May 17, 2013
TELLING IT LIKE IT IS:
Boston at Big Sur
Inspired by the "To Boston, with love" column (see below), Heidi Shumacher met with me to tell her experience with some of those who experience the terror firsthand.
Heidi Schumacher and Nancy Smith, both of Three Rivers, undertook a challenge that had more significance than they could have ever imagined. On Sunday, April 28, the pair participated in the Big Sur International Marathon.
The 28th annual BSIM consisted of several endurance challenges in addition to the 26.2-mile race. Heidi and Nancy walked in “The 21-Miler,” and they devoted many weeks, hours, and miles to pounding the local pavement while training for the event.
Unbeknownst to them at the time, for the past four years, BSIM has included the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge, which lures endurance runners with a tempting offer: run the Boston Marathon, then fly to the opposite coast and run the Big Sur Marathon less than two weeks later.
This year, of course, proved quite poignant for event participants, including Heidi and Nancy, as they watched the B2B runners pass by, knowing what these athletes had experienced less than two weeks before when bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured 275.
Heidi has run a couple of marathons previously, her second in 2004, when running after kids took the place of logging miles. Because her own mom’s unexpected death coincided with Heidi’s last marathon, and a trip to Boston in her mother’s memory occurred soon after, emotions were already raw during the Big Sur event.
This was Nancy’s second time at the BSIM, which has been named “Best Destination Marathon” and one of the world’s Top Ten Marathons by Forbes. It is a point-to-point race that snakes along Highway 1 from Big Sur to Carmel, along the way crossing the famous Bixby Bridge.
April 19, 2013
TELLING IT LIKE IT IS:
To Boston, with love
On Monday, April 15, two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The timing clock was approaching 4:09:45. This senseless act of violence killed three people and maimed so many others.
I have run for fitness since I was in my 20s, but it’s been only the last five years — since our kids went off to college and my husband joined me in this pursuit — that I’ve entered races. John and I are currently training for our third marathon.
Because of this, I know how amazing it feels to cross a marathon finish line. To think that this act of violence is how so many people will have to remember a finish line breaks my heart.
Boston is the holy grail of marathons. Many runners devote their lives to training for this race in hopes of hitting that magical yet elusive qualifying time. It was difficult to watch that dream go up in a cloud of violent, hateful, bloody smoke for so many.
Also distressing is that most of the injured are spectators; the families and friends of runners who were there to provide support. Training for a marathon is difficult and time-consuming, but runners aren’t the only ones making sacrifices. Families and friends are an important factor in the months of preparation it takes to get across that finish line, and they shouldn’t have to risk their lives to watch us run.
Most runners I’ve met are awesome, uplifting people. It’s hard to find a bad one in the bunch. The running community is like a fraternity, only healthier (but they still love beer!). All marathoners have a connection, an unspoken bond, because we know what it takes to make it to that finish line.
In the images on the TV screen, it was uplifting to see the first responders who ran against the crowd, into the danger zone and toward the terror to help the injured. I had tears in my eyes when I heard the reports of runners who just kept on running — to the hospital to donate blood. Runners have a lot of energy, all of it positive.
So if terrorists are trying to bring this country to its knees and break the human spirit — because it wasn’t just Americans targeted; the Boston Marathon is an international event — runners are the wrong group to target. It takes grit, determination, a lot of sweat, tears, and triumphing over some really bad run days to make it across the finish line of a marathon.
Continuing to move forward through pain is normal for runners. Starting over is second nature. Persevering against all odds is at the core of the sport. Passion and joy can’t be taken away from a runner. In fact, they have been given one more reason to run now.
America is not as safe as it used to be a generation ago, but if you ever feel like you are about to lose faith in humanity, watch a marathon. As for me, I plan on crossing many more finish lines in my running life, and that is something that I will never, ever take for granted.
April 12, 2013
All the jazz that fits, we print
Welcome to the 40th edition of Jazzaffair, which is hands down the finest small-venue jazz festival on the planet. As the co-publisher (along with my wife, Sarah) of the hyperlocal weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, this is my favorite weekend of the 52-week grind of the publishing year.
I love the music, the buzz it creates around town; the No Vacancy signs; the big RV rigs; listening to jazz in a church sanctuary; and, most of all, the wonderful people.
Jazzaffair at 40 is alive and well, and although there are many who wonder how long it can go on, it is surprisingly sustainable. Of course, its future depends on the High Sierra Jazz Band — and for now there is no slowing down for these remarkable boys in the band.
In the 1970s, it was Chet and Thelma Crain who did much of the organizational work of the Sierra Traditional Jazz Club and kept track of High Sierra’s bookings. Today it’s Rusty Crain who does what his folks did — with lots of help from his friends, and High Sierra’s extended fan base and, of course, the Three Rivers community.
That’s not likely to change anytime soon nor is the love that the musicians have for playing Three Rivers. One thing they all say is that playing Jazzaffair is unique and like attending a family reunion.
The musicians that come here are extremely talented and flat-out love making music so they are willing to make it work just to spend a weekend here. It takes a village to do a lot of things but only Three Rivers can do a Jazzaffair.
The return of Draga— After a six-year hiatus, Bob Draga returns to the Jazzaffair lineup in 2013. His story is similar to so many of the musicians who have played here over the years.
His antics on stage and his humor are the ideal complement to his excellent playing on his beloved horn – in this case an extremely sweet sounding and nimble clarinet. In fact, on the Jazzdagen 2004 New Year’s Mississippi River cruise an executive of Arbors Records (the classic jazz purist’s preferred label) told me that Bob Draga was among the top ten traditional jazz clarinet players in the world.
Lofty praise for a guy who lives in Florida and his day job is fixing air conditioners. Bob, 65, was raised in Clearwater and in the fifth grade his parents gave him six months of music lessons.
“That’s all the money we had, but it was enough for me to learn that I really liked playing music,” Bob reminisced. “After that I just listened to my dad’s records and played those tunes.”
Bob confessed he never learned to read music so when he did a tour in the Navy he couldn’t join in the U.S. Navy Band. During those days he hung out at jazz nightclubs and played in a combo. Then he heard the Garden Avenue Gang.
“From the moment I heard them play that Dixieland music, I was hooked,” Bob said. “I used to sit on the stage steps and wait for one of the musicians to take a break so I could sit in. It was strictly a union deal and only so many players could be on stage at any one time.”
Soon it was, “Kid why don’t you join the band?” Bob did and eventually he became the leader and changed the band’s name to the Garden Avenue Seven.
He also developed a penchant for torch singers.
“You have to watch those nightclub singers,” Bob said. “For me they are a like a third sex.”
Bob first appeared at Jazzaffair in 2002 with The Titan Hot Seven. After several years with that bunch Bob struck out on his own and now appears solo on the festival circuit playing sets with a number of bands but none exclusively.
It’s the perfect match for Bob’s extraordinary talent.
“It’s a challenge, it’s fun, and I love it all as long the jazz is played well,” Bob said.
He particularly enjoys his jams with the youth bands. Those young players are first awestruck but Bob’s affection for what he’s doing puts everyone at ease as he inspires each player to reach for more from their respective instruments.
“I’m 65 and the day will come when I won’t play anymore,” said Bob. “I want to be one of those old cats sitting in the front row listening to these kids in the youth bands today playing this same hot jazz.”
This weekend, Bob will undoubtedly make on-stage jokes about those singer types; lost loves; boozing and carousing; Earl McKee, who Bob describes as a “jazz cowboy bear”; and Stumpy, the barkeep at the Memorial Building, who Bob thinks would make the perfect hangman in the stereotypical Wild West town.
He would love to have his current wife, Diane, who he met at the Mammoth Lakes Jazz Festival, here by his side in Three Rivers, but she is busy this weekend at a gymnastics event in London where she is coaching a team of future Olympians.
“I’m fortunate because my wife can’t sing a note so this marriage will be my last,” Bob says. “I wouldn’t miss the chance to play Jazzaffair. I love the music and people and here they are both honest and real.”
To see this year’s Jazzaffair music schedule, go to the Home page on this site, then click on the Jazzaffair link on the lower right side of the page.
March 1, 2013
18 years and 920 issues
When Sarah and I embarked upon this newspaper venture in 1995 and published our first issue on March 1, 1995, we had no idea where we were headed or how the story of The Kaweah Commonwealth would end. Here we are 18 years and 920 issues later and what we have learned is that there is still a huge learning curve as we continue to do this hyper-local, family-owned newspaper.
And although we don’t yet know how this story will end, we do know how it all began, how we got where we are today, and some exciting developments that are in the works to ensure that the Commonwealth will be around a while longer.
As newsprint goes, we will strive to preserve the hometown medium. The Commonwealth is the last adjudicated weekly left standing in a giant swath of unincorporated communities fromKernville to Mariposa. When the average age of a newspaper reader is 55, the handwriting is on the wall.
Only this “wall” is social media — Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest — all websites with a huge Internet presence that didn’t even exist 10 years ago. How long will sites like Facebook with nearly 800 million subscribers remain popular? They don’t know what’s next, nor do we, but it is realistic to assume that there will be 1,000 issues and a 20th anniversary of The Kaweah Commonwealth.
The consolidation of the newspaper industry is endemic of what’s going in our brave new world. I call it brave because to get where we are, like thousands of other small businesses, it takes courage on a daily basis to survive. Only the shared commitment of family and a handful of dedicated staff who believe in what we are doing has made the Commonwealth what it is today: a trusted source for information and a partner in the progress of a region.
That region is Kaweah Country. What began as a way to describe Three Rivers and its geographical place on the planet became its newspaper as it extended its influence into the hinterland.
In 2013, we will introduce the Kaweah Country Visitors Guide, a full-color magazine that will highlight the national parks and other nearby public lands, the Kaweah River, and the majestic mountains that make for life’s peak while providing concise information on where to stay, eat, shop, and more.
There will be the traditional hard copy that will be distributed throughout the region. And the rest of the world will be able to go online and turn the same pages from anywhere there is an Internet connection.
Also in the works, is a modernization of the TKC website with its immensely popular webcam.
None of this would have been possible without you, the reader. And a heartfelt thanks is due from us to all to the loyal advertisers, some that have been in all 920 issues!
As we grow older, and we hope a little wiser, we hope for more time to run, bike, hike, kayak, swim, backpack, and climb that next mountain to see what’s on the other side. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
March 1, 2013
TELLING IT LIKE IT IS:
'Roots and Wings - A new beginning'
Here is a reprint of the introduction I wrote for the inaugural issue of the the newly revived Commonwealth (March 1, 1995). The italics are my current thoughts...
Welcome to the first issue of the rebirth of The Kaweah Commonwealth. We hope that all who venture into these pages will find subjects that are of interest and will soon be better informed about Three Rivers and its surrounding communities.
With this initial issue comes a pledge to deliver the news, past and present. It is important to know the current events of this community, whether you live here or are just passing through. It is of equal value to know the history of the area, too. Those who reside in this wonderful place will take pride in knowing its unique past. Visitors will travel on, knowing they are informed and feeling they took full advantage of their time here.
To publish a newspaper has been a dream of mine since before I even realized. Although I didn’t know A THING about the world of publishing. I have been guided on this path for over 30 years. The proof is in my Babar children’s book, dated by my mom in 1964. I broke the house rules by getting a pencil and placing punctuation where there was none, correcting grammar, and improving on the cursive handwriting in this classic tale. I will keep this book close to me (unless my children want to borrow it) as I work on this newspaper. It will remind me that this is not a job... it is a labor of love. Eighteen years later, it is still in my office.
The labor of love is not only in my work. It is directed toward this community in which I was raised. I am the fifth generation of the Barton family to reside in Three Rivers; my children are the sixth.
Though my surname has changed now, the family pride is stronger than ever. It’s funny though... my name had to change for me to be proud of my heritage. It was something I took for granted until I met and married a historian. If you don’t know him already, you will soon know him intimately in these pages. I tried to warn you!
I have lived in several different places since my upbringing in Three Rivers. I never felt completely settled, however, but never knew why. The answer came when my two children began approaching school age. The sense of longing I continually felt was a strong magnetic pull to return home. And home I came.
Our kids were ages four and five when we started this venture. They have both since graduated college. They grew up in the newspaper biz; not always easy in a small town.
I was finally content. Or so I thought. Now that I was here, how could I possibly follow in the footsteps of four previous generations? It’s a difficult act to follow. In my family tree are a Revolutionary War hero (1770s), a Columbia gold miner (1852), Westward ho! pioneers (1866), a Tulare County Recorder (ca. 1860), a Tulare County Supervisor (1870s), a great-great-uncle who is said to have milled the first giant sequoia (1870; felled by natural causes, by the way), a newspaper publisher/editor (Visalia Delta, 1870s) early settlers and ranchers of Three Rivers, Elderwood, and Mineral King (1870s), another great-great-uncle who named Lake Isabella (Kern County, 1893), two Woodlake Union High school student body presidents (1918/1942), and other regional accomplishments.
These guys never cease to amaze me. Yep, all of the above were men (although my great-great-grandmother and children, some of whom were daughters, were on the overland wagon, caring for a six-month-old baby: my great-grandfather, Jason).
One characteristic that most of these Bartons had in common was the foresight to document their activities, somehow knowing that they were making history.
Fate has knocked at the door again. Here I am, co-publisher/editor of Three Rivers’s only newspaper. Now my husband John and I will continue the family tradition, not just writing about our lives, but yours, too. Again, I tried to warn you...
John and I have a deep-rooted sense of purpose and commitment to Three Rivers, Sequoia National Park, Woodlake, and all of Kaweah Country. Still do. We strive for a standard of excellence that will provide accurate information in an entertaining format. Still do. All channels of communication are open, and so are our doors. Those channels of communication have certainly increased. We didn’t have a clue about Facebook and Twitter back then; the fax machine was a luxury.
We welcome your thoughts on what a community newspaper should be and your letters and opinions on current events and local affairs. It’s up to you, and the success of a community newspaper depends on your input. THAT hasn’t changed.
Enjoy this historic issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth, and the others that will follow in the weeks, years, and decades to come. Little did I realize...