Recreation program, Byron Days big efforts by group of volunteers

A hearty band of volunteers is working to “rec” the Town of Byron and even has thoughts about extending its “rec-age” to surrounding communities.

Besides offering a nicely equipped fitness center known as the weight room, plus bingo games, open gym time, Meals on Wheels and a central site for group gatherings, the town Recreation Committee is aiming at getting the Olympic-size swimming pool reopened with offerings for all ages including a therapy pool and long slide. All the committee’s efforts are designed to provide plenty of rec for the public, said Jeanie Petrich, recreation director, who heads the committee with Councilman Marie McCollam as liaison.

Dotty White, right, makes a point to Annabelle McCurley and her son Flint, age 2, during a visit to the former Byron school pool last week.

Committee members feel that with strong offerings, participants could come from communities including Lovell and Powell, once a full program is under way and the plan to get the pool open is realized.

Using the former Rocky Mountain High School, now owned by Georgia businessman Alex John Campos, the stalwart group of Byron volunteers continues to provide their time, talents and donations for a variety of well-rounded activities, including the annual Byron Days celebration. This year the celebration will run for three days, July 12-14, with a parade theme of, “Our Heroes Have Always Been …” McCollam said during a council meeting in town hall on Tuesday night, June 5, that the parade colors are set as red, white and blue.

Councilman Gilbert Cordova, who serves with the Byron Lions Club for the annual event, said during the council meeting that participants can fill in the blank as to who are their heroes.

“It could be father, mother, veterans, whoever,” he said. Cordova noted that the original thought for the theme was, “Our Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys,” but that it eventually was revised to be more inclusive for various reasons.

Regarding the volunteer Rec Committee, Petrich stated Monday, June 11, that, “So many people have stepped up to donate their time and money” for the efforts at the former school, as well as the annual celebration. Last year there weren’t many helpers for Byron Days, she said, but this year, “It’s really great.” The committee is able to use parts of the former school, which has some 96,000 square feet of space that includes a fully equipped cafeteria, auditorium with theater-type seating and large screen, the weight room and the swimming pool. Campos allows the use under a verbal arrangement and a formal written lease “is in the works,” said Petrich. The fact that there is not a formal pact was a point of contention during the June 5 council meeting, as brought up by Mayor Bret George, but on June 11 Petrich explained that, “It’s being handled.”

Stating that she hopes she hasn’t left out any names, she listed committee volunteers as Annabelle McCurley, Pam Hopkinson, Sydney and Amy Hessenthaler, Curtis and Jennifer Abraham and Doug Daniels. Additionally, the on-site representative for Campos is Jeff Noall, who “does a lot for us,” Petrich said. McCurley added that, “We are very grateful to him.” Donations solicited by Petrich and others “are what allows us to keep the building open, as we have to pay for utilities.” Campos bought the former school from the town for $70,000 in March after Big Horn County School District One deeded it to the municipality last year.

Regarding activities, it was stated during the June 5 council meeting that the Rec Committee likely will begin selling memberships to use the weight room after allowing free use for some time. The equipment is owned by the committee, which used a private donation. Current hours for open gym and the weight room are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5:30-7 a.m. and from 8-9 p.m. including “sole walkers”; plus Tuesdays and Thursdays 6:30-8 p.m., and Sundays 5-6:30 p.m.

Dining under Meals on Wheels is offered once monthly from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with the next dining set for Monday, June 25, said White, who is coordinating that program.

“We hope to make it weekly at some point,” she noted.

Bingo games with white elephant prizes are offered on second Fridays although no games are scheduled during June and July. The movie night program seems to be off for the summer, as the committee examines ways to obtain movies to attract larger crowds.

An organization known as Byron Community Outreach was working with the Rec Committee, but has disbanded, although Mary Jensen continues to work to coordinate activities under the committee including the meals, bingo and the “old-time theater” program.

The site is being used for various get-togethers including a 50-year reunion from former students at the old school on July 14. As well, the auditorium and cafeteria are available for weddings and other gatherings.