TRAM a success

Published 10:42 am Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau would like to give a big “thank you” to all of the wonderful community volunteers that came out to assist on July 26 and 27 for TRAM. We could not have done this without so much support.

There were more than 100 local folks who worked months ahead in the planning stages with us, helped cut bike towels, paint signs and numerous other jobs to prepare.

Thanks to Mayor Stiehm, Police Chief Krueger and staff, Fire Chief Healy and crew, Scott Marsh and Karla Caruso and others of Mayo Clinic Health Systems for your time and expertise. Special appreciation goes to Valerie Pitzen, Ashton, and Tom Graff, all of Austin’s wonderful Park and Recreation department — none of this could have happened without each of you. Thanks to Jana Gray and Jason Schoonover for designing and producing a wonderful and informative official Austin TRAM tabloid, and for inserting it in the Austin Daily Herald.

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Thanks for the donations from Kwik Trip, Artesian Fresh, Hy-Vee, Walmart, Greg at A&W, and Mark Coffey of Hormel Foods. Your gifts were so appreciated by the riders. Hy-Vee and Walmart donated all the bags of ice without a moment’s hesitation.

To Harry and Carol Hansen, now forever known as “Mr. and Mrs. Banana Bread” — there isn’t enough we can say to convey how happy you made everyone with your delicious donation of 1,200 slices of homemade banana bread. The riders were blown away by your generosity.

Thanks to Pastor Mike Sager for providing a prayer blessing of the riders. Thanks to our performers, who all donated their shows to the MS cause: Nathaniel Tusen, Dylan Kaercher and Friends, Conway and Company, Second Edition, Amanda Corey, Six Mile Grove, and the Heart of Gold Band. Denny Charnecki and Pete Jacobson, thanks for sound and lighting and all your support. Amanda Corey, what a great stage manager you are. Ted Gilbertson and Brett Barth were excellent music equipment handlers, too. We thank Jackie Mjoen for being our “SPAMMY” — wearing the heavy and hot costume sure brought smiles.

To all of the groups who came out to unload and load up luggage, a round of applause to you. There were local church groups, as well as AHS Girls soccer and volleyball teams helping. Zonta Club members were there, too, as well as Girl Scouts and Cub and Boy Scouts.

Our food vendors were busy feeding our guests, and we thank Kelly Wiese, Events Coordinator of Hy-Vee, Hog Wild Wings, Torge’s/The Bistro, Papa Murphy’s and Piggy Blues BBQ for helping keep it “local.”

Thanks to Jeff Weaver of Mower County Recycling for helping us keep our event “green.” When we announced that we provided recycling containers, the riders applauded.

We’d like to offer more big thanks to Rich Pavek of Cedar Valley for his donation of an air-conditioned bus. Also thanks to Heather Crumb of Palmer Bus in Austin and Dick Polley of Albert Lea Bus for assistance with the shuttle bus committee, of which Kiersten Hall and family provided scheduling. Dustin Heckman led one awesome welcoming committee. Our hoteliers get a thank you, also for their sponsorships and assistance. The businesses who offered discounts to the shuttle bus riders at their destinations were amazing.

Mary Nelson, Austin TRAM veteran rider all 22 years, deserves possibly the biggest thank you of all. Mary had the riders “all jazzed up” before they even arrived. I have a fantastic staff who made working an absolute joy, even during long hours, little sleep and hot temps.

I’m sure I’m forgetting many who deserve thanks, and I apologize for that. The Austinites who came out to the free concert helped, too. With cash donations, and by mostly $1 bills and loose change, we sent an additional $100 off with the MS organizers.

The MS Society expects to have raised well over $800,000 last week. Austin gained an approximate $50,000 economic boost, too. The MS Society management told us “Austin did TRAM the way TRAM is meant to be done.” I have never been more proud of my hometown.

Cheryl Corey, Executive Director, Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau