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Best Western under new ownership
by John Elliott
Inn demand: The Best Western-Holiday Lodge in Three Rivers is under new management.
When Paul Patel and his wife, Hema, arrived last month to take over the management of the Best Western-Holiday Lodge they were strangers in a strange land. They were supposed to have 30 days to make a smooth transition under previous managers Joyce and Bill Hendrix.
But how could the Patels, newcomers to Three Rivers who arrived April 7, even imagine what a first week would be like that featured a sold-out Jazzaffair weekend?
"It was desperation around here at first," Patel said." There was so much that was new to me, and I didn't have any time to learn the details of the property."
Bob Abanathie, who was the general manager of the property throughout the 1990s until his retirement, stepped into assist, but the adjustment was made more difficult because only two of the former employees stayed on to work for the new owners.
Formerly owned by Holiday Associates, the new owners, Amrut Management Company of Pleasanton, assumed control of the motel, hopeful that they could rescue a Three Rivers business in financial distress.
That's why they moved Paul Patel to Three Rivers from his former position at a Fresno Travelodge. But to carry out the company's long-term plan for Holiday Lodge, Patel said, he must first learn the day-to-day operations.
"What we [the company] want to do is determine what the Three Rivers visitor really wants," Patel said." Then we will create an environment that is more like the Best Western image rather than an individual motel."
The Best Western environs are scheduled to undergo dramatic changes as the federal government begins roadwork and the construction of a dike along the western perimeter of the property. That massive mound of dirt will keep out the new, higher water level of Lake Kaweah when the spillway of Terminus Dam is raised.
The construction, both during and after the project is completed, will impact Best Western guests who stroll down to the river. The dike will diminish the view from the scenic sunset exposure of at least one-half of Best Western's 53 rooms; during high water, Holiday Falls will disappear.
"The company is exploring the alternatives to building that dike," Patel said." But [the federal government] has already said that anything that is built will be on their property and not ours."
What Patel would like to see is that the Army Corps of Engineers go back to their original plan of buying the buildings of the Best Western that are within the high waterline of the new reservoir. Then his company would build two new buildings east of the remaining rooms.
But the clock is already ticking on the dike scenario and changes at this time would cost taxpayers millions of dollars more.
Patel, an eternal optimist, is confident that his hospitality will prove successful in Three Rivers. He, like so many other Patels in the hotel industry, hails from the state of Gujarat, India.
Patel said a multitude of his countrymen from that state have come to the U.S. and currently control 85 percent of the hospitality industry.
"We don't have to go to school to learn hospitality," Patel says." It is in our blood."
For instance, Patel said, if someone visits him in India, they can put their wallet away because they become his responsibility. That same philosophy is in the heart of Patel and a legion of Indian innkeepers, he explained, who curiously all use the name Patel in this country.
Patel says he has also been impressed with neighbors like Hector and Juliette Delcon of the Cider Mill, Glenn McIntyre of the Gateway, and Jerry and Laura Harris of River Inn.
"These Three Rivers people have been very friendly and make us feel welcome," Patel said.
Eventually, Patel said, he hopes to find the right couple to live at the Best Western and take over the management responsibilities. Then he will move on to the next challenge.
On Monday, May 5, Travis L. Anderson, 17, of Exeter died from injuries sustained after being thrown from a car that left the roadway just west of the Horse Creek Bridge. Both the 23-year-old driver, who was arrested at the scene for DUI, and another passenger, 23, were injured in the one-car accident that occurred Monday, April 28.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks will be undergoing construction on the Mineral King Road to repair flood damage caused by the November 2002 storms. Work will take place until Thursday, May 29, near Redwood Creek, about 16 miles from Highway 198.
The road will be closed to visitor traffic from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday. There will be no traffic delays Fridays through Sundays or during Memorial Day weekend.
Cabin-owners and other authorized personnel will be allowed through the construction zone, but may encounter delays of up to one hour. There will be heavy truck traffic along the road, so extreme caution while traveling the road (which is narrow, curvy, and has no center line) is recommended.
Rodeo Queen 2003
—Trudy Johnson photo
This weekend, the Woodlake Lions Rodeo celebrates a half-century of honoring Western heritage.
The event started in 1953, not as a rodeo but as a roping competition, held in an empty field at the corner of Lakeview and Lemona. A few years later, distinguished rodeo cowboy Johnny Jackson rode into town and persuaded the Lions to increase the scope of their vision.
Eventually purchasing 37 acres of Jackson's ranch in Elderwood, the Lions held their first rodeo at the Woodlake Lions Rodeo Grounds in the late 1950s.
In honor of their 50th anniversary, the Lions have invited the celebrated Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls, famous for their grace and trick-riding, to perform on both days of the rodeo.
Also special for the occasion, accomplished rodeo clown and motorcycle trick-rider Troy Lerwell, also known as "Wild Child," will protect the cowboys while entertaining audiences with his bold and daring feats.
The Lions have been busy improving the rodeo grounds for the anniversary celebration. A new sound system has been installed, and gone is the overhead network of power lines, since relocated below ground, leaving the skyline uncluttered.
The Lions have proclaimed Woodlake's own Leo Fry, well-known for his longstanding commitment to community service, to be this year's Grand Marshal. Leo will reign over the rodeo ceremonies.
In time-honored tradition, the rodeo kicks off Saturday in Woodlake at 10 a.m. with the parade. Grand Marshal Fry conducts the procession; Rodeo Queen Kara Morris and her court will travel in a motorcade down Valencia Blvd.
The parade's organizer, Chuck Bartlett of Three Rivers, said there will be 20 floats participating in the parade, with prizes awarded for best decorated car, best mounted riding group, and best cowboy/girl.
The Saturday night Barn Dance, beginning at 8 p.m., will feature the band Country Connection.
A barbecue lunch begins each day at 11 a.m. on the rodeo grounds. Prior to the rodeo action, fans can also take a mechanical bull ride or shop for clothing, ropes, and horse tack at the vendor booths.
At 1:30 p.m., the competition begins in the arena, announced by seven-year veteran Chad Nicholson. The Rodeo kick-off will feature a performance of skill, grace, and precision by the Visalia Rockettes, a mounted drill team.
Other events include:
The crowd-pleasing mutton bustin' showcases children's burgeoning bull-riding skills. Selected from a field of applicants, 10 children compete each day for a belt buckle by riding a sheep for as long as they can.
The suicide race tests skill and quick thinking. This heart-stopping race pits expert horsemen against each other and the jagged terrain as they race across the arena, plunge through the pond, gallop over a rocky hill, and hurtle back through the arena to the finish line.
Bareback bronc riding puts a contestant on 1,000 pounds of horse for an eight-second ride. The horse carries only a rigging with a single handhold, and the contestant must complete the ride without benefit of reins, saddle, or stirrups.
Steer wrestlers gallop on horseback abreast of a running steer, then leap onto it and wrestle it to the ground.
Bull-riding, a spectator favorite, challenges the toughest contestants to stay on until the eight-second whistle. The rider has only one hand hanging on to a heavy rope that encircles the bull like a belt.
Tickets for the rodeo are $12 for adults and $6 per child (ages seven to 12). Children six years and under are free.
For directions or more information, call 564-8555.
Martha Jeanne Britten of Exeter died Saturday, April 26, 2003. She was 78.
Martha was born in Exeter on March 11, 1925, to Myrt and Iva (Starns) Pruner, descendents of two Exeter pioneer families. Martha graduated from Exeter Union High School in 1942 and Fresno State in 1946. On June 20, 1946, she married Lynn Britten at the Exeter Methodist Church.
She worked as a substitute teacher in Exeter and at Sequoia Union School. She also was a local distributor of The Fresno Bee with her husband for 30 years.
Martha is survived by her husband, Lynn Britten of Exeter; sons Ed and wife Sandy Britten of Fresno, Steve Britten of Exeter, Bill and wife Ronette Britten of Three Rivers, Ken and wife Diana Britten of Exeter, Tim and wife Chinayo Britten of San Diego; her daughter Carol and husband Ron Holman of Visalia; one sister; and nine grandchildren.
Remembrances may be made to the American Heart Association or the Exeter Methodist Church.
by Amy Dolcourt-McElroy
|Completing a sentence: The tables are turned during Western Week as Chief of Police John Zapalac does time in "jail."|
Due to the abundance of outdoor activities scheduled for day one of Western Week, last Saturday's unseasonable rainstorms caused a few postponements. Those looking forward to the vintage porta-potty race will now have to hold it a little longer as it has been rescheduled to Saturday, July 12.
The fire department postponed the mini-muster until Sunday so folks could get soaked in dry weather. The cookoff and street dance also took place Sunday.
That day's Cinco de Mayo fiesta brought the sights, scents, and sounds of danzantes, piping hot tacos dorados, and couples waltzing to Los Capos ballads.
On Monday, those who took time for visitation witnessed some notorious inmates behind bars: Police Chief John Zapalac did time in the slammer, as did the namesake of "Gordo's Place." Gordo decided he needed more sustenance than a menu of bread and water, so brought his own fries to munch on.
In the city park the next day, people gathered for the dog races. The winners of Woodlake's run for the roses were (from smallest to tallest) Boo Boo, Little, and Max.
Woodlake's version of roulette, which entails getting to know the backside of a steer, had the crowd betting big bucks that their lucky number would be the one that got hit with… well, you get the picture. Winners of the steer drop were: Ruth Gonzalez, first place; Dave Pelham, second place.
Across the street at the Community Center, Roy Davis' succulent barbecue tri-tip brought raves from those who feasted.
To an infectious South-of-the-Border beat, people lined both sides of Lakeview on Wednesday to watch youngsters indulge in their need for speed as they drag-raced in the soapbox derby. A snazzy aerodynamic car was supplied by the Kiwanis, a fire-engine red car came courtesy of the Woodlake Fire Department, and the black-and-white was provided by the Woodlake Police Department.
Thursday had a surprise Revenge Day, allowing Monday's convicts to jail their betrayers, so no one in town escaped the long arm of the law. A brazen red-haired bumpkin crashed the weekly Rotary Club meeting, identified herself the new county sheriff, and held everyone hostage, extorting contributions for future community events.
Today (May 9) there will be free chili, sodas, and covered wagon rides at Fruit Growers Supply from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Western Week concludes tomorrow with the annual all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. in front of Paradise Video (245 N. Valencia Blvd.).
by Amy Dolcourt-McElroy
For more than a decade, letter carriers across the nation have collected donations of nonperishable foods during May.
Started by the National Association of Letter Carriers in 1992, the national Stamp Out Hunger food drive benefits communities at the local level, with all contributions delivered to neighborhood food banks for distribution.
The food drive, which takes place this year on Saturday, May 10, requires tremendous organization and local support. Participating every year since the campaign began, local post offices in Three Rivers, Woodlake, and Lemon Cove have mailed out instruction cards and bags for donations to every household.
Letter carriers and volunteers pick up the donations placed by mailboxes during regular Saturday mail delivery.
In Three Rivers, Trish Stivers leads volunteers along the rural postal routes to collect donations that will benefit the Community Food Pantry. All donations need to be placed street-side by 1 p.m. Saturday.
In Woodlake, letter carrier Joe Martinez takes the day off without pay. Since the Stamp Out Hunger campaign began, Joe and his family have spent the entire day of the food drive picking up donations from houses and full postal trucks.
Nonperishable staple items are high on the request list. Canned foods, cereal, rice, beans, oil, flour, sugar, powdered milk, and peanut butter are essential items always in demand. Open packages and food past the expiration date are not distributed.
After collection, the food is weighed (yearly statistics are kept in terms of weight) and items are then transported to each community's respective FoodLink for distribution. Together, Three Rivers and Woodlake residents donate an average of 2,200 pounds of food every year.
Cindy Molezzo, former acting postmaster of Three Rivers and current Woodlake postmaster, accommodates rodeo guests by leaving bins at the rear door of the post office (corner of Valencia and Lakeview) to hold contributions from generous visitors.
In Three Rivers, collection bins are available at Village Market, the Kaweah Post Office, and the Three Rivers Post Office. Only the food collected on May 10 is counted as part of the annual food-drive statistics, but the bins will be in place for the week ending May 14 and emptied daily.