Diamante High School in Visalia, who also serves as the director for the World Link student exchange program.
   Adina says that there are presently five other students in Diana’s program living with host families in Selma, Orosi, Visalia, and Three Rivers. The students affiliated with the World Link program are from countries like Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgykistan, and other countries and Russian areas that were part of the Soviet Union prior to 1989.

  “After these countries became independent, the U.S. State Department realized that it would take several generations if they were to become true democracies,” Adina said. “This program hopefully teaches some important lessons in the democratic process that these students will take home after spending a year in American high schools.”
   Escarsega will also be attending the Three Rivers gathering in hopes of recruiting host families that could place more students in Three Rivers.

  “We have a number of these students who hike and explore the mountains in their homeland and long to experience the outdoors here,” Adina said. “They would love to be placed with a family that would share the physical Three Rivers lifestyle.”
   Diana said that now that she’s living in Three Rivers with the Curtis/Ruehling family she has been able to check off one of the “can’t miss” items on her to-do list while she’s here. That was visiting the Giant Forest and seeing the biggest trees on earth.
   One of the things about America that has surprised her, Diana said, was the role that volunteerism plays in community life.

  “That’s one of the important lessons that I will be taking back home to my country,” Diana said.
   As regional director these past three years, Adina said, she has also experienced some life-changing experiences.

  “I take these students to church with me and really enjoy the feeling we all share when my church-going friends get a new perspective on Islamic people and their culture,” Adina said. “It’s one of life’s fulfilling joys to open our hearts and homes to these kids.”

Snow totals show

marked improvement

   The recent rainy days furnished some much-needed moisture and glorious air quality for Kaweah Country. The colder-than-average storm surge produced what’s expected to be a major improvement in the snowpack, especially in the higher elevations above 7,000 feet.
   Frank Gehrke, chief of the California snowpack surveys for the state’s Department of Water Resources, said that the recent storms virtually put to rest speculation that the season would end in summer drought. The northern third of the Sierra Nevada, which supplies nearly two-thirds of California’s surface water supply, is approaching the April 1 norm in many areas.
   Closer to home in the southern Sierra and the Kaweah drainage, that figure is projected to be 60 percent of the department’s snow pack norm for March 1. Those numbers are up 20 percent since the February 1 survey.
   The official March 1 snow stats will be released on Monday, March 5.
   For the weekend, Kaweah Country will enter a drying out period as high pressure builds throughout the San Joaquin Valley region.
In Three Rivers, the early mornings should remain crystal clear, but Valley residents and commuters will have to contend with recurring Tule fog.
   Daytime highs in Three Rivers should reach into the high 60s with plenty of sunshine in the weekend forecast.
   The next chance for precipitation is mid-week as more seasonal conditions will be the dominant weather pattern for the next five days.

Wood-cutting permits

available this month

   New permits for cutting wood on Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument lands will be available for purchase on Thursday, March 15. The actual woodcutting season will begin April 1 and continue through November 30.

  “The local Forest Service will allow woodcutters to purchase their fuelwood permits prior to the opening of the woodcutting season,” said Brent Handley, acting supervisor for Sequoia National Forest.
   Woodcutting activities throughout Sequoia National Forest will continue to be based on road and weather conditions. The public is encouraged to check with the local ranger office for current updates to the woodcutting areas.
   Wood permits are $10 per cord with a minimum purchase of two cords per person and can be purchased at any of the forest offices. At the time of purchase, a forest map and instructions about the woodcutting areas and forest policies will be provided.
   Log onto for ranger station locations.

David Ainley
1923 ~ 2006

   David Herrington Ainley of North Pole, Alaska, died Saturday, Dec. 30, 2006. He had just turned 83.
   Dave was born Dec. 25, 1923, in Tulare County. He was raised on his family’s Elderwood cattle ranch and attended Woodlake schools.
   In June 1949, he left California and drove north to Alaska. He settled in the North Pole area, 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks. Dave homesteaded property there while living in a Quonset hut.
   Over the years, he purchased other property while working in construction. In 1962, he established the Beaver Subdivision and, later, the North Star Subdivision.

  “Having the entrepreneurial spirit, David became a successful land developer, in spite of difficult challenges,” said his brother, Dick Ainley of Santa Maria.
   Dave was a member of the North Pole Assembly of God and many other organizations in the North Pole area with the common goal of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
   In 1965, he became involved with radio station KJNP (King Jesus North Pole, which broadcasts religious and community programming). He donated the land for the station to Don and Gen Nelson of Calvary’s Northern Lights Mission, then used his heavy equipment to build the structures on the property.
   Dave was on the board of directors of the Fairbanks Rescue Mission and a member of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship. He also assisted at the Whitestone Farms Training Center, a school in Delta Junction, Alaska.
   In his lifetime, he made several trips to Israel.
   Dave will be laid to rest at the Birch Hill Cemetery in the spring.
   Dave’s younger brother Frank, and wife Barbara of Elderwood traveled to North Pole to attend the memorial service.
   In addition to his brothers, Dick and wife Laverne of Santa Maria and Frank and wife Barbara, Dave is survived by many other extended family members.

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