A look back brings a flood of memories

December 23, 2013 

Dec. 21, 2012 was supposedly the date of the Mayan apocalypse. By July 2013, however, it was arguable that the Mayans weren’t entirely incorrect — just inaccurate.

Record-setting rains that seemed almost apocalyptic in severity doused the local area in late June. Local park and recreation staffers found themselves trying to keep regular programming afloat while affecting repairs on flood damaged parks and playgrounds.

For them, it was the worst of times and the best of times as they coped with the problems.

So now, when “Best Of’ lists are all the rage, let us celebrate 2013’s finest performances in local recreation, thankful that administrators maintained our parks and programs while storms raged around them, leading with one hand bailing with the other.

Charity begins at home

Apparently, you can go home again you can raise money for a good cause while you’re at it.

After taking his Carrboro Scout Troop 845 on a bicycle trip across America in 2010 to raise money for cancer research, leader Brian Burnham took his crew on hikes in Europe and Patagonia over the past two summers. This past year, Burnham set the troop’s sights closer home, (albeit a home with a nearly 3,500-mile wide backyard) via their Lucky 13 Bike Trip initiative (

Ten riders and two leaders — Burnham and UNC student Aidan Kelly — set forth on a 3,345-mile, 67-day bike ride across America from Havre de Grace, Md., and arrived at Seaside, Ore., on Aug. 15. The trip raised $35,000 for the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center and Victory Junction, a camp for ill children, earning the trip my nod for Best Charity Event of the year.

The crew consisted of Hugh Kelley, Jack Jansen, Caleb Roenigk, Wes Malinchock, DJ Recny, Arthur Mouw, Holden Selkirk, Paris Buedel, Kyle Ferriter Miles Rosen.

This grass IS greener

Earning the nod for Rookie of the Year is the new playing surface at Cedar Falls Park on Weaver Dairy Road in Chapel Hill.

Celebrating readiness for use, a ribbon-cutting was held last Wednesday at the fields. Thanks to a $1.2 million joint project between the Town of Chapel Hill and Orange County, the park has a new artificial turf field, field lighting, accessible walkways, handicap accessible parking and fencing, town officials noted.

In addition to lower maintenance needs and year-round play, more programming time is anticipated lighting allows for after-dark play as well.

The layout comprises two youth soccer fields running side by side and a full-length soccer field running perpendicular. The fields also are marked for rugby and lacrosse.

In addition to the fields, a new restroom facility will be completed in 2014.

Honorable Mention in this category goes to a new team on the block: the Chapel Hill Warriors (, the first men’s rugby club in Chapel Hill.

Run (in the forest), run!

The vote for Best Kept Secret for 2013 goes to perhaps the longest (almost) continuously-staged event: the New Hope Turkey Run.

Staging its 30th run in the past 32 years, the New Hope Turkey Run in the Korstian Division of Duke Forest bills itself as, arguably, the oldest annual running race in the area. The race benefits the New Hope Improvement Association.

“Somebody else may say they were doing their race before this,” race director Walter Fowler said, “but it’s the oldest I know of. We missed 1996 after Hurricane Fran and 2001 due to the ice storm ... ”

Run through the forests off Whitfield Road north of Chapel Hill, many prefer to take their time and enjoy the fall foliage that’s just fine with organizers.

“We try to emphasize that time doesn’t matter,” former race director Peter Klopfer said.

“We don’t call it the Turkey Race — it’s the Turkey Run,” Fowler said. “It’s a race for some people, but not for everyone that’s the way most races are though.”

The Carolina way

Among the masses at UNC that either graduate or move on to greener playing fields, it would be easy to overlook another individual’s departure from the University were it not for his playful outlook and undeniable impact on the University’s recreational environment — an impact which has spilled over into the local community for decades.

This writer’s 2013 choice for Lifetime Achievement Award, Marty Pomerantz retired this past year from his 22-year post as Campus Recreation Director.


Pomerantz oversaw the opening of the Student Recreation Center , the Outdoor Education Center, the Rams Head Recreation Center and the South Campus Recreation Center. Pomerantz refuses to take credit for many of the facilities and programs initiated during his tenure, however.

“I was here when growth came at the right time and when students supported these ideas,” Pomerantz said.

One for the ages

The nod for Best Ensemble Cast Performance goes to the Orange County Jammers Senior Cheerleaders, who have been competing with other regional squads like energetic teens, inspiring fan support for Orange County Senior Games teams and proudly plying their pom-poms, adding a spirited element at events across the state from private parties to parades.

Originally started in 2005, the group practices at the Seymour Center on Homestead Road. Head cheerleader Clementine Self said the idea formulated after a visit to a performance by the Durham Divas, which whom the Jammers now have a friendly rivalry.

The irrepressible squad currently consists of six members — five ladies and one gentleman — ranging in age from 63 to 83 years of age: Self 65; Lynn Lyght, 65; William Fonville, 83; Phyllis Fearrington, 63; Marilyn Guthrie, 74; and Rosa Bowles, 68.

An indelible mark

Taking the vote for Best Individual Performance for the second straight year is Chapel Hill Park and Recreation Director Butch Kisiah, who not only oversaw remedial projects which brought area recreation facilities — decades outdated — up to usable standards, but oversaw unprecedented growth. Kisiah retired as of Dec. 20, but his philosophy and its resulting mark on the local recreation landscape will be felt for generations.

With tact, diplomacy clear-sighted goals, Kisiah presided over projects including the Homestead Aquatic Center, Southern Community Park, synthetic playing surfaces at Cedar Falls Park the Morgan Creek Trail.

Now we’re rollin’

Remember when your mother told you to never play in the road?

Hundreds of kids of all ages spent rolled in and out of Hillsborough last Aug. 10 to … well, play in the roads. They were partaking in the 18th annual Carolina Tarwheels’ BikeFest Rural Heritage Tour — 2013’s Event of the Year.

“It’s just a great event for cyclists it’s our biggest event of the year for the Tarwheels,” event co-coordinator and Tarwheels member Don Turner said.

The annual event provides a rolling vista of historic farmlands along quiet country roads, highlighting the pastoral heritage of the Piedmont, the Tarwheels’ website ( stated.

The Tarwheels donated all net proceeds to local bicycling-related activities, having bestowed over $50,000 to worthy causes since 2006. Recipients have included Rails to Trails, East Coast Greenways, Chapel Hill Greenways, Triangle Trips for Kids, Lewis Days (bike restoration for children of need) and 78 needy kids who received new bicycles.


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