Happy Trails! Meridian Parks & Rec hosts its Chisholm Trail Plaza grand opening with ribbon cutting ceremony followed by live music and dance featuring Chad & The Chizlers
MERIDIAN – After days of final preparations, cleaning and decorating, it was time to party! And it turned out to be a perfect evening for an outside ceremony, and enjoying fellowship, live music and dancing.
“Wow, just wow,” Meridian Parks and Recreation Board President Don Hatley said in his speech prior to the grand opening ceremony of the Chisholm Trail Plaza in Meridian to the crowd of about 200 people present on Saturday evening. “That wow is for you, your presence. Because you are most important. You being here to enjoy this facility makes all this worthwhile.”
The ceremony and entertainment brought in people from all over the county, and it is the Parks and Recs’ hope that everybody will continue to enjoy the venue.
The process of transforming the old jail site into this multi-functional outdoor facility with restrooms and stage is the culmination of hours and hours of planning, drawing up plans and overcoming challenges, Hatley explained. But under the excellent project management from the “right man for the job,” volunteer Paul Hardcastle, the project was completed, albeit with some delay. It is Hardcastle’s ability, attitude and dedication that made him the “right man for the job.”
“He was one of our greatest fans,” Hatley said highlighting the supportive and pivotal role for the late Meridian Mayor Johnnie Hauerland. “But it didn’t start out that way.”
As the group of volunteers completed projects one step at a time, Hauerland realized this group was all about “getting things done.”
Another group that was leery about the very ambitious plans presented to the Bosque County Commissioners’ Court by Hatley and Hardcastle were former Bosque County Judge Don Pool and the commissioners. But again, as the group moved forward, their initial misgivings were muted. And the help from all precinct barns hauling off 66 truckloads of concrete and rebar was invaluable.
Representing the Commissioners Court were Judge Cindy Vanlandingham and Ronny Liardon. Vanlandingham symbolically handed over the jail keys to City of Meridian Mayor Ryan Nieuwenhuis, who went on to recognize several main contributors to the project, including the core group of volunteers that was instrumental in completion of the project and on site practically every day – besides Hatley and Hardcastle that were Parks & Rec board member Jim Ballard and volunteer Andy Williams.
“Our parks in Meridian have drastically changed in the last few years,” Nieuwenhuis said. “We now have something we should all be proud of, that did not cost the City a dime.
“In 2019, whenever the County graciously, finally voted to give the property to the City – and I think it had a lot to do with that they were tired of seeing Don and Paul at every Commissioners Court – they came to City Council with ‘We have an idea, we have a plan, we have a vision,” Nieuwenhuis said in an “off the cuff” part of his speech. “I was a City Council member then, and I was very, very, very reluctant to turn over this property to two individuals only.
“But Don Hatley does everything right as far as I’m concerned. He created a committee, a board, whatever you want to call them. He spent countless hours planning this facility out, and I don’t think it could have been done any better. As far as I’m concerned we have probably one of the nicest places, one of the nicest venues in Bosque County to host things.”
Liardon’s shared that his first thoughts on hearing the monumental plans for the old jail site were “Are they out of their minds?” But emphasizing the group’s tenacity, determination, gumption and grit, Liardon said the group proved two age-old idioms wrong – that you can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, and that you can squeeze blood out of a turnip.
He compared their vision and drive to the same kind of determination the first group of Norwegian and German settlers showed when developing their communities in the new county. Meridian Parks and Recs might not have fought off American Indian arrows but they had to ward off many “arrows” in the form of challenges.
“Hats off to you guys,” Liardon said. “This is a great monument to our original settlers.”
That demolition debris turned out to serve an important purpose – it was used to fill up the defunct community swimming pool, making it possible to develop a community garden.
The general theme of all the speeches was recognitions of all involved in bringing this massive project to fruition, from countless volunteers, City of Meridian staff and Public Works, City Council past and present, Grassroots, Wallace Electric, Voorhies Outdoor Products, Eric Hooks, Rick’s Plumbing, Parks and Recreation including the Beautification Committee, the Meridian Economic Development Corporation helping with the major part of funding besides donations, to the Meridian Volunteer Fire Department using their jaws of life to remove the heavy metal doors from the defunct jail, to Brent Powers donating his time and equipment to bringing down the walls.
This collaboration of all sorts of civic organizations, the City, the County and individuals was worth celebrating some boot scootin’ with live music by Chad Holt and the Chizlers, featuring Miriam “Muther Mirm” Wallace. This dance is one of the Meridian Parks and Recs quarterly Bosque Boot Scootin’ live music and dance series.
At the grand opening, the evening’s MC and Parks & Rec Director of Events and Entertainment Brett Voss introduced the guests to the trilogy of songs that will always be played at the Bosque Boot Scootin’ dances – Rawhide by Frankie Laine tying into the Chisholm Trail cattle drive legacy, Boot Scootin’ Boogie by Brooks and Dunn tying into the dances’ theme and Darius Rucker’s Together, Anything’s Possible for the collaborative efforts that built the plaza in all its glory.
"What we are seeing here tonight has been our dream for several years now," Voss said. "To see it become a reality, and to see all of these people come out for it...it's almost surreal."
Darius Rucker lyrics illustrate the motivation of the Meridian Parks & Rec: "Together, anything’s possible, We got such a long way to go, And we got so much to do. But I made a promise to myself, I'd be right here for you. I feel the cool of the wind, Touching me like a long lost friend. When I hear the music play and I hear the children sing, I know together anything is possible. Time won't slip away, we'll get through all that life can bring. And I know together, anything is possible."
Because on the spot where once a huge pile of rubble obstructed the Meridian Parks and Recs vision of “Our Town, Our Tomorrow” – with the blood, sweat and tears of the volunteers involved – grew a beautiful facility for all to use and enjoy. It is a testament that “Together, anything’s possible.”
Happy Trails to Meridian, the Meridian Parks and Recreation and the Chisholm Trail Plaza.
The next events in the Meridian public facilities are:
- Meridian Parks & Rec's monthly free Outdoor Movie Night at the John A. Lomax Amphitheater will present "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" on Saturday, April 16. Music over the state-of-the-art sound system begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by previews of upcoming movies and a classic cartoon before the feature begins at sunset. Free popcorn, hotdogs, various treats and water will be provided while supplies last.
- The Easter Sunrise Service at the John A. Lomax Amphitheater on Sunday, April 17 at 6:30 a.m. Bring your own coffee or tea, but there will be donuts available.
- The Glenn Quarles Jam Session at the Chisholm Trail Plaza in which area musicians come together in fellowship to offer music to fans, after a pot luck dinner. It is planned for May 7 at 6 p.m.
- The Chisholm Trail Roundup activities with the Chisholm Chili Cookoff and a Centex Classics and Hot Rod Club Show and Shine on July 9. The fun family day of activities, tournaments, vendors and more ends with live music and dance featuring the Kristyn Harris Band.
Follow the Meridian Parks and Recreation on Facebook or sign up for the ChisholmCountry.com newsletter for event updates.
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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