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Elks Lodge honors veterans at annual dinner

Veterans in the Franklin County area, having served in the Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, and Army were honored at the annual Elks Lodge Veteran’s Day Dinner in Preston on Friday, November 11. New this year, to accommodate the many Veterans, two dinner times, at 5 p.m. and also at 7:30 p.m., were served.

Newly appointed in April 2022, Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler Michael Oxx said “One of the biggest events each year is for the Elks to honor the veterans. I appreciate everything the veterans have done.”

In his opening remarks, Oxx welcomed the veterans. “We welcome you. We are here for you as we appreciate everything you have done for our country. We want you to enjoy a good meal and have a good time tonight,” he expressed.

The veterans and their spouses were asked to stand during the prayer offered by Michelle McNeely, Elks Chaplain, after which they recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mayor Dan Keller, in recognition from the community honoring the veterans, was asked to give a few remarks.

“Truman said: ‘The debt to the heroic men and valiant women who served their country can never be repaid. They deserve our undying gratitude.’ On behalf of our community, we express thanks to our Veterans as well as the Elks Lodge who faithfully brightens our Main Street with American flags and feeds over 100 Veterans on this special day of remembrance,” said Mayor Keller.

Also, Oxx states that the Elks Lodge would like to express their appreciation to Terry Larson, past Exalted Ruler and Preston’s current City Councilman for his kind words that he expressed to the veterans.

The banquet meal catered by the Senior Citizens Community Center and served by the Lady’s Elks Club consisted of pork cubed steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, string beans, tossed green salad, rolls, lemonade and cheesecake topped with cherry and blueberries were served to over 150 Veterans, their “plus ones” and Elks members sitting at the festive red, white and blue decorated tables with small flags.

Along with Michael Oxx on the Veterans Day Committee this year were Elks Lodge members Jackie Anderson, Louis Mendoza, Jesse Keller and Jeff Nielson.

“I’d also like to mention that Ralph West who has been instrumental to our Veterans program for over 20 years served on the Veterans Dinner Committee. I’d like to thank all of the Elks officers and members who volunteered to serve the dinner along with the Lady Elks by preparing the plates,” said Oxx.

Lori Marvin, Chairman of the Veterans Program for the Eastern Idaho District, from the Blackfoot Elks Lodge, was the guest speaker. She gave an update of what the projects that the Elks Club in the East Idaho area, which includes six Elks Club Lodges, Blackfoot, Salmon, Rupert, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, and Preston, are doing to help the Veterans who live at the Veterans Home in Pocatello.

“Our project continues for the district that we are creating a putting green, a walking path, a fishing pond where they can fish or just relax, a firepit, and a golf driving range. As a district we are supporting each other in this project,” she outlined.

Two Preston High School graduates and now USU students, Nick Nielson (son of Jeff Nielson, Elks Club member), and Ryker Belliston, entertained the attendees during dinner by playing their guitars and sang several folk and pop songs, such as “The General,” a folk song by Dispatch, and a pop song, “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran.

Tributes were handed out to each veteran in the form of a crayon-colored picture of veterans and a long handwritten letter to thank the veterans by individuals at the FCMC Disability Agency and students at Oakwood and Pioneer Elementary Schools in Preston.

This year is Mary Ann Marsh’s first time to attend the Veterans dinner.

“I thought it was nice of the Elks Lodge to honor us Veterans. The dinner was delicious,” said Marsh, of Preston, who served 17 years in the Army Reserve.

Ralph West, an Army National Guard Veteran serving in 1960-1972, a member of the Elks Club for 57 years and the Veteran’s Coordinator, was glad to see that there were two dinner times set up which helped with providing space for more to attend.

“New ideas are always good, especially to have room for everyone, although we’ve always planned for a few extras to be seated. It was nice to come this year and just enjoy the dinner and the people,” said Ralph.

Jackie Andersen, past Exhalted Ruler and now PER & East District Drug Awareness Chairman, commented: “This year you could feel the peace and warm thoughts while serving dinner and listening to the speakers. The Veterans were humble and kind. I hope with two different servings, we can serve a whole more veterans in the years to come.”

In conclusion, the dedication of the Elks Lodge officers, Josh Andersen, District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler 2400, cited in an e-mail the Elks’ Pledge:

“So long as there are Veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.”

A sweet niche: UI Extension joins project to start maple syrup production in Oxford

On a steep hillside beneath a canopy of scarlet leaves, University of Idaho Extension educator Bracken Henderson, Franklin County, searched for the perfect copse of bigtooth maples.

About 25 yards uphill, his collaborators – Paul Harris, a research technician with Utah State University’s (USU’s) Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping, and USU plant sciences graduate student Jesse Mathews – evaluated trunk circumferences within another grove.

The researchers are in the first year of a project aiming to introduce a new niche agricultural industry to the Intermountain West – locally sourced maple and boxelder syrup. USU received a three-year, $500,000 grant through the Acer Access and Development Program under USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to test the feasibility of commercial syrup production in parts of Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. From these funds, U of I received a $50,000 sub-award to assist in the effort, focusing on the foothills near Oxford, an isolated farming community of 48 people in southeast Idaho.

On that crisp, early October morning, the trio selected 30 of the largest maples they could find on a sufficient grade and within proximity to one another. They set up a network of rubber piping connecting the trees to a central vessel at the base of the hill. In the spring, the researchers will tap the trees to collect sap, which Henderson will boil and reduce to make syrup. They hope to demonstrate to landowners that the profits they stand to make by selling syrup are worth their time and effort.

“Whatever we come up with is better than anyone has done in the state of Idaho,” Henderson assured Harris as they discussed the optimal configuration for their network of tubing.

“Or in the West at all,” Harris added.

Henderson is working with two Oxford agricultural producers who are seeking a new way to diversify their operations and pad profits. Landowner Clark Cox has both dairy and beef cows that graze his maple forest, and he also raises hay and grain. He’s optimistic maple syrup production will provide him a small revenue stream from a perennial resource.

“I hope to utilize the maples in another way rather than just for firewood,” Cox said. “We’ll leave them standing for beautification but also utilize what they produce.”

Henderson believes landowners could save time and cut costs by pooling their sap, boiling it together and marketing it under a common label. He’s also curious about reverse osmosis as a means of removing much of the water from sap to reduce boil time.

Henderson experimented last season by tapping several trees, collecting the sap in buckets. His finished bigtooth maple syrup had a similar sugar content as syrup made from sugar maples in the East, and he was impressed by the flavor.

Using buckets, he collected about 30 liters of sap per tree throughout the single season – roughly half the yield of operations in major production states such as Vermont. He had to boil 40 to 50 liters of sap to make a single liter of finished product.

The U.S. Forest Service estimates Idaho has at least 2.1 million bigtooth maple trees of sufficient size to be tapped, with the best stands spanning throughout eastern Idaho.

“There’s not a lot of research out there about maple syrup in the West,” Henderson said. “Most of these trees they wouldn’t tap in the East. They want 8-inch trunks and larger, but we don’t have those here.”

USU yielded a similar volume using buckets last season. The researchers, however, are optimistic they’ll fare better this season with hoses.

It takes about 30 trees growing close together on a slope with a 30-foot elevation difference from the top tree in the group to the vessel at the bottom to maximize tubing capacity. Rather than relying solely on gravity to extract sap, as is the case with buckets, the tubing system creates a vacuum to suck out additional sap, which should boost sap yields.

“I’d love to see a Utah or Idaho maple syrup company, but we’ll see,” Mathews said. “So far, it’s taken a lot of time and effort for what we’ve gotten out of this, but this is our first year trying a tubing system, so that may be the way to do it.”

In addition to the Oxford properties, University of Wyoming will collaborate with test locations in the Cowboy State, and USU is evaluating three sites in Utah’s Cache Valley. At one of those locations, Spanish Fork, Utah, discussions are underway about starting a community maple syrup festival.

The principal investigators of the project, Youping Sun and Kelly Kopp, both with USU’s Department of Plants, Soils and Climate, envision western syrup enjoying strong demand at farmers markets and other locations specializing in locally produced food products.

“I think there’s really great potential,” Sun said.

The Citizen Asks: What are you thankful for?

Russell Roberts, Clifton

“I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my country. I’m thankful for my safety. I’m thankful for my freedom.”

Faye Reeves, Dayton

“I’m thankful for the indoor plumbing where I can just turn a small knob and get hot or cold water in my house. I’m grateful for the best source of heat from my pellet stove and backup furnace. I’m very thankful for electricity that runs my dish washing machine, the miracle of a telephone and cell phone, and to be fed and warm. I’m grateful for the Lord’s gift of friendships, of my physical health and a great deal of spiritual guidance.”

Michael Ball, Preston

“I’m grateful for my great-aunt Eva Wrathall Flinders who is my mother’s aunt and my grandmother’s sister, from Grantsville, Utah, because she taught me the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When I was six years old, she came to live with us until I was 12-years-old. My aunt was an active member of the Church. She had a huge impact on me.”

Sue Burg, Whitney

“I’m thankful for my family, for John, my husband, and our 6 children, 18 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.”

Eric Bastian, Weston

“I’m grateful for the freedom I have in this country. I’m grateful for the area in which I live and the people I live among and for the opportunity to be involved with ranching and the outdoors in this area. I’m grateful for the belief I have in God.”

Candlelight dinner successful; progress at Craner Field

Mayor Dan Keller began last week’s Preston City Council meeting with recognition and thanks to the Elks Club both for putting up flags on State Street as they do every year as well as serving dinner to over 100 veterans in two dinner sessions.

“Thanks not only to our veterans, but to the Elks who support our community and the veterans in such a great cause,” Keller said.

Councilman Chris Larsen then reported on the success of the recent Candlelight dinner and silent auction which is the primary fundraiser for the Festival of Lights. He noted that more tables were available than previous years and thanked those on the Festival of Lights Committee who have “worked tirelessly to make last weekend a success and are working tirelessly to make the 26th a success. We couldn’t do it without those folks volunteering their time and efforts to make that happen.” He also thanked the businesses who donated to the silent auction.

The consent calendar was approved, which included an Improvement Bond Refund to Larry Checketts for $16,092, a 50% Cut Permit Bond Refund (2nd final) for Blue Sage 320 in the amount of $417 and an Improvement Bond & 50% Cut Permit Bond Refund to Joe Rich for $15,590 (IB) and $444.50 (CP).

Nicole Nielsen came before the council on behalf of Kevin & Jeniel Blanch, Canson LLC to request a variance to replace the requirement for secondary water in their proposed subdivision with xeriscaping, which would use far less water than traditional landscaping. The request was denied.

Business licenses were approved for David Gordon, 20 South State (The Adventure Zone), Toby Vollmer, 241 Park Avenue (MV Innovation LLC), Arnoldo Montano, 33 West 1st South (El Tapatio LLC), Craig Willis, 29 South State (Willis Orthodontics)and Riley Broadhead, 290 East 8th North (Creating Your Oasis).

John Balls reported that the parks have been winterized and restrooms shut down for the winter and they have erected a flagpole near the dog pound. They have also installed conduit at Craner Field in preparation for the electrician.

Shawn Oliverson reported on an AARP event on Halloween and how The Community Foundation is working with various entities to find grants and ways to improve Preston.

Police Chief Dan McCammon spoke of the recent threat to the schools which was later determined to be a hoax. He noted that the relaxing of laws and legalization of marijuana in the surrounding states is impacting the community and specifically the youth. He hopes parents will discuss drugs and drug use with their children.{/div}