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  In the News - Friday, april 23, 2004


Past, present, future

Showdown at the county corral

by John Elliott



On the fourth weekend of April, it's a long-standing tradition to celebrate the Three Rivers cattle ranching heritage at Lions Arena. Since 1951, that's what folks in these parts have been doing each spring, under the auspices of the Lions-sponsored Team Roping.

      Van Bailey, a former Lions roping chairman, joined the Three Rivers club in 1989 just so he could help promote team roping.

     “There never has been more interest in the sport of roping than now,” Bailey said. “Some folks buy a boat and learn to water-ski, but these ropers buy a horse and teach their kids to rope.”

      Bailey says that the dedication of the local Lions to preserve the cowboy way in Three Rivers has made this weekend's event the premiere roping on the West Coast.

     “Ropers talk about Three Rivers in Reno and everywhere you go on the circuit,” Bailey says. “It's the beautiful valley setting, the top-rate facilities, along with the renowned hospitality of the Lions.”

      On Friday, Bailey said, because of the handicap scoring, spectators are liable to see as many as a dozen of the top 20 ropers in the world.

      As many as 60 of the club's 73 members spend the entire weekend at the arena catering to every whim of the hundreds of ropers and their families who come year after year.

      For their volunteerism this weekend, the local Lions Club will net approximately $20,000. The Lions also estimate that the ropers pump another $100,000 into the local economy.

     “The bottom line is that the Three Rivers Roping is a charity event,” said Janet Bailey, wife of Van, who has attended 32 of the past 53 ropings. “Every dollar the Lions raise goes right back into the community.”


So if it's all for charity, how could anybody be opposed to the Three Rivers Lions Club doing its spring thing? Each year, weekend events like Jazzaffair and the Team Roping raise dollars that are given back to the community continuously in scholarships, wheelchairs, food, sports equipment, and even computers for Three Rivers School.

     “No one is opposed to what the Three Rivers Lions Club has done in the past or is trying to do, but there are some concerns,” Bailey said.

      Last week, those concerns were aired when two Three Rivers residents made critical comments during a county public hearing on an application by the Lions for a special-use permit. Both speakers were neighbors of the arena and voiced concerns about parking, noise, and lighting.

      Special-use permits are county licenses that, before they are granted, are intended to furnish a review of potential impacts that a business or non-profit organization may cause by staging regular public gatherings.

     “The special-use permit process started about two years ago when county officials realized that the land that the Lions were using for these events was zoned for agriculture,” said Cal Johnson, a local realtor and longtime Lion, appointed to oversee the permit application.

      Johnson said that his group was expecting approval on the club's application, but at last week's meeting the Tulare County Board of Supervisors deferred action to the county Planning Commission that will meet Wednesday, April 28. The Lions expect that, following a review of the recent comments, the application for the permit will be approved.

     “We honestly try to minimize the impacts on our neighbors,” Bailey said. “Both the noise and the temporary lighting used at the roping appear to be within acceptable standards.”

      To address the parking concerns, a new enlarged parking area was created for this year's event, Johnson said. Also, the club has approved some funding to widen the roadway along the adjacent former-airport property that should help minimize the traffic impacts on the 30 residents that live along the North Fork behind the arena.

     “The parking is really only a problem on Sunday when all the locals turn out for the events like the Pig Scramble and the finals of the branding,” Johnson said.

      Johnson said the arena averages about nine event days per year and does not present any problems that are out of the ordinary for Three Rivers.

      Bailey, who this year is supervising the parking and is in charge of two water trucks that keep the dust down, says it's really remarkable to see the job the Lions do in running a very smooth roping event.

     “It's not a rodeo, so you don't get the rowdiness that you would have at those events,” Bailey said. “We don't have any cops at the gate like they do at other events simply because we don't need them.”


Bailey said that it's in the best interest of the ropers to continue to run a successful roping.

     “Three Rivers is a champagne event at Pepsi Cola prices,” Bailey said. “Some things like dummy roping, barrel racing, and the Pig Scramble we will never change because that's what keeps the ropers and their families coming back here year after year.”


Highway 180 opens today


Facilities in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are shaking off the winter snowpack and coming out of hibernation in preparation for the busy summer season.

    The gate on the Kings Canyon Highway portion of State Highway 180 will be opened at noon today (April 23). This allows access into Cedar Grove where the highway terminates on the floor of the canyon in Kings Canyon National Park.

    In Sequoia National Park, the road to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow has been opened. This road meanders through the Giant Forest grove where visitors can drive onto the Auto Log, through Tunnel Log, and take several short day hikes to other points of interest.

    The Giant Forest Museum is open daily year-round and provides interpretive displays, books and souvenirs, and visitor information. Some of the ranger-naturalist programs, currently held on weekends, begin at the museum.

    Pinewood Picnic Area, the newest addition to the Giant Forest area, will open Saturday, May 1. The Crystal Cave Road will open Monday, May 10, and guided cave tours will begin.

    Most campgrounds that are normally closed each winter will be open during May. Potwisha Campground, located in the foothills four miles from the Sequoia Park entrance in Three Rivers, is open year-round and accommodates recreational vehicles.

    Buckeye Flat Campground, located six miles up the Generals Highway from the Sequoia Park entrance near Hospital Rock will open Friday, May 21, for tent camping only.

    For those who prefer to sleep in a bed off the ground and without wheels, Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia is open year-round, as is the full-service restaurant and gift shop. Wuksachi Village is located just six miles from Giant Forest.

    A market and additional amenities, including a post office and visitor center, are available at Lodgepole, 21 miles inside the Sequoia Park entrance and four miles beyond the Giant Forest Museum.


Anglers gear up for trout season


With springtime temperatures already the norm in the Eastern Sierra, Department of Fish and Game (DFG) officials are predicting another great trout opener for Saturday, April 24. One hour before sunrise is the traditional start of the trout season in Inyo and Mono counties that annually attracts thousands of anglers just for a chance at landing a trophy trout.

    What's the attraction that generates all the opening day excitement?     Most of the waters in the region have been closed for six months so some trophy fish are hungrily lurking on opening day. Last season, it was Crowley Lake that produced the catch of the day — an 11.1-pound rainbow landed by Chris Costen of Placentia.

    Crowley Lake, because of its ideal feeding conditions and the fact that it's been ice-free for nearly a month, may again produce the day's biggest fish. But at Crowley, 8,000 anglers in boats and onshore fish elbow-to-elbow and there is very little of the solitude that most fishermen claim is the real payoff for their passion.

    Still, the scenic Eastern Sierra is difficult to beat, especially when the weather cooperates like this weekend's forecast. In addition to Crowley, the region has some of the best drive-to fishing spots that appeals to every angler from the bait-caster to the most elite fly-fisherman.

    In spite of some budget cuts, the DFG expects to plant all Eastern Sierra waters that are ice-free up to the 8,000-foot elevation range.

   “The roadside waters catchable trout program remains fully intact,” said Curtis Milliron, fisheries biologist with the DFG's Bishop office.   “At least for this season we will be able to maintain most of our stocking, including all of our plants for rainbows.”

    Closer to home, some good-sized rainbows (about three-quarters of a pound) that were planted earlier in the season, are being landed in the upper reaches of Lake Kaweah and in the deeper holes of the Kaweah River. As weather warms this weekend, most anglers at Lake Kaweah will turn their attention to trying to land a lunker bass.

    The prime “wild trout” fishing of the nearby mountains and in the Golden Trout Wilderness will remain inaccessible until the mountain snow melts in June. The much sought after native golden trout makes its home in elevations above 8,000 feet and requires the angler to venture into unspoiled backcountry, an area best explored with pack stock or on foot with a backpack.

    For weekly updates on fish planting throughout California, call the DFG's Central Sierra regional office, (916) 351-0832.


Blood drive to aid young cancer victim


It's a family's worst nightmare and, in a tight-knit community, the bad news is felt by all. Recently, five-year-old Sara Ruehling was diagnosed with leukemia and life as she knew it will never be the same.

    Sara currently faces many months of treatment at Children's Hospital Central California. A kindergartner at Three Rivers School, Sarah is now on independent study while receiving chemotherapy.

    All Kaweah Country residents have the opportunity to aid Sara in her battle by donating blood at a collection drive scheduled for next month. In conjunction with the Three Rivers Lions Club's regular community blood drive, the Thursday, May 6, event will have extended hours — from 2 p.m. through 7 p.m. — with the express intent of accommodating prospective donors, attracting first-time donors, and collecting additional blood.

    According to organizer Dyann Graber, the Central California Blood Center will have the necessary staffing on hand to process 20 donors per hour. The goal is to collect a total of 80 pints of blood for Sara, as well as others who are seriously ill, she said.

The 2 p.m. start time was arranged for the convenience of Three Rivers School parents, which allows them to complete the donation process in time to still pick up their children at school.

    For more information, call Dyann, 561-4318.

    For blood donor requirements, see the blood drive's Kaweah Kalendar listing on this site.


Ainley family continues rodeo monarchy


by Amy Dolcourt-McElroy

Audra Ainley, granddaughter of Frank and Barbara Ainley of Elderwood, began her reign Saturday, April 17, as the 51st queen of the Woodlake Lions Rodeo.

    Born in Visalia, Audra, 18, spent much of her free time growing up on her grandparents' 2,000-acre ranch. She learned how to ride a horse there and began competing at Western and equestrian shows when she was just five years old.

    The Ainley women have a tradition of representing the cowboy community at the annual Mothers' Day weekend rodeo. In 1953, Barbara Ainley was the first queen; in 2001, her granddaughter, Corinne Ainley, was crowned.

    Audra almost missed out on becoming queen. At last year's rodeo, Audra declared to Frank, “Grandpa, I'm going to be rodeo queen,” but got distracted by her busy high school schedule. The Golden West High School senior is president of the associated student body, vice president of DECA (Distribution Education Club of America, a club that promotes business skills through education and competition), a lifetime member of the California Scholarship Federation (CSF), and a member of both the Interact Club and an on-campus Christian club. She also works part-time at Mimi's Café.

    Recalling Audra's promise, Frank called her up the day before the entry deadline, and Audra rushed to Woodlake to complete the application.

    Longtime friend Trilby Barton — an accomplished horsewoman, 2000 Cal Poly rodeo queen, and first runner-up at the Clovis Rodeo — coached Audra in regal duties and responsibilities and put her through an intensive regimen to hone her riding skills.

    The field of four Woodlake Rodeo contenders competed in three categories, with the coveted tiara going to the one who gained the highest overall score.

    Audra placed third in the horsemanship competition (50 percent of the score) and first in both rodeo ticket pre-sales (25 percent) and poise and personality (25 percent). In addition to the queen's regalia of tiara, sash, and a silver-and-bronze belt buckle, Audra also received a custom-made saddle, saddle blanket, and set of silver jewelry.

    The horsemanship competition requires executing expert-level maneuvers such as a series of figure eights, flying lead changes, and roll-backs (the equine equivalent of turning on a dime). The poise and personality competition was an interview in front of Saturday's audience, with questions on personal accomplishments and rodeo knowledge.

    Former queens Barbara and Corinne joined others of the Ainley clan to see Audra crowned on Saturday.

   “It's an honor for me, especially, to represent the rodeo community, the Ainley name, and Woodlake, which has been a part of my whole life,” said Audra.

    Besides reigning at the Lions' May and October rodeos, Audra will embark as a goodwill ambassador and representative of Woodlake at other rodeos. Newly added to the regal duties, Audra will travel to area rodeos — such as Clovis and the Cow Palace in San Francisco — to promote Woodlake and support the rodeo community.



Guerra named ‘Coach of the Year'


In the Sunday, April 18, edition of The Fresno Bee, Roy Guerra, boys' soccer coach at Woodlake High School, was named the Central Section's Coach of the Year. The honor came after a victorious season where the reigning league-champion Tigers (16 consecutive titles) won their third Valley Championship in the past four years.

    The accomplishment is even more significant now that the Tigers have moved up from the Sierra Division to the Sequoia Division. The last two championships have come by identical 1-0 scores over perennial power Kingsburg.

    Guerra, who played collegiate soccer at Fresno Pacific, emulates that team's philosophy by stressing defense foremost.

   “My players start off as a defender,” Guerra said. “If you can play defense, you can play anywhere.”

    Guerra, who graduated from WHS, also teaches physical education at his alma mater.

    In addition, senior midfielder Valentin Aguilar, Woodlake's top player and a three-time league MVP, was named to the Central Section All-Stars' first team.


Changes spice up TRUS

third-quarter awards ceremony


After the Leadership Class from Woodlake High School hosted a well-received second-quarter awards assembly, a group of school mothers followed suit and organized a pep-rally-type assembly to recognize Three Rivers School students for their third-quarter accomplishments and instill school pride.

    At the Tuesday, April 20, assembly that began the school day, prizes and incentives were given to fourth through eighth-grade students who received awards in academics, citizenship, and attendance.

    In addition, several competitions were held. One paired a parent with their student to test their knowledge of TRUS trivia, another pitted the fourth-grade class against the fifth-grade class in a balloon race, and the girls' softball team went up against the boys' baseball team in a contest where seven revolutions with their forehead on a baseball bat had the athletes struggling to stay upright, but a final burp into the microphone allowed the boys to pull ahead and provided them an easy victory.

    Soaring about during all of these activities was the school's mascot, the Eagle. It was only at the end of the assembly that the Eagle's true identity was revealed — adventure athlete Petit Pinson of Three Rivers, former TRUS student, was the bird in the feathers.

    See the April 23 print edition of The Kaweah Commonwealth for a list of all the students who received third-quarter awards.





THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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