2013-01-27 / Viewpoints

Guest Editorial

By Todd Vondrasek 2012 Showboat Committee Chair

On Saturday Jan. 19, I was one of the honorees at the Chesaning Chamber of Commerce dinner for the years I served on the Chesaning Showboat Committee. I was honored to be chosen to the committee and may well be the only person to serve who did not have ties to the business community. The following is the speech I presented that night. I was nervous to say the least, as I was not sure how it would be received, but I knew the message had to be said. Since then, I have been approached by Bob Grnak of the Tri- County Citizen and others who were in attendance that night, telling me I needed to share this with the public. My ties to this tradition are my family and the years they have given to the event: my uncle as an endman, my mom on the makeup committee, my dad as an usher, my brother and sister, aunts and cousins and my own wife and children, who have worked on an event that is this community’s identity. We are by no means special in this regard, there are many families where the tradition of volunteering for Showboat spans generations and involves many years of service. Why do we do this? I think it is because we all know that to build a strong community everyone must come together to work as one. What we are able accomplish for that short time in July is not duplicated anywhere and for those who have given their time, at any time throughout the years, I say thank you. Sincerely, Todd M. Vondrasek Thank you. There are many people I need to thank tonight, so I hope you will bear with me for a few minutes. First of all I need to thank the volunteers, not just those who have given their time when I served on the committee, but the hundreds who have donated their time and talent throughout the years to help keep this festival tradition going.

I would like to thank those who served with me: Denise Ebenhoeh, Phil Geisken, Denise Edgar, Marcia Murphy, Mary Kay Hoerner, Brian Drexler, Bobbi Bates, Mark Ervin and especially this year’s chair, Scott Hewitt who kept me grounded last year. We had many interesting moments last year to say the least and Scott tried to keep me as sane as he possibly could. I would like to thank my children, Alycia and Alec, who countless times stopped to help me with something in the park at the last minute, without too much grumbling, or understood when I had another meeting to attend. They have helped clean the park, gather picnic benches, worked production, sold popcorn and have done anything I have asked of them. Both have many years of volunteering for Showboat even at a young age and I am proud of both of them for what they have given to this community.

When I was asked to join this committee Becky and I went and talked to John and Mary Beth Reiber. They answered my questions and reassured me that I was the right person for the job, but they also told Becky that she had to realize her importance as well. She would have to be my sounding board and she had to realize how much I was going to have to depend on her...they were right. Becky you have stood by me through life’s good times and bad times and have been there for me these past five years as I have struggled with issues and decisions I have had to make. There is no way I could ever say how much it means to me, or how much you mean to me, but to say I love you very much.

Decisions…those are things that a committee and chairman must make while always keeping in mind the best interest of the program for which they serve, very much like being a manager of a business. The difference is that being a manager, a volunteer manager, of a very visible entity like Showboat most definitely puts you in the limelight and open to criticism, which is fine as it comes with the job. My management style is this…be as open as possible, answer every question as accurately as possible, lead by example, if something like water needs to be unloaded and there is no one else to do it, then do it, and finally never micromanage. People know their jobs, let them do them and if there are problems, try to help solve them. During my time on the committee and as chairman last year there were three primary points of discussion that have been brought to my attention or I heard through the grapevine that I would like to share and comment on.

The first item was actually rumored this past year…that we as a committee turned down an offer to have Kid Rock perform at Showboat. Really? We would turn down the biggest act in the State of Michigan? Committee, do you mind if I fill them in on what happened last year? Last year there were two weeks, and specifically two days that were very nerve-racking. Scott and I were in his dining room, with Scott on one phone talking to Kid Rock’s management, while I was on my phone to various committee members and production people. We offered what we thought was an incredible amount of money. Kid Rock’s people turned us down, we did not turn them down.

Second, and this has died down over the course of the past couple of years, when will the boat get back to the park? It won’t, plain and simple. The river changed when the dam went out. This isn’t because of the rapids, the river has been slowly filling in for years and when the dam went out it became even more shallow because the flow changed. In areas I use to swim as a kid, and not touch the bottom, I have seen children able to walk across. The current boat is too big and heavy to float in the current river and the boat is the oldest boat on record and needs repairs just to be maintained where she sits. The condition of the boat has been well documented by Nancy Krause and Neal Pullman and people are now finally realizing that under current conditions the Queen’s boat slip is her home. Some will say and have said, “Well don’t forget that you also sold the motors,” damn right we did. We also sold folding chairs that were starting to rust away in a shed, we sold the chase boat because it was no longer needed and we removed the bleachers. Why? Because the bleachers were becoming a safety issue and needed repairs we couldn’t afford, the chairs were no longer being used and if we didn’t sell the boat and individual motors they were going to become worthless from not being run on a regular basis. We sold these items to reclaim at least a part of their value, with the money being used to help maintain an infrastructure we were left no money to maintain. Our facilities are very old and even minor repairs have been costly.

EDITOR’S NOTE: While Todd Vondrasek’s speech was too lengthy to include in its entirety in one issue of the Citizen, we felt its message was important for our readers. Therefore, his speech will conclude in next week’s Citizen on the Viewpoints page.

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