Lamar Celebrates its 138th Birthday in grand style

Lamar celebrated its 138th birthday with a bang last weekend.  The Lamar Days weekend began with a kickoff BBQ sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce on Friday afternoon, followed in the evening with the 28th Annual Lamar Days Rod Run.  Ron Cook, who organizes and runs the event each year, told us: “The Rod Run started at the Sonic Drive In to the music of Van Jeffries.  The Lamar Volunteer Fire Department, Auxiliary and support from the Lamar Police Department, Colorado State Patrol and Prowers County Sheriff Department were responsible for traffic control for the “No Booze Cruise” Poker Run with the Cops which was a success. Just under 200 vehicles showed up for the festivities.  Everyone enjoyed visiting with one another and eating at Sonic.  Big Thanks to Sonic for letting us have it at their place!!”

Shane Spangler won the Poker Run with a straight flush king high.  $900 was half of the pot he won, donating back $400 to the fireworks fund.  The 50/50 drawing was won by Bill Kisamore, winning $210 and donating it all back to the fireworks fund.  The Fire Department reports that they raised $1,795 for the fireworks fund.

Saturday dawned sunny and warm, perfect for the Lamar Days parade, which started at Safeway, going north on Olive St, then south on 2nd St to Parkview, finally arriving at the south end of Willow Creek Park.  The entire parade route was dotted with people sitting in lawn chairs, on blankets, curbs, and tailgates.  Leading the parade was the color guard, proudly displaying the American flag as well as the Veterans of Foreign Wars flag.   Lamar then showed off its lineup of fire trucks and ambulances, spotlessly shined and some outfitted with spinning pinwheels as they chirped and wailed with all their lights flashing as they made their way past the crowds, much to the delight of the throngs of children lining the streets.

The King and Queen followed in an open convertible sponsored by Zonta.  This year’s royalty were Russ and Valerie Baldwin, who were kind enough to provide us with a bio to accompany this story.  It follows below:

Russ and Valerie Baldwin have been honored as Lamar Days Royalty by the Lamar Chapter of Zonta International.  Each year, Zonta selects a couple to be honored during the annual parade, based on their longevity in and support of their community.

“I grew up in Lamar and have spent almost my entire life here.  Russ, on the other hand, is a new-comer, having arrived in town in May, 1980 to work for KLMR/KSEC as its program director.  That’s where we met,” Valerie explained.

“Like most people in radio broadcasting, I intended to be in town for about two years, learn more about broadcasting through the management side of the business and then move on, probably back to New England, but that took longer than I expected,” Russ said.  “After meeting Val, I started putting down some anchors and now we have three step-children, five grand-kids along with some of their spouses and at last count, we’re up to six great-grandchildren,”

The couple have worked together off and on in radio and local newspapers for over twenty years, traveling to Long Island…and back to Lamar, moving to Garden City…and moving back to Lamar.  Valerie also had her own clothing business on Main Street, “Still in Style”, offering quality used clothing for women.  Before moving to Lamar, Russ had been employed by radio stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island before he was hired by Claire and Gordon Stafford to come out west.

Val has been active in the community before she ever met Russ.  “I was PTO secretary for Parkview School from 1978 to 1981.  I was a member of the local Jaycees chapter and the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority.”  Other contributions included being a Lamar Honker and a member of the Lamar Eagles.  Baldwin began what is now the annual Lamar Hospice fundraiser in 1996 and served on the Sugar Plum Ball committee prior to that.  She also created the annual Fantasy Tree fundraising event in 2005.  Val’s worked with golf tournaments for Hospice and SECCI, and was the former treasurer for the Lamar Chamber of Commerce, where she’s been office manager now, for the past four years.

“It took me a little while to become more engaged with life in Lamar as most of my time was spent in front of a microphone or a desk,” Baldwin stated, having served as co-host for the long-running KLMR program, ‘Anything Goes’ from 1980 to about 1991. The couple had been working at radio stations in Garden City, KS when they returned to Lamar in 2000 to manage KLMR/KSEC as well as the two La Junta stations.

Russ Baldwin has been a two-time member of the Lamar Chamber Board of Directors, while Valerie served on the board for one term, both were members of the Prowers County Lodging Tax Panel and Valerie still serves in that capacity.  Russ was honored as Lamar Citizen of the Year and Honker of the Year.  He’s also served as a DECA member with the Lamar High School, worked to support local students seeking DAR scholarships and was a board member of the former, PCDI, now Prowers Economic Prosperity.  The couple were both members of the Snow Goose Festival when it was first organized. Russ has been honored with various broadcast awards from the Massachusetts Associated Press, Long Island Press Club and New York and Colorado State Broadcaster Associations

“My general duties in radio, and later newspaper, had me out and about at numerous meetings in the county,” he explained, the more events and meetings I attended, the more I was able to grasp a handle on the ways in which this community supports its residents.  Once we got The Prowers Journal up and going in 2001, my news involvement was full-time.”

Also in the parade lineup were multiple floats, cars carrying political candidates for upcoming elections, the Sand and Sage Royalty on horseback, a saddle club and their beautiful horses, a local dance team, vintage cars, pickups and tractors and a variety of large farm machinery.  “Quackers”, the Lamar Rotary Club’s inflatable duck, made its appearance, as did “Feathers”, the Lamar Honkers mascot goose.   A golf cart trailing 9 colorful barrel cars filled with kids wove throughout the parade from curb to curb and turning in circles at times. Candy was thrown to anxiously awaiting kids and adults which caused a flurry of activity from the curbsides.

Nestled within Willow Creek Park under the welcoming shade from the many trees were the many cars and motorcycles on display in the car show, along with a multitude of colorful tents displaying wares from the 67 vendors and displayers present.  Many of the vendors sold handmade items of every sort and a few were advertising booths for local companies and services.  KLMR did a live broadcast from their bright orange and black canopy. Multiple food trucks lined Willow Valley Road, serving various food items to the hungry crowds of people lined up in front of them.  Everywhere I looked, I saw families, couples and groups of friends sitting on blankets and at picnic tables enjoying eating and relaxing amongst all the activity or strolling the winding roads within the park.   The skate park had several teens having fun on their boards, kids were at all the playground areas and throughout the park, dogs stretched out in the cool grass alongside their families – everyone enjoying their own version of the event.

Cook told us that 131 cars and 18 motorcycles registered for the car show. Aubrey Martin won the Best of Show Ron Austin Memorial Award with a 1955 Chevrolet Nomad. Brandon Reynolds won The Best of Show Ron Austin Memorial Motorcycle Award with a 2007 Harley-Davidson Street Glide.   JD and Hannah Muth won the Marie Burher Award with their 1968 Pontiac ambulance.  Raymond McDowell won the Moonman Award with his 1940 Ford Model A.  Donnie Batterton won the Rat Rod Award with his 1928 Chevy PU Rat Rod.

The blow-up car ran for 9 minutes and 46 seconds.  Rick Francis picked the right slot and won $164 which he donated back to the fireworks fund for the Lamar Fire Department.  Cook then thanked the 82 sponsors who made the event such a success.

He made the following statement for us: “Lonna and Ron Cook would like to thank the Lamar Chamber of Commerce, the City of Lamar, all the sponsors and the car show participants and pubic for supporting the 28th Annual Lamar Days Rod Run.”

The Lamar Parks Department also deserves a note of thanks – they did a phenomenal job of getting the park ready.  The Lamar Chamber and all the many volunteers also deserve a pat on the back for their great work.  Lamar certainly looked and felt like the quintessential all-American town – one we can all be proud of.


By Barbara Crimond


Filed Under: CharityCity of LamarEntertainmentFeaturedLamar Chamber of Commerce


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