By Timothy Kays
In Northwest Ohio, it’s a given. You draw up your best plans and prepare down to the most minute of details, but your outdoor event will always run the risk of being double crossed by Mother Nature. We need only look at the recent Bryan Jubilee to see the glaring evidence of such being played out before our very eyes. The weekend of July 12-14 proved to be picture perfect though, which made the annual Pioneer Days and Kaleb McLaughlin Memorial Ride and Organ Donor Awareness Day a huge draw for the Village of Pioneer.
Although officially slated to begin on Friday, July 12, the local kids began to descend upon Crommer Park shortly after the inflatables were set up on Thursday afternoon. When the festivities officially got underway on Friday, the inflatables saw heavy action, as did the basketball courts where a 3-on-3 tournament took place.
At 7:00, the annual Pioneer Days Parade made its way on State Street from Industrial Avenue, southward through the downtown and residential districts, to the end of the route at Mill Street. Led by Pioneer Chief of Police Tim Livengood, the Color Guard duties were carried out by the Legion Riders who followed close behind. Several other motorcyclists joined the Legion Riders, including members of the Christian Faith Riders Motorcycle Club Chapter #787 from Coldwater, Michigan.
Following the Color Guard was a military Jeep, complete with an M31 gun mount and machine gun, bearing veterans representing the Pioneer American Legion Post #307, and the Pioneer VFW Post #8628. Following the veterans was the North Central Eagles Marching Band, and then a 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible carrying the Grand Marshals of the 2019 parade, Bob and Alice Mueleman.
Pioneer native son Bob Mueleman is no stranger to OHSAA track and field and cross-country events. A member of the OHSAA Officials Hall of Fame, Bob dedicated four decades of his life to the officiating of OHSAA track and field and cross-country events. Although he has retired for all intensive purposes, he has not hung up his whistle and starter’s pistol. “Actually, I still do go to several meets a year,” he said, “…because I still work part time with the Ohio High School Athletic Association in their track and field and cross country department. I still see a few meets a year and get to see the kids perform, so I don’t exactly miss it, because I still get to watch some of it.” If there is one thing that he enjoys about his retirement, it is, “…having somebody else have to make the call rather than me. Sometimes that was a tough thing to do.”
As the parade made its way through town, the kids were showered by everything from the standard fare of candy, to Frisbees, to black mini footballs emblazoned with the North Central Eagle logo. Once the parade was over, it was time to switch the focus to the adults as the band Triple Shot played adjacent to the beer tent.
July 13 was the day for the Kaleb McLaughlin Memorial Ride and Organ Donor Awareness Day, and a nicer day for the event couldn’t have been hoped for. While this, the sixth annual event honoring the memory of ‘K-Bob’ still carries the moniker of ‘awareness’, this day has proven itself to be much more than simple awareness of the need for organ, tissue and blood donations. One only needs to talk to Tom Traxler to verify that fact. Tom Traxler needed a kidney. He had posters made up to make everyone aware, and during the blessing of the bikes at the 2015 event, the pastor lifted him in prayer.
Tomi Zuver, a local lady that came later that day, heard about Traxler and his need of a kidney. Motivated by the story, Tomi got tested and found that she was a perfect tissue type match. On November 3, 2015, Tom Traxler received his new kidney from Tomi Zuver. ‘Kaleb’s Cause’ is more than just awareness. It is life itself, and is the underlying current of everything happening on this day.
The day began with breakfast being served by the American Legion at 7:00, while registration for Kaleb’s Donor Dash 5K run/walk took place. While that event was finishing, a blood drive was being held at the Pioneer Community Center. Across the street at the Legion Hall a benefit silent auction got underway, and a vendor village opened up for business. Starting at 11:00, lunch was served by the North Central FFA inside the American Legion building, which again pulled double duty as the site of a live gun raffle, and the pickup point for butterflies for the Memorial Butterfly Release at 12:30. By this time, the inflatables were back in action for the kids, with additional activities included such as face painting and the passing out of goodie bags.
At 12:45, Pastor Stephen Smith presided over a blessing of the bikes prior to the annual Memorial Ride. As always with this event, organized by the Fire and Iron Motorcycle Club #84, there were a lot of bikes to be blessed. When the kickstands went up at 1:00, the thunder of nearly 170 motorcycles shook the streets of the village as the procession, led by Kaleb’s parents, Kevin and Kim Oxender, made their way south and out of town on State Street.
The silent auction, kids activities and the vendor village all closed down at 5:00, allowing a few hours to rest and reset before the Memorial Ride and Organ Donor Awareness Day concluded with a fireworks display at the North Central School Track south of the school building. This was the second year for the fireworks show, and it was as equally impressive as its predecessor.
A community worship service took place in a tent on State Street, across from the Pioneer Village Market on the morning of July 14. The weekend of events concluded after the worship service with the serving of a free barbeque chicken dinner.
The weekend went off without a hitch, or a dose of meteorological mayhem from Mother Nature. The sun was shining for the three day event, and the sun will again shine upon the annual recipients of the funds raised over the weekend, the most prominent of the local recipients being the Kaleb McLaughlin Memorial Scholarship of the North Central Chapter of the FFA, and the Pioneer EMS First Responders.
Kaleb left us in June of 2013. Six years later, his legacy, ‘Kaleb’s Cause’, continues to bring people from all over to Pioneer, Ohio, for one weekend. That one weekend though, means a lifetime to those touched by the organ and tissue donations advocated by the event.
Great weather, a great cause and a great time had by all…just the way they drew it up.
Timothy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org