By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa, Feb. 27, 2018 -- The 11th annual banquet of the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association, held Saturday evening Feb. 24 at the Marriott Hotel here, proved to be one of the most successful banquets yet -- raising a grand total of up to $42,682, depending on how you count it.
More than 165 people attended, and they were amazingly generous with their donations and bidding on auction items.
Keith Troester, treasurer of the RRVT Associatiion, reported Tuesday that banquet ticket sales, plus the banquet sponsorships from businesses and individuals, plus income from the evening's raffles and auctions, totaled $17,497. (Banquet expenses will be paid from that total. And let's recognize the business, group and individual sponsors of the event, too -- Lincoln Savings Bank, TEN25 Designs, Bike World, Dallas County Hospital, Peoples Trust & Savings Bank, the Hotel Pattee, Raccoon Valley Bank, Carl Voss of Des Moines, Team Curbside of Panora and Kent Sandburg of Clive.)
In addition, the people attending the banquet contributed $7,685 after a direct appeal for on-the-spot support for the "Let's Connect" campaign, which is funding the development and construction of a $5-million, 9-mile-long "Connector" trail. That will link the RRVT and the High Trestle trail, between Perry and Woodward. That amount from the crowd met the offer from the RRVT Association to match those donations up to $7,500 -- so you can add a total of $15,185 being raised for the "Connector" trail.
But wait! There's more!
Then Tom Maxwell, new owner of the Hotel Pattee in Perry, stunned the banquet crowd by going to the stage and announcing that he and his wife Vickie Maxwell are donating $10,000 to “Let’s Connect.”
The Maxwells, of Edwardsville, Illinois, who take over the hotel from Jay and Denise Hartz on March 1, "learned right away from Jay that the trail association is one of the local organizations that we really want to support," Tom Maxwell said. "We realize how important the trails are to our communities and the whole region, and to the Hotel Pattee, too. We're glad to make this donation to help get the 'Connector" trail built as soon as possible."
Tom Maxwell, new owner of the Hotel Pattee, located on the Raccoon River Valley Trail in Perry, announces his family's gift to the "Let's Connect" project.
So if you want to add the Maxwells' donation, that'll give you a total of $42,682 that the whole evening produced.
The banquet, by the way, is the association's one fundraising event of the year. The advertising, website, social media and other promotion the association has done over the years has helped grow the popularity of the 89-mile paved trail to the point where it now is used by about 400,000 people per year coming from all over Iowa, across the nation and beyond. When the link to the High Trestle Trail is completed, the two neighbor trails will be one of Iowa's major tourist attractions.
Highlights of Saturday evening's presentations were the keynote speech by one of Iowa's best known bicyclists Scott Sumpter, and brief reports from the association's Jim Miller on the nearly-completed, $1.1-million "Waukee Railroad Pergola -- in the shadow of the rails" public art installation, and from Mike Wallace on the "Let's Connect" campaign.
Sumpter, of Ankeny, who is known by many only as "The Beard," told his own story of discovering bicycling in his adulthood and starting an amazing level of service to the sport. An information technology specialist with Wells Fargo, he is also the founder "and still lead mule" of the highly acclaimed, 19-year-old bicycling information website www.BikeIowa.com.
Sumpter said he transitioned from motorcycle rider to bicycle rider over the years. He grew up on a farm in north central Iowa and graduated from CAL High School. While in high school, he joined the Iowa Army National Guard and became an infantry staff sergeant before he opted out after 10 years service. "You know, that may be part of what my full beard and longer hair are all about now," he said. "For 10 years, I couldn't do that!"
He took some business classes at Des Moines Area Community Classes, but he is essentially self-taught on information technology, website development and design, and social media. "I was working the mail room at Principal Financial in Des Moines, and spent a lot of time pushing around a mail cart, delivering huge files to people. When we first started seeing computers beome available in business, another guy and I were detailed to look into using them to improve our mail room efficiency. So we got a bunch of library books, started reading, learned how to use computers and before long it seemed like there was a computer on every desk."
He developed his interest in bicycling from co-workers at Principal. He started the forerunner site of today's BikeIowa.com so that he could keep track of all the bicycle rides he wanted to try around the state. His own riding evolved from party rides, to longer tours like RAGBRAI, to off-road and gravel-road riding. Over the years, he has also started or helped start several bicycling events that are still thriving.
Keynote speaker Scott Sumpter (right) with his friend Jess Rundlett, of Des Moines, and his dad David Sumpter, of Baxter.
He also became one of the busiest and most-effective advocates for safe bicycling -- including for laws that give bicyclists more protection from vehicles -- with state and local public officials.
Sumpter decided that in 2017, as he was approaching his 50th birthday, he would challenge himself "to sign up for as many bicycle races as I could" -- and he totaling 2,300 miles racing last year, a lot of it on gravel roads.
He said the biggest lesson he's learned from all his bicycling is that "when adversity comes your way, whatever it is, keep going forward, and you can find paradise by getting on a bike again and pedaling forward."
You can learn more about the banquet in the photos and captions below here. Photos are from Amy Lucht and Chuck Offenburger for the RRVT Association.
On hand for the social hour were (on the left) David and Cheryl Dahlquist and Cindy and Randy Jensen. Both couples are from the Des Moines area but also have homes at Lake Panorama.
Here are two members of the board of directors of the RRVT Association, Jake Wendler (left) and Jason Tuel, with their wives Natalie Wendler and Amy Tuel. The Wendlers live in Johnston and the Tuels live in Waukee.
A happy gathering during the social hour. From the left, Sarah and Curt Cable, Wade Reed, Frank James, Louise Kipping and Janelle Reed. Curt Cable, by the way, is now trail manager for the Dallas County Conservation Board. The Reeds and Kipping are from Redfield, and James is from Dawson.
It was hard to find a dinner group that had more fun than this one. From the front left, going clockwise, are Carl and Susan Voss, Cheryl Dahlquist, Pat Boddy and Rob Davis, Beth and Lynn Hicks, and David Dahlquist. All are from the Des Moines area. We auctioned the opportunity, immediately before dinner, for one table to purchase a significant meal upgrade -- to filet mignon and bananas foster flambee among other treats -- by making a significant donation to the RRVT Association, and Susan Voss was the winning bidder, to the delight of her tablemates. The rest of the crowd had a fine pork dinner.
Keynote speaker Scott Sumpter (left) is shown here with Cooper Riley, of Clive, the president of the RRVT Association, and emcee Chuck Offenburger, a former RRVT Association board member from rural Cooper.
Jim Miller, of rural Waukee, a former member of the RRVT Association and a key member of the Waukee Public Art Committee, is shown here giving the crowd an update on the $1.1 million public art installation, "Waukee Railroad Pergola -- in the shadow of the rails," which is nearly complete at the RRVT's trailhead on the west edge of that city. Miller noted that the dedication ceremonies for the art installation are set for Tuesday evening, March 27, and we'll have additional details soon on this website.
Jim Miller here shows off a new custom RRVT jersey now available, featuring the "Waukee Railroad Pergola -- in the shadow of the rails." The design is the work of the noted transportation artist David Dahlquist, who was at the banquet, and his colleagues from RDG Planning & Design in Des Moines. Miller said proceeds from the jersey sales will go toward helping additional RRVT communities install components of the "In the shadow of the rails" artwork at their trailheads in the next couple of years. For convenience now, you can place jersey orders with Miller on his Facebook page. Other purchasing options will be announced soon.
Mike Wallace, the Dallas County Conservation Board director, reported to the crowd on the progress of the "Let's Connect" fundraising to help build the $5-million, 9-mile-long trail that will link the RRVT and the High Trestle Trail. The "Connector" will be from Perry to Woodward, and work is starting this construction season on the first couple miles from Perry going east. Wallace said that "55 percent of the total funds needed" have now been obtained, and applications are pending for another $655,000 in grants. He said that "over 700 individual private donors" have contributed to the campaign. He called that "a fantastic response" from the public, indicating wide support for the project, "and it will really help as we apply for more grants."
RRVT board of directors member Amy Lucht followed Mike Wallace's presentation on the "Let's Connect" fundraising by inviting people at the banquet to make donations on the spot. To sweeten the deal, the RRVT Association pledged to match donations up to a total of $7,500. Individuals at the banquet made the match, it appeared, and then there was also the $10,000 donation from Tom and Vickie Maxwell of the Hotel Pattee.
Always a favorite event of the RRVT Association banquet is the "heads or tails" raffle, which more than 100 people entered for a $5 donation apiece. Here, Frank Owens of Des Moines (left), Ben Gonnerman of West Des Moines and a so-far unidentified woman are shown when they were the three finalists. Mike Wallace checks a coin flip in the background. Gonnerman was the winner -- and then donated his winnings to the trail association.
Keith Kerkhoff, co-founder of the famous Templeton Rye company in that western Iowa town, served as the auctioneer for the evening, raised a lot of money and kept the crowd entertained, too. Kerkhoff also farms and is in the real estate business around the town of Manning.
Andrew Tomes, of the Des Moines area, who is a national marketing director for Templeton Rye, was on hand to assist his boss Keith Kerkhoff with the auction. Tomes couldn't resist the "Momentum" fat-tired bicycle donated by Bike World and wound up being the high bidder in a spirited contest.
Mike Wallace is shown here displaying the traditional last item of the auction -- two of the 13 pork loins donated by Tyson Fresh Meats, which has a plant trailside in Perry. All 13 loins were purchased by bidders for prices ranging from $25 to $50.
Here are 10 of the members of the RRVT Association board of directors who were working the banquet on Saturday evevning. Left to right are Stan Boyer, Roz Boyer, Jake Wendler, Bif Ridgway, Sandra Lowe, Jason Tuel, Amy Lucht, Mike Wallace, Cooper Riley and Keith Troester.