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6/30/2014

CHARLATANS, CRANKS AND KANSAS…

Filed under: prairie musings, Sam Brownback, Kansas, GOP, Koch Brothers — Peg Britton @ 7:53 am

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Op-Ed Columnist
Charlatans, Cranks and Kansas

By PAUL KRUGMAN
June 29, 2014

New York Times

Two years ago Kansas embarked on a remarkable fiscal experiment: It sharply slashed income taxes without any clear idea of what would replace the lost revenue. Sam Brownback, the governor, proposed the legislation — in percentage terms, the largest tax cut in one year any state has ever enacted — in close consultation with the economist Arthur Laffer. And Mr. Brownback predicted that the cuts would jump-start an economic boom — “Look out, Texas,” he proclaimed.

But Kansas isn’t booming — in fact, its economy is lagging both neighboring states and America as a whole. Meanwhile, the state’s budget has plunged deep into deficit, provoking a Moody’s downgrade of its debt.

There’s an important lesson here — but it’s not what you think. Yes, the Kansas debacle shows that tax cuts don’t have magical powers, but we already knew that. The real lesson from Kansas is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people.

Why, after all, should anyone believe at this late date in supply-side economics, which claims that tax cuts boost the economy so much that they largely if not entirely pay for themselves? The doctrine crashed and burned two decades ago, when just about everyone on the right — after claiming, speciously, that the economy’s performance under Ronald Reagan validated their doctrine — went on to predict that Bill Clinton’s tax hike on the wealthy would cause a recession if not an outright depression. What actually happened was a spectacular economic expansion.

Nor is it just liberals who have long considered supply-side economics and those promoting it to have been discredited by experience. In 1998, in the first edition of his best-selling economics textbook, Harvard’s N. Gregory Mankiw — very much a Republican, and later chairman of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers — famously wrote about the damage done by “charlatans and cranks.” In particular, he highlighted the role of “a small group of economists” who “advised presidential candidate Ronald Reagan that an across-the-board cut in income tax rates would raise tax revenue.” Chief among that “small group” was none other than Art Laffer.

And it’s not as if supply-siders later redeemed themselves. On the contrary, they’ve been as ludicrously wrong in recent years as they were in the 1990s. For example, five years have passed since Mr. Laffer warned Americans that “we can expect rapidly rising prices and much, much higher interest rates over the next four or five years.” Just about everyone in his camp agreed. But what we got instead was low inflation and record-low interest rates.

So how did the charlatans and cranks end up dictating policy in Kansas, and to a more limited extent in other states? Follow the money.

For the Brownback tax cuts didn’t emerge out of thin air. They closely followed a blueprint laid out by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which has also supported a series of economic studies purporting to show that tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy will promote rapid economic growth. The studies are embarrassingly bad, and the council’s Board of Scholars — which includes both Mr. Laffer and Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation — doesn’t exactly shout credibility. But it’s good enough for antigovernment work.

And what is ALEC? It’s a secretive group, financed by major corporations, that drafts model legislation for conservative state-level politicians. Ed Pilkington of The Guardian, who acquired a number of leaked ALEC documents, describes it as “almost a dating service between politicians at the state level, local elected politicians, and many of America’s biggest companies.” And most of ALEC’s efforts are directed, not surprisingly, at privatization, deregulation, and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

And I do mean for the wealthy. While ALEC supports big income-tax cuts, it calls for increases in the sales tax — which fall most heavily on lower-income households — and reductions in tax-based support for working households. So its agenda involves cutting taxes at the top while actually increasing taxes at the bottom, as well as cutting social services.

But how can you justify enriching the already wealthy while making life harder for those struggling to get by? The answer is, you need an economic theory claiming that such a policy is the key to prosperity for all. So supply-side economics fills a need backed by lots of money, and the fact that it keeps failing doesn’t matter.

And the Kansas debacle won’t matter either. Oh, it will briefly give states considering similar policies pause. But the effect won’t last long, because faith in tax-cut magic isn’t about evidence; it’s about finding reasons to give powerful interests what they want.

6/27/2014

BROWNBACK’S EXPERIMENT WALLOOPS TAXPAYERS…

Filed under: prairie musings, Sam Brownback, Kansas, GOP — Peg Britton @ 11:27 am

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Hays Daily News 6-22-2014
Brownback’s experiment wallops taxpayers
6/22/2014

Property taxes are on track to increase by more than $400 million statewide during Gov. Sam Brownback’s term in office.

This substantial increase, however, masks a more dramatic jump in property taxes across rural Kansas. For example, from 2010 to 2013, property taxes in rural counties increased three times faster than in the five largest urban counties. Property taxes for schools grew more than five times faster in rural counties.

Property tax increases for rural counties in this period can be summarized as follows:

* 71 counties had property tax increases of 10 percent or more.

* 45 counties had property tax increases of 15 percent or more.

* 28 counties with property tax increases of 20 percent or more.

So, what’s the story?

Two fundamental shifts are underway in state and local finance:

First, Brownback’s actions are pushing state obligations to the local level and moving the state and local tax burden from wealthy income taxpayers onto local property taxpayers.

Second, as a result of state actions, property taxpayers in rural jurisdictions across Kansas are bearing the primary burden of this shift, with tax increases dramatically higher than those in urban areas.

Brownback’s tax experiment is driving these shifts. State income tax cuts are being paid for by abandoning, cutting and restricting state obligations for education, corrections, public health, libraries, social services, mental health and community arts, among others. State lawmakers have made the local dilemma even worse by removing local revenue sources, other than the property tax.

As a result, locally elected officials, primarily school board members and county commissioners, have been forced to assess whether these community services are essential, and then to make cuts in services, or to raise property taxes to maintain services, or both. Evidence suggests local officials are maintaining these services and filling in the gaps left by state abandonment with property taxes.

Why are property tax increases falling most heavily on rural areas? For most of state history, state government has leveled the playing field in the delivery of public services between wealthier jurisdictions and poorer ones. This leveling is most obvious in school finance, as state courts have demanded equity between wealthier and poorer school districts. Whether consciously or not, Brownback and his legislative allies are turning back the clock on this state role.

Less obvious in Brownback’s actions are the shifts in the state and local tax burden from those with income wealth onto property taxpayers, for example, from higher-income residents of Johnson County onto property taxpayers in rural counties with half the income, such as Norton, Cloud and Neosho.

The political irony of Brownback’s tax experiment is the tax burden is walloping the reddest of red-state voters. Rural property taxpayers — homeowners, farmers and ranchers, oil and gas producers and leaseholders, commercial property owners and landowners, among others with property wealth — comprise the heart of the Republican electorate.

Brownback likely will assert he has nothing to do with property tax increases. He might even claim President Barack Obama did it. However, rural residents just might be seeing the tip of an iceberg. The disastrous condition of state finance, now Brownback’s legacy, will not only continue to shift the tax burden onto property taxpayers, primarily those in rural jurisdictions, but likely will accelerate the trend.

H. Edward Flentje is professor emeritus at Wichita State University.

6/23/2014

NO SERVICES AHEAD…HOW THE BROWNBACK ADMINISTRATION HAS HARMED WESTERN KANSAS…

Filed under: prairie musings, Sam Brownback, Kansas, GOP — Peg Britton @ 1:28 pm

From Daily Kos…
Kansas: No Services Ahead. How the Brownback Administration has harmed Western Kansas

by tmservo433Follow for Kansas & Missouri Kossacks

Last week, I spent time in a lot of places in Kansas.   Emporia, Hutchinson.  Wichita.  Hays.  Russell.  Manhattan.  Council Grove.  Fort Riley.  Junction City.  The countryside in Ellis, Chase, Riley, Lyon, and so many other great counties in Kansas.   On the journey between Hays and Russell, I noticed something:  closed rest stops.

Leaving Russell, the sign came yet again:

No services ahead.   It shouldn’t have come as a surprise.  KDOT, in an attempt to reduce their budget which has been cash strapped by the Brownback administration has closed off services from these rest areas, bulldozed bathrooms, removed drinking fountains.   It’s a small thing, for sure, but it represents what is happening to our state: No Services Ahead.   It isn’t just about a rest stop, it is about what is happening to once proud communities in Western Kansas.

6/22/2014

WHY IS IT YOU ARE A REPUBLICAN?

Filed under: prairie musings, LGBT, GOP, Women's Rights — Peg Britton @ 2:04 pm

To be a conservative must be so much simpler. Who cares about science, climate change, protecting our future, educating our children, saving the planet – that’s all in God’s hands. It doesn’t matter what we think or do because it’s not within our power.

Let’s see…do I have this straight?  Republicans have gone on record as being AGAINST:

…any restrictions on conceal and carry firearms…

….any restriction on gun control and acquisition of ammunition

… separation of church and state…

…minimum wage…

…women having the right to determine their own medical needs…

…women receiving equal pay for equal work……equal opportunity for women…

…Head Start…

… helping children get enough to eat and being sheltered from the elements…

…education…

…immigration reform…

…helping students reduce their student loans…

…teaching evolution/science in schools…

…universal healthcare…

…marrying who you love…

… teacher tenure …

…science and  global warming…

…LGBT individuals having the same rights as others…

…abortion under any circumstance…

…contraceptive use…

…veterans’ care…

…voter rights…

You say you don’t agree with the stand Republicans have taken on the above, but you are still a registered Republican.  Why is that?

Thanks for tuning in…

6/21/2014

END OF THE TREK…

Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 6:48 pm

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The perfect follow-up to the Inca trail: three days of building new friendships and learning from an incredible family and community dedicating their lives to the working poor of Lima. It’s been a moving and eye-opening weekend.

STAND UP TO THE BULLIES …

Filed under: prairie musings, print news — Peg Britton @ 9:23 am

by Robert Reich

I was always very short for my age, and when I was a kid relied on a few older boys to protect me from the bullies. One of my protectors was Mickey (Michael) Schwerner. Fifty years ago today, Mickey and two others, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, were in Mississippi to register black voters when they were brutally murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan, including the sheriff of Nashoba County. When I learned that the person who had protected me from childhood bullies was murdered by the real bullies of America, I began to understand the true meaning of social injustice. A decent society does not allow those with power and privilege to bully those without. Today’s bullying comes in many forms: Not just racists preventing minorities from voting but also CEOs taking huge salaries for themselves while cutting their workers’ wages, Wall Street bankers foreclosing on homeowners who got walloped when the Street’s bubble burst, multi-millionaires refusing to pay higher taxes to finance better schools for poor kids, monopolists raising prices to squeeze their customers, executives firing workers for trying to unionize, business lobbyists paying off members of Congress to vote against a higher minimum wage, and billionaires funding their own political machines to spew lies and undermine our democracy. The best way to honor the memories of Mickey, James, and Andrew is to stand up to the bullies.

6/17/2014

ELLSWORTH STRONG INFORMATIONAL MEETING TOMORROW…

Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 3:58 pm

SPREAD THE WORD: Ellsworth Strong Informational Meeting
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 7:00 PM
American Legion
645 W 15th Street
Ellsworth, KS 67439
Please post this on your pages and get the word out about the meeting tomorrow. We have invited the city council, city administrator, local media and others to attend. Hopefully we can clear up any rumors/misconceptions and begin to discuss what actions we can take to stop this from happening. Please join us!

INCA TRAIL, BRAZIL AND MEXICO WORLD CUP SOCCER 2014…ZERO ZERO..

Filed under: prairie musings, Presbyterian Manor, restaurants/food — Peg Britton @ 3:13 pm

Great game today between Brazil and Mexico….scoreless and about over.  I know of nothing more enthusiastic than the crowd at a World Cup Soccer match. I actually find it rather frightening…too many ramped up spectators piled on top of one another.

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Tyler is having a great time at Machu Picchu….it’s not every day he gets to feed a hungry llama.

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“Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu were amazing… But the Inca Trail took the cake. Lugging around all of our own for 4 days brought a whole new appreciation for Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu.”  Tyler Britton

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” More from day one: an endless uphill climb through the jungle”…Bret Kolkebeck

The International dinner (Welsh cuisine) last night was really outstanding…we started the meal with a hearty, delicately-flavored cawl made with heavy cream and served with rolls and lots of soft butter.  That was followed by baked salmon covered with a delightful leek sauce, chicken with mustard sauce, traditional meat loaf that was reminiscent of haggis (but good and with another sauce), peas and carrots, English potatoes and three kinds of dessert  (all with special toppings and loaded with calories) and a great fruity drink.  It was delicious and a lot of fun.  I’m probably forgetting half of it due to the amount of wine that was involved.

There is a degree of uncertainty about the future of our International dinners as Joomi and Tim have been unable to hire additional help.  They are going on vacation for a couple of weeks so maybe they’ll come up with something after they have time to reflect on it. We all enjoy the evenings so much we hope they can continue.

One thing we noticed last night is that I got in and out of Headrick’s car much better than any previous time when I’ve bummed a ride with them.  It just shows that all those exercise classes have helped a lot with my strength and flexibility.  It has been a very slow recovery, but I’ve made significant progress.  I still can’t manage without a walker and may never “get there”.   I just have to keep walking and moving.

Tonight is the monthly potluck supper.  I guess you like them or you don’t.  They usually have a pretty good turnout.  I can’t really cook anything then carry it to the basement.  And going through a buffet line is difficult as I can’t carry a plate and use my walker at the same time.  Hazel always takes enough to cover me should I want to attend.  I did once, and would actually rather stay home.  I’m not hungry for one thing.  Maybe that will all change in months to come, but right now, I enjoy my evenings in my apartment.  I love my apartment and living here…doing only what I want to do.

Now to watch Russia and South Korea…

Thanks for tuning in…

6/13/2014

SHOPPING IN CUZCO…

Filed under: prairie musings, Tyler Britton USAF — Peg Britton @ 12:18 pm

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Tyler, picking up  treasures to take home…

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6/11/2014

PERU BOUND INCA TRAIL TREKKERS…

Filed under: prairie musings, Tyler Britton USAF — Peg Britton @ 4:09 pm

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Grandson Tyler and his roommates, Chris and Bret, left today from Cincinnati for 11 wondrous days hiking the Inca trails in Peru and , oh…climbing Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountains.  That’s quite an undertaking for flatlanders.

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Arrived Plaza de Armas Cuzco - Perú, June 12, 2014

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“I’m not a hobbit. But the people here are.”

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Getting acclimatized…alpaca and guinea pig and chicken oh my!

6/9/2014

BROWNBACK EMBRACES FAKE TEACHERS…

Filed under: prairie musings, print news, Sam Brownback, Kansas — Peg Britton @ 9:58 am

Fake teachers
Hays Daily News
6/8/2014

Beginning July 1, school districts in Kansas that choose to can hire non-teachers to instruct students in specific subjects. We can’t imagine a more uneducated approach in dealing with this state’s children.

The result of legislation that ostensibly was addressing teacher shortages in areas such as science, math, technology, engineering and finance, all one needs is a bachelor’s degree in one of the subject matters and five years of work experience to be hired. To teach vocational education, an undergraduate diploma isn’t even required — merely an industry-recognized certificate.

The law displays great disdain for the noble profession known as teaching.

Having expertise in a subject matter does not necessarily translate to having any skill to convey that knowledge. It can be tough enough attempting to train fellow adult co-workers, let alone still-developing young minds.

Content knowledge is critical, but no more or less than the ability to educate. Teachers should know how to create coherent and focused lesson plans, and then be able to tailor their approach for varying learning styles.

“We teach kids first, content second,” Kansas National Education Association President Karen Godfrey is fond of saying.

KNEA understandably is against the new prerequisites the Kansas State Board of Education was forced to adopt because of the new law.

“Permitting Kansas classrooms to be open to people with five years of work experience in a particular field of science or math does not prepare them for the rigors of teaching,” the KNEA offered in a press release. “Many teachers dedicate their entire lives to expanding their own skill set and knowledge of the following core aspects of the teaching profession through master teacher programs, National Board Certification, and by seeking advanced degrees in the following foundational areas:

* Learning theory and age-appropriate instruction;

* Classroom management techniques and strategies;

* Teaching culturally diverse populations;

* Teaching students with special needs, learning disabilities and giftedness;

* Effective classroom discipline;

* Differentiated instruction and curriculum development; (and)

* Bullying and school security.”

Effective teachers have fundamental understandings of psychology, pedagogy, methods, assessment, management, and on and on.

Does working in private industry prepare anybody adequately for the rigors of teaching? We would say not.

Yet Gov. Sam Brownback, who signed the bill into law, enthusiastically believes it does. Or that it doesn’t matter.

He told the Garden City Telegram he is particularly excited about the alternate teacher certification, which “allows high schools to hire people for teachers like colleges do. They get a subject expertise person and then hire them to teach say, journalism, at the community college. You cannot do that at high school, but now you will be able to do so in the STEM area — science, technology and certified technical education.”

That the governor and legislators don’t appear to recognize the difference between a 15-year-old’s learning capacity and a 19-year-old’s is not surprising. Wording for the law came from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group representing business interests that provides “model legislation” to all 50 states.

As only local school districts have the authority to hire teachers, we would hope none take advantage of the new law. Kansas needs to be smart enough to problem-solve STEM teacher shortages in a manner that is not detrimental to students.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

6/6/2014

SITTERCISE IS NOW FUN…..aka ENJOYABLE…

Filed under: prairie musings, Presbyterian Manor — Peg Britton @ 11:06 am

Sittercise is now a bunch of fun…music, leadership and happy faces make it so.

Karen Larsen, activities director here at the Palace, has taken over the Monday-Wednesday-Friday sittercise classes and has turned them into a very popular activity.  Karen has a very vivacious, happy personality and has injected herself into an activity that has previously been about as much fun as waiting for the elevators.  Now it’s fun and we get a vigorous workout, to boot.

I won’t make comparisons to what we endure Tuesday and Thursday except to say I tend to fall asleep two days a week when I should be havin’ fun.  The music is irritatingly bad  and we’re almost prohibited from smiling…let alone cracking a joke.   People won’t do what’s good for them for that very reason.  Previous suggestions for positive change have fallen on deaf ears.

Since the advent of the new program, participation has doubled and participants leave with happy smiles in anticipation of the next session.  I just hope it stays this way as it’s a very positive change and one I find most enjoyable.

Today I’m having lunch off-premises with Lynn.  It’s fish day here at the Palace.  We’re going to explore one of several places where we’ve never been.  After that we’re going to the library so I can learn how to download books from the library on my Kindle.  Then we’ll be back here at 3:00 for trivia where she’s the moderator and I rarely know any of the answers.  Mostly, the questions deal with baseball and boxing and we’re losing participants because of it.  We need to get more centered on geography and history, if we can find the appropriate cards. Mainly it’s another good activity for a lot of laughs.  Endorphin time.

Thanks for tuning in…

6/3/2014

YAYA’S EUROBISTRO…PALACE FOOD…

Filed under: prairie musings, Presbyterian Manor, restaurants/food — Peg Britton @ 1:39 pm

If you’re in Wichita sometime, and haven’t already done so, stop at YaYa’s for lunch or dinner.  Lynn and I made a trip there a couple of weeks ago and had a delightful late lunch.  The food was excellent and the service perfect.

We had calamari with agrodolce sauce and gazpacho aioli for openers.  I’m not a calamari fan, but this was quite good.  I had Diver Sea Scallops seared with saffron orzo with veggies, Maryland blue crab, lemon beurre, gastrique…and a dry martini.  It was the best.

Lynn had a beautiful grilled salmon salad with gorgonzola and feta cheeses, crispy potatoes, pecans with raspberry vinaigrette and white wine.  I’ll have that if there is a next time…or one of their many interesting specials.  It’s a really neat place to wile away the afternoon in Bradley Fair at 21st and Rock Road.

They started a one entree menu here on Sunday.  As a child I had two choices always:  take it or leave it.  I can make this work.

If you like what they have it works fine. Sunday they had good fried chicken and had left-overs on the salad bar yesterday and today so I got a piece for my dinner as well.   Both Monday and today I improvised.  They had lasagna yesterday and I’ve been that route before and try to avoid it. It’s so simple to make it right that I don’t see how they can ruin it the way they do.  Hazel ordered it and didn’t eat it.  I had bacon and eggs instead.  Today they had roast pork with gravy and dressing and corn.  I had the pork and got bread to make a sandwich…with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion and some good hot sauce that I carry with me for such emergencies.  I got a banana instead of dessert. I always have a good supply of fresh fruit and yogurt in my apartment so I get along just fine.

They have an auxiliary menu that includes hamburgers, French fries, French fried onion rings, several difference kinds of sandwiches, bacon and eggs, chicken filets and now wraps.  Amy had a wrap today that looked good and had grapes in it.  Grapes of Wrap I called it.

Sharon comes to clean for me twice a month.  She does a good job and I enjoy having her here.  I have extra things that need tending to so next week, and for a few weeks, she’ll give me an extra hour to clean cupboards and closets …and dust my bookshelves.  They have wonderful services…reasonably priced…here at the Palace.  Help from my kids and the people here make it possible for me to continue to live independently.  I couldn’t do that if I were at home….not without a whole lot of help.  I’d much rather be here surrounded by interesting people.

Thanks for tuning in…

SALINA PUBLIC LIBRARY….ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES…

Filed under: prairie musings, Presbyterian Manor, Salina Publc Library — Peg Britton @ 12:38 pm

It was just announced that beginning the third Wednesday of each month, the Salina Public Library will be bringing  a large selection of books and other items for us inmates to check out.  I’m so excited about it.  When they are here they can renew  and issue new library cards and check out and return library items.  They’ll also be able to show me how to down load their e-books to my Kindle which, after a period of time, disappear.  It’s all very magical.

I called yesterday and gave some very nice, accommodating person a list of books I’d like to read and requested they could bring two or three of them when they come…books by Donna Tartt, Sue Monk Kidd, Bill Bryson, Pablo Coelho, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.

And, to make it even easier for me, I can reserve books on line which they put on a special shelf at the library and my friend, Lynn, will pick them up for me when she goes to the library, which is several times  a week. I can always go to the Library myself, as it’s convenient and I just love the place, but this is even easier for me.  I still struggle with my walker, parking, carrying “stuff”, etc.
And, those same nice people send me an email to alert me when my books are due to be returned.  I love it all.

All this is under the auspices of Joe Mackenzie, long time director of the Salina Public Library….and friend.

Thanks for tuning in…

6/1/2014

STAR SPANGLED SPECTACULAR FIREWORKS EXTRAVAGANZA…

Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 2:56 pm

Star Spangled Spectacular Fireworks Extravaganza

This month on June 28th!!!!

Scout Spirit Freedom Sprint
•    This is a 5K with registration starting at 6:30 am with the race starting at 7:30 am.
•    Pre-registration recommended

15th Annual ECF Spiritual Life Center “Run for the Soul” Motorcycle Run
•    This is the 15th Annual Run for the Soul. Registration will begin at 7:00 am.
•    There will be a breakfast served from 7:00 am to 9:30 am.
•    Burgers, Brats, etc. will be served from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm.
•    The Blessing of the Bikes and Prayer will be at 12:45 pm.
•    Bikes will depart at 1:00 pm with a parade downtown and around ECF with return at 4:00 pm.
•    Live Auction will start at 4:30 pm and end about 5:30 pm.
The Old Iron, Custom Car & Cycle Show
•    This event begins Friday, June 27 with a poker event at the Armory
•    Registration begins at 7:00 am on Saturday.
•    Cars start showing at 10:00 am.
•    Burnout competition will begin at 2:00 pm
Craft Fair sponsored by ECF Spiritual Life Center
•    The booths will be open from 11:00 am to 8:00 PM.
Bouncy House - Fun for Kids
•    Kiwanis will sponsor bouncy houses for Kids under 12 from 3 pm till Dark.
Concert
•    We are planning to have a concert beginning at 7:00 pm(still in the works)
Star Spangled Spectacular Fireworks Extravaganza
•    Fireworks will begin at dark (about 9:45 pm)

Flyers and registrations forms available at goellsworth.com. If you are interested in helping or have ideas to help us be successful please contact Carol at 472-4071 or email.


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