By George, this Sports Day will be special to me for more than the obvious

For as long as anybody can remember, George Stout has been the chairman of the Elks Sports Day committee.

This year, the 44th in the annual summer event, will be his last. I’ve worked alongside George for probably three decades of his planning Sports Day weekends and that makes me being the honoree for the Elks Sports Day on June 16 all the more special. I’m still not convinced that my photograph belongs on that wall of greatness in the Elks Lodge.

Flipping through pages of a scrapbook recognizing the first 16 Sports Day honorees made me realize even more that I’m in elite company. All-Americans, an Olympian, football and basketball greats and coaching legends, a marketing genius, community leaders who impacted hundreds, a Rose Bowl participant, a major league umpire who was a part of two World Series are only a few of the past honorees.

I’m honestly not sure how my photo fits up there with such legendary people. And I’ll tell you another one that deserves a spot somewhere: George Stout. Nobody – and I mean nobody- has done more for this program than him. Anybody who has played a part in Sports Day understands how much George means to the program. He’s a do-it-all machine, organizing everything down to the smallest detail, down to what the person who introduces the honoree is supposed to say word for word. Let me just say this and the Elks know it’s true: Without George Stout’s passion for this program, it would be kaput by now. He has nearly single-handedly kept it alive and we should all be thankful.

George has been around the block. He was witness to the first game ever played in Putnam Stadium and then saw the last one before the walls came down to make way for the “new” Putnam Stadium. He has been a friend to this community longer than I’ve been alive and still drives meals to shut-ins during the club’s Thanksgiving and Christmas feeds.

George deserves a good sendoff. It would be fitting to set the attendance record on his last night as chairman. The program will be a one-day affair with the reception and banquet on the same night. Charlie Reliford, one of the best storytellers you will ever hear and a former Sports Day honoree, is the speaker. If you’ve never heard Charlie speak, you are in for a treat. If you have heard him, you know he’s worth the price of the ticket. Reception food, Elks famous baked steak and Charlie Reliford speaking for $30? It’s worth the price.

I’m not asking for me, although I’d love to see players and coaches I’ve covered through the years in attendance along with my friends and family, but let’s make the last Sports Day that George will be the man a night he will never forget too. I know it will be one that I’ll never forget.

Like George, I was no athlete. I was only a witness to the greatness that has come from the Ashland area. Of the previous 43 honorees, I’ve covered nearly all of them one way or the other and about 27 of them directly. Many of them I didn’t see compete as athletes, but I’ve written about them as part of the glorious history of this area. What an honor that was for me to tell the stories of the great individuals on the wall.

Do I belong up there? I’m not sure but the recognition, while maybe not deserved in my eyes, is humbly appreciated.

We’ll have to get about 250 there for the record. Can we do it Ashland?

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