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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

See You at The Legion

Last month I said Greg’s 11th Annual Catfish Fry was going to be held at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center on South Central. Twenty-three days before the event was scheduled, we decided to change venues. This was not an easy decision and resulted in panic on my part, but the rest of my team (which includes my wife, and other professionals) seemed to think this was a good move. Of course, we had no idea to where we were moving.
On the way home from our final meeting with the Audubon, I decided to stop at my local pub, the Travis R. Williams Post 65 of the American Legion. I am not a veteran member. I am a SAL: Sons of the American Legion. SAL’s do what they can to support the Legion, Legionnaires, veterans, and the community at large. This year we actually won an award for our Thanksgiving dinner basket drive where in we created baskets filled with the fixings necessary to create a great Thanksgiving dinner: lots of turkeys. Many members contributed to this effort and Fry’s Market helped out as well.
I pulled up to the Legion, hoping to have a Jack and Coke and perhaps figure out our next step: I do some of my best thinking at the Legion, or, at least, I think I do.
The place was almost empty. There were a few veterans at the bar, and a young man putting up decorations for an upcoming event. He was a fellow SAL and one of the event coordinators for the American Legion. I told him my problem (he had been to the Catfish Fry the previous year). I told him I needed a venue quick, hopefully one that already had a liquor license. He stopped for minute, adopting a kind of thoughtful pose – think Auguste Rodin– and said, “Why don’t we have it here?”
For those who don’t know, this American Legion regularly hosts events much larger than the Catfish Fry: the “Coalition,” which I have mentioned in previous columns, is a good example: perhaps 1,000 attendees compared to the Catfish Fry’s 400 guests.
I set down my drink, a gesture not so easy considering my heightened stress level, and took a tour with him. He made it seem not only possible, but perhaps the venue I should have considered first.
I called my wife and asked her to stop by and take a look. She was familiar with the Legion but not through the eyes of a professional caterer. She thought it was possible, but asked why we hadn’t thought of this sooner. She asked what the next step was. We were informed there was a board meeting that evening and we needed their approval. My wife sent over one of her top event planners to check out the venue and to attend the board meeting.
A Legion board meeting is an interesting experience. No one smiles. I suppose their military training is not given to too many smiles because of the seriousness of these meetings when they are on active duty. Luckily, the event planner from Santa Barbara Catering (one my wife’s ventures), was up to the task and equally serious. The board said yes.
On December 23, the American Legion Post 65 hosted one of the best Greg’s Catfish Frys ever. Reports are that the food was great, the music was the best, and folks could not believe they were at the Legion.
“Adaptive reuse” is a popular phrase meaning the taking of an existing structure and restoring it to a modern use. For 2012 why don’t we resolve to use “adaptive reconciliation” when we think of development in the Southside. Let’s be honest about our past, and instead of trying to bulldoze it into oblivion, let’s see if we can’t take that past and make it something unique and wonderful in the present. A part of who we are is what we were. Let’s use our past as an asset.
See you at the Legion in 2012.

Written by Greg Brownell

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