Activities Set, Grand Marshals Named for Annual Rector Celebration

Thursday, August 31, 2017

There are a variety of events and activities being held in Rector this weekend as part of the annual Labor Day Picnic and Celebration.

Rector’s Labor Day Parade Grand Marshals, whose names were announced recently by the Labor Day Picnic Committee, are Leland Blackshare and Charles Manchester.

With decades of devoted volunteer work at Rector Memorial Park, Blackshare and Manchester also are long-time members of the Rector Parks and Recreation Commission.

Both men grew up playing in this park. “We played here, back when kids made their own fun,” Blackshare said. He is certain that he was present at the first Labor Day Picnic in 1941, though a few months away from his official arrival. “I’ve attended every Labor Day Picnic since that time – over 75 of them.”

Manchester carries on the volunteer spirit of his parents, John and Christine Manchester, who could be counted on for anything that needed a helping hand. Anyone who passes through the park, almost any time of day, will encounter Manchester. He greets visitors, keeps an eye on needs for the park, and oversees the pavilion and covered booths.

Manchester and Blackshare painted all 94 benches and 10 tables with benches at the park this summer. The City of Rector paid for the 10 gallons of paint, but all labor was donated by these gentlemen for the beautification of the park.

Blackshare noted that he became a member of the Parks Commission when Neda Sain served as chairman. “That’s about 25 years for me. Charles has been on the Parks Commission for close to 20 years. We are the only two members remaining.” The challenges of the commission have been picked up by other entities due to the expense and labor-intensive work required to maintain the usefulness and beauty of the park.

“One thing I told Neda when I came onto the commission,” Blackshare shared, was “I want to institute a reforestation of the park. Over the past 25 years, over 70 trees have been planted.” Much work is required to maintain these trees and rescue them from overgrowth, storm damage and disease. That takes considerable funding and grant opportunities are growing slim. “At one time, earlier in the park’s history, the pavilion and walking trails were built with grant money,” he noted.

Much continuing work goes into caring for the park’s trees. They have grown from seedlings into the shade-producing beauties they are today.

“I can’t say enough about these two men,” said Rector mayor Teresa Roofe. “The work they do is more than you can imagine. We would have lost several trees with none to replace them had it not been for Leland and Charles. It seems that Rector Memorial Park is their heart and soul. Both are wonderful assets for the park that would not be what it is today without Leland Blackshare and Charles Manchester.”

Blackshare and Manchester epitomize the daily attention and work necessary for the park’s beauty. A facility such as Rector Memorial Park does not maintain itself. Visitors who travel to Rector for baseball and softball tournaments, for the Labor Day Picnic events, and citizens who use the park for their reunions, birthday parties, or daily outings with the children have Blackshare and Manchester to thank for the ongoing usefulness, beauty and abundant shade offered there.

The annual Dr. Owen H. Clopton Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament, hosted by the Rector High School Sports Hall of Fame, is set for 10:30 a.m. this Friday, Sept. 1, at Kennett Country Club.

Participants in the four-person scramble may begin registration at 9 a.m. on the day of the tournament. The entry fee is $200 per team. The field is limited to 18 teams. Those who want more information may contact Michele Haley at 870-240-5064 or Michael Lindsey at 870-240-3257.

"We expect a large turnout this year and have tremendous continued support from our faithful sponsors, along with some new sponsors, as well," Lindsey said. "Golfers will be excited to hear we have four $1,000 hole-in-one opportunities sponsored this year along with other great prizes."

The Rector High School Sports Hall of Fame honors past standout athletes and has become a large contributor to local youth and sports programs, providing scholarships and other supportive needs.

The tournament is the primary fundraiser for the organization.

The Rector High School Helping Hands Foundation is once again hosting the Rector Labor Day 5K on Saturday, Sept. 2.

The annual race raises money to support projects funded by the Helping Hands Foundation.

"Rector is very fortunate to have a wonderful organization that helps meet the financial needs of students in the Rector public schools," said race organizer Heather Simmons.

Helping Hands offers academic scholarships for higher education to Rector students for tuition and related expenses.

In addition to scholarships, Helping Hands has provided:

* A mellophone, a marching baritone and a concert baritone for the band.

* A sunshade and benches for the elementary playground.

* Sixty-eight ULockit devices for classroom doors at the Rector preschool, elementary school and high school.

* Shoes and practice jerseys for members of the basketball team.

* Prom attire, including hair and makeup, for four girls and tuxedos for two boys.

* After game food money for basketball, football, softball and baseball players.

* Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) trip money for district and state meetings.

* Winter coats and gloves for preschool, elementary and high school students.

* Eye exams and glasses and more.

Teachers monitor their students and ask for help as the needs arise. For example, a teacher noticed a student walking in shoes that had one sole off. Helping Hands bought the student new shoes and socks the same day.

"It is through your contributions and participation that we can fund additional projects and continue our mission of fulfilling student needs in the future," Simmons said.

"Plans are well underway and we are looking to build upon the success of last year’s well-attended race. In 2016, the race was a huge success, with 270 registered participants, ranging in age from five to 79 years old. We had participants from 10 states, including Washington D.C. and Arizona.

"This race would not be possible without our generous sponsors and racers," she continued. "Please know that the RHS Helping Hands Foundation takes our responsibility seriously. Our number one goal is to help kids in need and we know we can only be effective in that task by making the most of every dollar we receive.

"When you donate to help children, you can take pride in knowing that 100 percent of what you give is used to help improve a child’s life. We maintain a strict fiscally conservative ‘zero overhead’ policy and never use Foundation funds for operating expenses.

"To accomplish this, we do everything possible to keep operating expenses to an absolute minimum. The board of directors is comprised entirely of volunteers who cover any expenses they incur on their own. This allows us to keep our focus where our focus belongs…on the kids."

The Rector Labor Day 5K will begin promptly at 8 a.m. in front of the Rector High School. The course will be a well-marked, rolling course supervised by volunteers. The race will finish in front of the high school.

Registration is $25 per participant and registrations will begin at 6:30 a.m. on race day, Sept. 2. There will be numerous door prizes awarded at the completion of the race prior to the announcement of the winners. Anyone registered for the race is eligible to win.

"We hope to see you there," Simmons said.

The annual Ice Cream Social, sponsored by Rector Downtown Central, has become a big hit over the past two years in connection with the Labor Day Picnic weekend.

The event this year will be held once again at the Rector Downtown Park from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2.

Free ice cream and bottled water is sponsored by Prairie Farms and Rector Sonic respectively, and RDC members expressed appreciation for the generous donations.

This year's entertainment will be Karaoke under the direction of Robert Layer. "If you have a song in mind that you would like to sing, feel free to bring music on a CD so you can perform," said RDC executive director Christina Boyd. "Otherwise, there will be plenty of music available to choose from.

"Please bring your lawn chairs and come enjoy the company of your friends and family in our lovely Downtown Park," Boyd said. "You will have an opportunity to buy some t-shirts, as well as donate to Rector Downtown Central, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working to revitalize downtown Rector."

RDC recently elected new officers -- Dixie Lawrence, president; Brandi Cook, vice president; Sarah Boyd, secretary, and Simeon Snow, treasurer. Other board members include Lark Sigsby, member at large; Teresa Roofe, ex-officio mayor, and Ron Kemp, ex-officio chamber of commerce.

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