Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Hope you had a happy and safe July 4th which included both relaxation and celebration. The Chautauqua Festival was very celebratory in Forest Park…turtle races, water balloon toss and 3-legged races got the activities started. There was also face painting, food trucks, train rides and free watermelon (provided by Price Chopper). The Declaration of Independence was read at 6:00 to remind us of what our forefathers faced to gain the independence we love and enjoy so much…after the Declaration and while the National Anthem was being played, the Blue Angels flew over. It couldn’t have been better timed if they were queued to be there. The City Band performed a very patriotic repertoire to put everyone in the mood for fireworks. The Bill Finch band played until dusk, entertaining the crowd who choose to remain to watch the fireworks from the park. Here are a few pictures of some of the events.
 
It takes a herculean effort on the part of the Chautauqua committee to produce this event for the community each year. Co-chaired by Tim Van Leiden and Tiffany Evans, the committee spends many hours raising money, getting the park arranged, ordering and picking up the fireworks, setting up the firing tubes and of course shooting them off. The shooters have to be licensed which involves classroom time and also practice shoots. And then after the whole shebang is over it all has to be torn down and stored away for next year. The community owes this group a debt of gratitude for all their efforts to make sure we have a festive 4th of July Celebration…3-cheers for the Chautauqua Committee!! Thanks for all you do!!
 
OHS Wall of Honor:
 
Three very deserving alumni were announced this week as the 2021 inductees to the OHS Wall of Honor. Claude Wilson from the Class of 1921, William Greene from the Class of 1965 and Josh Walker from the class of 1998. The first 2 won’t be as known locally…and both are being honored posthumously. I knew Claude’s brother John who was an organist at Trinity United Methodist Church back in the 1980s. John was a wonderful man and also on the Wall of Honor. Their dad was a local blacksmith and worked to put his many children through college…they all went on to be great leaders and innovators. I serve on the Ottawa University Board of Trustees with William’s widow, Kathleen. Of course, most know Josh for his commitment to Ottawa as a local leader and businessman. His Ottawa projects are numerous…Josh is someone who has helped make us the great community we are today.
 
Stella Tharp at the High School led the selection committee which I had the honor of serving on…it is quite a process. This year there were 13 nominees…we all read their resumes, some of which were quite long. The applications included letters of support from friends and classmates describing their accomplishments and successes. After spending several hours studying independently, we each ranked the group individually and tallied the results for the final score…it was very fair – and the 3 names above rose to the top. They will be inducted on September 30 in the new Performing Arts Theater at Ottawa High School…along with the Class of 2020 who never had a ceremony because of COVID. Congratulation to all the inductees…these are all individuals who were born and raised in Ottawa and went on the make each of their communities and world a better place to live.     
 
Something for Kids:
 
If you have school children at home, here is something for you and them. The Kansas Sunflower Foundation announced this week their Sunflower Summer Program (full news release here). It allows free access for kids to 70 in-state attractions, including zoos, museums, historic landmarks, libraries and outdoor locations. This program is funded by COVID relief money to keep Kansas children active and learning during the summer and is a partnership between the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), Kansas Department of Commerce, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, KU Center for Public Partnerships and Research, and Greenbush Education Service Center. All you have to do is download the app and then the tickets are available in the app. I sent this to my daughters…all 3 were very glad to receive it. There is a lot of good stuff available for kids here.
 
Legacy Square:
 
Another announcement this week…the Onward Ottawa board announced they are providing Legacy Square for free for a couple of years to non-profits which can develop a sustainable event or festival to take place in Legacy Square (full press release here). The idea has always been to have multiple events taking place in the Square…we just need more groups brainstorming about what kinds and types of events to establish. Any idea is worthwhile…chili cookoffs, barbeque contests, carnival, concerts, art shows or craft fairs – it just needs to be something they can facilitate and make happen multiple years. I’m excited to see what this generates in the way of new activities in downtown!!
 
Congressman Jake LaTurner:
 
Our local congressman was in town Thursday afternoon and addressed a full room at City Hall (pictures here)…some might describe the crowd as somewhat contentious. Certainly the group held his feet to the fire regarding several issues winding through Washington D.C. currently. Topics discussed ranged from the attack on the Capitol on January 6 and whether Republicans are doing enough to find and bring the criminals to justice, Critical Race Theory (CRT) and if it should receive funding for teaching in schools, the recent presidential election and the subsequent certification of the results were probably the 3 most hotly discussed topics, in a variety of ways. I thought Congressman LaTurner did a good job in responding…we know we all aren’t of one mind, but he very patiently explained his votes and positions. When you understand other’s points of view, it makes the whole topic easier to comprehend and also understand the complexities. I applaud him for the job he’s doing…it’s hard work representing a voting district with such eclectic ideas and feelings. The country is in the midst of a cultural divide…it is tricky to navigate these waters. Most would not want his job!! Thanks Congressman for your work…and coming to discuss it directly with us. 
 
Key Apparel:    
 
Seth Needham, local account representative for Key Apparel, hosted Chamber members this morning at Legacy Square (pictures here). He planned an activity to promote Ottawa and help teach attenders how to promote their business on Facebook. We divided into teams and actually had to create a post to promote Ottawa…I teamed with Jacob Boyd, financial advisor with Edward Jones Financial, and we won!! It was mostly Jacob…here is our post which is on his Facebook page. Here is another good post from this morning’s coffee on The Corner Market Facebook page. We received a Key t-shirt for our efforts. 
 
Key Apparel is a Kansas company established in Fort Scott, Kansas in 1908 to meet the workwear clothing needs of farmers and ranchers who were toiling sunup to sundown on the eastern edge of America’s Great Plains. The two company founders built their first pair of bib overalls with heavy-duty denim and triple-needle stitched seams and were built to move easily throughout long days on the plains. And it carried a price that hard-working men considered a fair deal. The Company has greatly evolved today but still produces great work apparel for farm and business.
 
COVID:
 
I quit giving weekly pandemic updates, feeling with vaccinations this was becoming a non-issue. I’m not totally sure that’s correct anymore. The new Delta variant is wreaking havoc in some communities…our neighboring Missouri has the highest and worst rates in the country. In Franklin County this week we had 37 new cases. My son-in-law who works in a large metropolitan hospital in Kansas City reports their COVID wing is again completely full…if you think it’s gone it is NOT. In my mind this all seems ridiculous…GET THE VACCINATION – it stops the spread and protects you and your loved ones. Vaccinations are free…you can get them at pharmacies, doctor’s offices, or call the County Health Departments at 785.229.3530. 
 
Here is a fun activity for those who have not received the vaccination…”Dunk a Doc” hosted by Ottawa Family Physicians. The event is from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Franklin County Fair Grounds on July 16 & 17. You can visit with a doctor about the safeness of the vaccine and for those who get the vaccination at the event, you get a chance to “dunk a doc” in the splash tank (full release here).
 
Cherry and I are headed to Cedar Vale this weekend…there is a local festival and also kids baseball. Here are a few family pics from the 4th of July…
 
Stay cool…have a great weekend and I’ll talk to you next week.
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000