New events coming soon to Exeter

By Reggie Ellis

Exeter has gotten very good about keeping its word to the public.

Last April, president Ted Macaulay promised that Exeter Health & Wellness Foundation would bring back May Daze, or something like it, by spring 2005.

In October, founder Chris Dery promised that Sierra Forge & Fire, a new school teaching ancient trades such as blacksmithing, would attract industrial artisans who flock to Exeter to attend a school unique to the Central Valley.

It seems both have delivered on their promises.

At the Exeter City Council's Feb. 8 meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Ted Macaulay annouced that the Health and Wellness Foundation will be holding a health fair on May 6 in City Park. At that same meeting, Mayor Charlie Norman announced that Sierra Forge & Fire will be working with the Exeter Chamber of Commerce to promote a show and conference for the California Association of Blacksmiths at the school in downtown Exeter sometime in 2006.

May Daze Returns

The Exeter Community Health Fair is tentatively scheduled to run from 3-7 p.m. on Friday, May 6 at City Park, so it will coincide with Lincoln Elementary School's Day of Play.

Activities tentatively scheduled for the fair include blood pressure testing, eye glass repair, Kidcare Photo Identification, Car Seat Safety demonstrations, cholesterol screening, a climbing wall, Adopt A Pet, message therapy and possibly a sidewalk sale. There will also be information on adaptive equipment, medical insurance, Hospice of Tulare County, bicycle safety, poison prevention, nutrition, senior assistance.

The event will be funded by a donation from the Exeter Community Health Fund (ECHF). Formerly Memorial Hospital's board of directors, ECHF donated $25,000 last April as part of a $70,000 donation to three organizations - $43,000 to the Exeter Volunteer Fire Department and $2,000 to the Exeter Boxing Club - all record one-time contributions respectively.

ECHF specified that the money is to be used to coordinate an annual health fair and expo for at least five years citing a void in health education and information left when May Daze was cancelled in 2001. Traditionally the event was held on the third Saturday in May as a joint effort between the hospital and the Downtown Merchants Association, an ad hoc committee of the Exeter Chamber of Commerce. May Daze offered free testing for diabetes, blood pressure and breast examinations, cholesterol and bone density tests for a nominal fee, child identification registration, health education and information, a safety bike rodeo, "Stop, Drop and Roll" fire drills, and entertainment activities for children such as clowns, bounce houses and face painting. It routinely had crowds of more than 1,000 people.

"It has been lacking for the last four years," Macaulay said. "Now it is our obligation to put that money back into the community, which has been generously donated."

Kaweah Delta Health Care District, which owned Memorial Hospital at Exeter, decided to pull funding for the annual health fair and sidewalk sale in November 2001 citing off-site inefficiency and economics as reasons. The event has already been endorsed by the Exeter Chamber of Commerce, which would play a key role in promoting it.

Macaulay said the $25,000 will fund the health fair for a minimum of five years and that the Health and Wellness Foundation is looking for ways to extend it further.

"We are extremely thankful for the donation from the ECHF," Macaulay said.

On Jan. 30, 2004 ECHF donated $312,000 to the Exeter Union High School District, the district's largest one-time donation, for the construction of a new track in Exeter Stadium. ECHF made the record donations in an attempt to dissolve the hospital district's remaining money after selling its assets to Kaweah Delta Health Care District in 1998. Board members include Leon Ooley, Alex Torres, Betsy Peterson, Joan Hagans, Terry Miller, Ann Dungan, Cathy Fuller and Kelly Gentry.

Any organizations interested in supporting or participating in the health fair should call Ted Macaulay at 592-9411.

CBA Annual Conference

According to Delora Buckman-Merritt, CEO of the Exeter Chamber of Commerce, the California Blacksmith's Association (CBA) is considering holding its 2006 conference in Exeter.

"This should create more economic development in Exeter," Buckman-Merritt said.

CBA will be the first statewide conference Exeter has hosted in several decades. The chamber expects the event will bring 300-400 people into the city. No time, date or location within Exeter has been chosen yet. Buckman-Merritt said the chamber will work with Sierra Forge & Fire to promote and organize the event, such as additional activities that will keep people in the city and encourage shopping in Exeter.

The event will likely be held in April or May. This year's conference will be held April 21-24 in Petaluma, Calif. It past years it has been held in Hanford.

The reason for the interest by CBA as a viable conference location was the opening of Sierra Forge and Fire in October. Located in the former Waterman pattern plant at 130 E. Maple St., the school teaches the ancient craft of blacksmithing. Bladesmithing classes will be added in this spring and glass blowing this summer.

People from all over the world have registered for blacksmith classes and certified masters from around the world have agreed to do demonstrations here in Exeter. In December, internationally renowned blacksmith and designer Richard Bent came to teach at the school.

The school's resident blacksmith instructor is Mark Aspery, a CBA member, who for the past four years, taught blacksmith courses at his own school, River Ridge Ranch near Springville.

Chris Dery said he is submitting a budget proposal to CBA and should know in a month if Exeter will host the event. Anyone interested in helping organize the event should call Sierra Forge and Fire at 592-2080.

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