Sunday, October 11, 2009

HOT Fair Arrives With Rainy Weather

So far, the organizers of the 2009 Heart of Texas Fair (HOT) in Waco cannot be pleased with the weather. For most of this past weekend, there was a slow rain in the Waco area that more than likely hurt attendance at our annual fair. Ever since I moved to Waco back in the early 1980's, I learned right away that thousands of Central Texas residents love the HOT fair and many of them go deeply into debt each year just to show the family a good time during fair week. Over the first decade that I called Waco home, my wife and I visited the fair each and every year - but as we aged, we lost interest in attending the Heart of Texas Fair.

Most businesses in and around Waco do not like fair week because most of the spending money in the pockets of local consumers are spent on the HOT fairgrounds rather than in local businesses. At the top of the list of local businesses that are hurt the worst during the HOT fair each year are restaurants. Rather than Waco residents eating out at their favorite place, instead they just eat when they get to the Heart of Texas Fairgrounds. While restaurants usually hurt the most during HOT fair week, most other businesses also report lower sales both in the weeks before, during and after the annual Heart of Texas fair.

In contrast to local businesses, the people that organize and run the Heart of Texas Fair earn a tremendous amount of money during HOT fair week - which helps them to be able to financial afford to maintain the fairgrounds for other less profitable entertainment throughout the rest of the year. When I think back to when attending the HOT fair was the most fun for my wife and I, it was during the time when we had a young child that loved to go out to the fairgrounds to eat a bunch of cotton candy and get on the various rides that show up each year in the carnival section. Once my little girl grew up and did not enjoy attending the HOT fair in the same way she did as a child, the fun and excitement for me went away as well.

While I use to enjoy walking around and looking at the various exhibits at the fair, there are other folks in the Waco area that just love to watch the rodeo. Watching young men almost kill themselves on the back of a wild bull or horse has never been that entertaining to me. However, Central Texas is filled with both men and women that love to watch the rodeo and for many of them the closest they will ever come to watching a rodeo live and in person is at the Waco Heart of Texas Fair each fall. Hopefully, the rain will go away this week - which will allow more people to get out of the house and travel to the 2009 HOT fair and rodeo in Waco. That is if attending the Heat of Texas Fair is your personal cup of tea.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Waco School Counselors Help Students

Yesterday, I wrote about the senseless death of a kindergartner at school here in Waco when a large bookshelf or cabinet fell on her. Five year old Princanna Strain was pronounced dead at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center after doctors and EMS personnel work in vein to save her young life. Counselors from throughout the Waco ISD were rushed to Princanna Strain's school this morning to try and help all those kids understand why Princanna would not be in school anymore. Even at work today, almost everyone had an opinion on the death of Princanna and they also freely expressed whether the Waco ISD should be sued for her wrongful death.

In the end, it is not going to matter whether or not the Waco ISD should be sued for the wrongful death of Princanna Strain. Down deep inside we all know that Princanna's relatives will soon seek out a lawyer and a lawsuit against the Waco ISD will be filed. In a strange sort of way, the death of Princanna Strain is a classic case example of why there should not be tort reform in the United States. However, even when there is a case where someone should have known better at the school she attended - I still get a bad feeling in my gut when we the taxpayers get sued, because the representatives that run our schools for us act in a negligent way.

There will be plenty of time for lawsuits in the future and I may write about a potential lawsuit against the Waco ISD if/when it is filed. Right now, I would like to focus on the counselors that are showing up at Princanna Strain's school to try and help her classmates make sense out of her death yesterday. Here in Waco, there are still some folks who refuse to accept that mental health counseling can and does help people of all ages that suffer through a bad trauma. I know that attitude far to well as I remember my father always telling me not to blame my problems on others and he also told me just to suck up bad news and just move on. His advice has severed me well over the years, but in a case like this one - something from a mental health standpoint should be tried to help these five and six year old kids.

I tip my hat to the men and women who will travel to Princanna Strain's school over the next few weeks. I cannot image the problems that will face them as five and six year old children open up about the sudden and tragic death of their classmate. Over my 50 years on this Earth, I have learned to temper my fathers words to suck it up, with more mainstream thinking that there is a time and a place for everyone to express their feeling about what bothers them. Like the kindergartners who faced the stark reality of how unfair life is yesterday when their classmate Princanna Strain was suddenly killed at school, all of us can remember a time and a place in our own lives when we also discovered that there was more to life than just good times. The counselors who will help the students that knew Princanna Strain as a friend, most certainly will have to work hard to help some of Waco's youngest citizens to understand why Princanna will not be joining them at school anymore.

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Princanna Strain Dies At Waco School

In one of the worst school accidents in years, five year old Princanna Strain was killed yesterday while she was attending kindergarten at J.H. Hines Elementary School in Waco. Ms. Strain's death is still under investigation, but what we do know now is that she was climbing on a wooden cabinet and after being told to get down by her teacher - that cabinet fell on her and caused her death. Tonight, when I returned from work to learn about Princanna Strain's death on the late local news - my heart was very troubled because of this senseless loss of a young life. No parent expects their kindergarten aged child to be killed at school because of a senseless accident, but far too often - freak accidents do cause of death of youngsters.

Only a few short weeks ago, parents in the Waco area were most concerned about the spread of H1N1 Swine Flu when their children went back to school. However, as we all learned today - there are always many different threats that can injure or kill school children. It's really hard for me to wrap my thoughts around what Princanna Strain's family must be going through right now. What a shock it must have been to learn that Princanna died today in one of the most unlikely of ways. In addition to Princanna Strain's family, I am very concerned about the teacher that was in charge of her care. I can only image the guilty and anguish that teacher must be going through as he or she was the person in charge of keeping the class safe.

Waco ISD officials have already removed all the types of wooden cabinets that caused the death of five year old Princanna Strain on Wednesday, but that post accident decision will offer little comfort to her family. From what I could see on the late local news last night in Waco, the type of cabinet that Princanna Strain was climbing on today had wheels on it. We have all seen these types of cabinets before and never gave them a second thought. However, the adventurous nature of young children that makes them want to climb on stuff - should have made all of us stand up and take noticed of what a potential danger those kinds of cabinets pose for five year old kids. However, no one in the Waco ISD saw that danger before Wednesday's tragic fatal accident.

More than likely, a wrongful death lawsuit will be filed against the Waco ISD, because of Princanna Strain's death Wednesday. While I can certainly understand the anger that her family must feel at this time, a lawsuit against the Waco ISD will not bring back their little loved one. In my opinion, the death of Princanna Strain should be a huge wake up call for all of us who ignore or neglect our young children from time to time. Right now, as most families worry about the stability of their employment - they often times let the stress of everyday life keep them from enjoying their children. Yesterday's tragic death in a Waco public school should cause us all to retake stock in what things are really important in our lives.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Is Baylor Ready For Oklahoma?

So far in the 2009 college football season, the Baylor Bears have looked pretty good. In contrast, the Oklahoma Sooners have started their year in less than a stellar way. On Saturday, the Baylor Bears travel to Norman Oklahoma to play the Sooners in what could be the closest scoring Baylor/Oklahoma game of all time. Most seasons, the Baylor Bears are outmatched at almost every position by the Oklahoma Sooners -but in 2009, there is a chance that the Bears could defeat the Sooners and for Baylor fans that would be a game worth watching. Sadly, in the history of college football play between Oklahoma and Baylor - the Bears have never won a football game against the Sooners.

I have felt for a long time that when it comes to "Big 12" football play, Baylor is not ready for prime-time. When compared to Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M - Baylor is a very small school in overall student population. While Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M have a student body of 50,000 or more - Baylor's population is less that half of that amount. Building a great college football team is all about finding the right high school students that are willing to attend your college and play football when they graduate. There too Baylor finds itself at a disadvantage to larger universities. For a high school football player that has visions of become a professional someday, the fact is - if they sign with Oklahoma or Texas, they are more than likely joining a winning football program - which will include many nationally televised football games.

That reason alone could be why Baylor University is able to attract quality basketball and tennis players, while their football team usually ends up on the losing end of the "Big 12" each year. Most individuals that play basketball and tennis are not as focused on turning their sports ability into a professional career once their college playing days are over. So, small universities like Baylor are able to attract great athletes for Lady Bears basketball and the tennis program - while much of the great high school football talent around the country will not even consider a scholarship to play football at Baylor, because they know that the NFL draft will treat them more fairly if they play for a winning college football program.

A great many questions about the Baylor Bears football team will be answered on Saturday when the Baylor Bears travel to Norman to play the Oklahoma Sooners. Newspaper headlines in Waco have already proclaimed that this is not the same old Baylor football team. On Saturday, the people of Waco and school alumni from around the nation will learn if this years Baylor Bears football team is the real deal. No matter what the season, there is always a big difference between Kent State and Oklahoma. This Saturday, the Baylor Bears could begin a new winning chapter in school history if they defeat the Oklahoma Sooners. So much is riding on Saturday's game and I look forward to writing about a Baylor victory this weekend.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Red Light Cameras In Waco?

The good news is that the Waco City Council has not decided as of yet to install red light cameras in the city. The bad news is that more than likely they will make the decision to do so if the economy does not turn around soon. While city council's around the country have proclaimed the life saving benefits of red light cameras, I think we all know that most cities install red light cameras solely as an additional revenue source on already tapped out taxpayers. I spoke with my mother the other day who lives in the College Station area. She told me that the City of College Station has installed red light cameras and she believes they are a good idea. On that issue I will disagree with my mother... sorry mom!

While my mother believes that red light cameras are a good idea, she did tell me that when College Station first installed cameras to catch people running red lights, they set them to write tickets to people who were inside the intersection while the traffic lights were on yellow. After much complaining from residents, the City of College Station decided to change the ticket cameras from yellow to red. I certainly can understand why they would do that since most people would be ready to slam on the breaks each and every time they approached a red light camera intersection, which would greatly increase accidents where a person is hit from behind because of a sudden stop.

I am all for getting people to stop running red lights in Waco, because it is a dangerous thing to do. Only a few short weeks ago, my wife and I witnessed a traffic accident at the intersection of Franklin and New Road. Like many times before, cars continued to turn off of Franklin and on to New Road - long after their traffic light had turned red. On that day, I remember a small car leaving on a green light on Franklin only to plow into the side of a pickup truck who was turning while the signal light was red. It's very scary to watch a traffic accident happen, but fortunately it appeared that no one was hurt in that particular accident.

In my opinion, if the City of Waco really wants to save lives when it comes to people running red traffic lights, they should put police officers at the most dangerous intersection to draw attention to the dangers. Red light cameras are just another way to tax the people. After years of taxing cigarettes and alcohol to death, local and state governments are now looking for a new way to raise revenue that does not use the dirty word called taxes. Most people know that red light cameras are just another way to tax the people without calling the revenue that is generated a tax. I'm all for stopping people from running red lights, but red light cameras are not the answer to the problem.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Nick Klaras Dies At Age 80

It is with a heavy heart today that I report the death of Nick Klaras. Mr. Klaras died yesterday at his home in Waco. He was 80 years old. When I first moved to the Waco area back in 1983, one of the first people I met after moving here was Nick Klaras. At the time, I was working for a local radio station as an account executive and Nick's Restaurant was one of my clients. The first thing I remember about Nick Klaras was that he always focused on asking me how I was doing and he always wanted to know how my family was settling in as new residents of Waco.

Over the years, I would run into Nick Klaras from time time even after he closed his restaurant years ago. Each and every time I saw Nick, he was just as nice as the time before. From my point of view, the everyday little problems that drive most people nuts never seemed to effect Nick like they do others. Instead, Nick always had a smile on his face and he had a memory like an elephant when it came to details about the lives of people he interacted with. I will miss Nick Klaras because he not only had a positive effect on my life, but he also effected thousands of other people in the Central Texas area over his eighty years of life.

Several years after I first met Nick Klaras, I was introduced to his son Evan. While I never got to know Evan as well as his father, I remember also seeing a smile on his face every time is saw him as well. As the years went by, I started to noticed that Nick Klaras was selling his famous Greek salad dressing at other restaurants around town like Uncle Dan's Barbecue. It seemed to me that even after Nick sold his Waco restaurant, he still needed to keep his hand in the business of serving great food and following the example of Paul Newman - he discovered that offering a great salad dressing for sale to the public was an excellent way to accomplish that dream.

There are few people that I have met since moving to Waco in the 1980's that have had as positive an effect on my life as Nick Klaras did. From reading the comments in today's Waco Tribune Herald, it is clear that I was not the only person who was touched in a positive way by Nick. Sadly, we all must die someday - but it's extra hard to accept the death of someone that was loved as much as Nick Klaras was during his lifetime. Nick's funeral will be held at the First Baptist Church in Waco on Wednesday. On that date, hundreds of people will show up to pay their last respects to Nick Klaras - who will be remembered fondly for many years to come.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

2009 Baylor Bears Win Two Of Three

Who would have thought that after week three of college football, the Baylor Bears would have a 3-1 win to loss ratio? I certainly would not have thought so and in fact I even laughed a few weeks ago when the Waco Tribune Herald displayed the headline of "This Is Not The Same Old Baylor". I moved to Waco in 1983 and back then people in these parts were still talking about the night the lights burned all night long when the Baylor Bears under the leadership of head coach Grant Teaff won the Southwest Conference years before.

There is a certain spirit in long time Baylor football fans that fires them up right before the start of each Big 12 season. Everyone, Baylor fan or not knows that it is next to impossible for a small Baptist school in Waco Texas to compete with the big powerhouse state schools of Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech on a yearly basis. However, die-hard Baylor fans have what I refer to as a David versus Goliath attitude at the beginning of each years football season and for that I tip my hat to them.

Even with their starting quarterback out for the season - the Baylor Bears came away with a victory against Kent State today in Waco, which leads me to believe that there might really be something special with this years Baylor Bears football team. That said, beating Kent State at home and defeating Oklahoma next week in Norman are two completely separate things. However, if Baylor wins it's game against Oklahoma next weekend - then I will totally agree with that newspaper headline that this is not the same old Baylor football team of the past.

While I still believe it is unlike that the 2009 Baylor Bears football team will be able to win against teams like Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M, it is true that they will have a better chance at doing so this year than in years past. As a decades long resident of Waco, nothing would make me happier than to see the Baylor Bears 2009 football team win the Big 12. The Lady Bears basketball team and the men tennis team have already proven that Baylor can compete in the Big 12. Now the only question that remains is will a future Baylor football team be able to win it all, as well?

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