Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
It’s tempting to start by acknowledging our last week of summer with our incredibly unseasonable warm weather. I was in Wichita this week with other Ottawa leaders…when we left Thursday afternoon the temperature was 80 degrees on December 2 shattering all previous records for high temps – gosh I’d hope so. I wouldn’t get too used to going without a coat…cold weather will come crashing down soon enough – just enjoy the spring temps while we have them!! Hope you made it downtown last Saturday for the parade and lighting ceremony…certainly the warmest weather for a lighting ceremony I’ve ever experienced – many in the crowd wearing shorts and t-shirts. 
 
I headed into the parade and lighting ceremony at 3:15 Saturday afternoon planning on making a timely arrival…and, after doing this event a number of times was ready for everything to run smoothly. It all came crashing down for me…let me share a crazy story. The plan for the lighting ceremony was to use my trailer as the stage for Derek Chappell from KOFO to emcee and from which to flip the switch for the lights. Since moving to town, I no longer have a truck…so I borrowed my son Todd’s truck. He dropped both the trailer and truck off Saturday afternoon and admitted his truck wasn’t running right, but it would get me to town.
 
Well, sort of…it got me to town, but not to Main Street. I reached Second and Willow Streets when the truck lost all power and began to smoke. I popped the hood, and the engine compartment was fully engulfed in flames prompting me to call 911 quickly. Since the only available fire truck at the time was preparing to lead the parade, it fired up emergency lights and headed toward my fire. Many on the parade site confirmed they believed the parade was beginning…but no – headed to my son’s truck for dousing the flames (pictures here). They arrived in a timely fashion, but the truck was undrivable…Todd does have a second truck which he brought to deliver the trailer to the lighting ceremony. I say all this to say not only was it the warmest lighting ceremony…it’s the only one I remember the fire department having to leave the parade to extinguish a fire. What a beginning!
 
Parade:
 
I did make it to Main Street in time to catch the parade passing by (minus a firetruck)…pictures here. I was impressed with the floats…for a small-town parade, many put much effort into developing awesome displays. Thank Ottawa Main Street Association for all their work in organizing the holiday procession. Many turned out to “officially” kick off the Christmas season.
 
Mayor’s Lighting Ceremony:
 
Following the parade, the festivities of the Lighting Ceremony ensued…this event is always one of the most popular events we conduct every year (pictures here). This year, with the warm weather, it might have been the best attended of all the lightings I remember. The corners and streets at Second and Main Street were full of people helping to kick off the Christmas Season. Kids got to decorate Christmas cookies, the Spotlight Dance Academy performed a dance from their production of the Nutcracker, Katie Wooge lead the crowd in singing Christmas songs, Arvest bank donated a couple of bicycles to two lucky kids, Phil Messenger called all the kids forward to read, “T’was the Night Before Christmas”…always a seasonal favorite. The evening was complete when the famous Christmas elf, Santa himself rode to town on the (now available) Ottawa firetruck. It’s always pleasing to see all who are willing to make events happen…also to thank is KOFO radio and Derek Chappell for announcing and keeping the event on time; my wife Cherry’s culinary arts classes for baking all the Christmas cookies for kids to decorate. Also, special thanks go to the Neosho County Student Senate who sent volunteers to help the kids decorate the cookies. The Ottawa Volunteer Police force is also integral in staging an event such as this where we shut down streets and deal with large numbers of attenders. Long story short…Christmas is now coming, and Ottawa’s downtown is ready!! Now…better get your Christmas shopping done!
 
Kansas Leadership Center (KLC):
 
I spent 2-days in Wichita this week with 19 other Ottawa Leaders attending a leadership training at the Kansas Leadership Center (couple pictures here). Since 2007, the KLC has been training Kansans at all levels to lead more effectively…their core belief is that good leadership produces healthy Kansas communities. Normally very expensive tuition, Franklin County received dollars from the Kansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield Pathways for a Healthier Kansas grant to pay all expenses for 20 of our citizens to attend. Our group had representatives from the County, City, fire department, library, ECKAN, AdventHealth Ottawa, the Chamber, Franklin County Development Council, health department, ORC, Ottawa University and several Ottawa business leaders…we were the largest contingency participating in this training – which as we learned, was the Center’s first in-person training since COVID. Their programing and teaching are exceptional and they begin the instruction with these five tenants:
  •  Leadership is an activity, not a position.
  •  Anyone can lead, anytime, anywhere.
  •  It starts with you and must engage others.
  • Your purpose must be clear.
  • It’s risky.
In 2013 Ottawa sent 10-leaders to participate in the training…they returned and initiated the half-cent sales tax for Proximity Park, the $65 million school bond initiative, and the fundraising to build Legacy Square. I can’t wait to see what this group will do after training and having time to reflect on the experience. Thanks to BCBS of Kansas for providing these funds to help Kansas communities grow, prosper and live healthier lifestyles.
 
United Way of Franklin County Association:
 
The Franklin County United Way is winding down another successful campaign this year…they hosted Chamber members this morning to encourage the last round of giving to get them over the hump of their goal (pictures here). If you give right now, UW has a generous donor willing to match your donation…makes it double! The UW supports many partner organizations in our community but specifically gives grants to ORC, Hope House, East Central Kansas Area Agency on Aging, Ottawa Community Arts Council (which in turn donates office space for UW to operate), and the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation of Kansas. Additionally, our local UW works with other food pantries and local organizations to help the homeless and coordinate many giving activities to worthwhile, and very necessary organizations. Leigh Hanson is currently the Director of Franklin County United Way…Leigh is a champion of those who need a hand up – especially this time of year as winter closes in. Thanks Leigh and all the volunteers at United Way…your work makes our community more complete.  
 
Coen Christmas Tree:
 
With temperatures in the low 70s last weekend, Cherry and I loaded 9 grandkids and headed to Memory Lane Christmas Tree Farm in Rantoul (Johnna was too little to go!)…here are a few pictures (plus a couple of Johnna pics too). It was quite an outing…Harry and Juanita Peckham do an exceptional job creating a wonderful experience for families. Complete with very large slides, bale mazes, displays, hot chocolate and of course Christmas trees, the kids could spend hours there. At the end of the day, Cherry and I had a lot of “advice” picking out our tree (which is now up and decorated)…so we too are ready for the Christmas season
 
Hope everyone is getting their Christmas lights up and outdoor decorating complete…these warm temperatures won’t last forever! Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000