The 2006 reunion was declared a rousing success! The Association of Retired Fish and Wildlife Service Employees held its 8th annual reunion at the MCM Elegante Hotel in Albuquerque, NM, during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This year, 280 people attended all or part of the October 9-13 event making it the largest yet.
A new feature this year was a photographic display of previous reunions plus unidentified groups and equipment. The retirees were asked to help identify them. All week, retirees had fun trying to do so. Two friends were seen seated with their heads together in front of one photo for an hour trying to remember the names of familiar faces. Steve Chase of NCTC volunteered to make posters of the group photos from previous reunions so they can be displayed at future events. Hopefully, this will become a tradition as we gather again in the future.
We began the reunion on Monday afternoon with a spirited registration as old friends reminisced. Tuesday was started by a welcome from Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez and Regional Director Ben Tuggle, followed by Service updates by FWS director Dale Hall, assistant directors Paul Schmidt (Migratory Birds), Geoff Haskett (Refuges), Ben Tuggle, R-2 issues), and center director Rick Lemon (National Conservation Training Center). Marlene Stine provided helpful hints on attending the Balloon Fiesta. Lynn Starnes presented a fascinating talk on wildlife photography, followed by Randi Smith on how to care for family photos. That evening, 254 people enjoyed the annual icebreaker social featuring heavy hors d’ouvres, local micro brewed beers and lots of fellowship. Wind and rain put a damper on ballooning early in the Fiesta but by Wednesday when our 177 early-rising retirees and guests traveled to Balloon Fiesta Park for the Mass Ascension, the weather was perfect and all 700 hot air balloons flew. That evening at the banquet, 242 people enjoyed a delicious Mexican buffet and donated wines along with entertainment by the Mariachi Nuevo Sonido musicians and the White Horse and the Little Ponies Indian dance group. We also enjoyed trying to win an impressive array of items in the raffle and silent auction.
During the banquet, chairman Rick Bennett presented the 2006 Heritage Committee Award to retiree Kent Olson. He was recognized for his artistic work and support for conservation. As a field biologist, Kent Olson devoted much of his career from 1958 to 1990 establishing and preserving the prairie pothole landscapes of the Midwest, first as a management trainee at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, and the Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuges in Illinois. His later work in the River Basins Program created many of the productive waterfowl management areas we see today. It is, however, Kent's other passion, drawing cartoons that teach a conservation ethic, that many people recognize. For over 30 years his prolific illustrations appeared throughout the Fish and Wildlife Service, state game and fish publications and educational materials. From "greenheads to greenbacks" teaching the value of wildlife to farmers, to teaching generations of Americans about the National Wildlife Refuges with "A place to call home" his cartoons inspire and remind us that wildlife and wild places are our heritage.
On Thursday, the 143 people who took the bus trip to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge rated it a success. The refuge staff and its friends group did a great job in showing off the refuge and providing a delicious lunch for our retirees. That evening, ten adventurous retirees got a ride to the Fiesta’s Special Shapes Rodeo on Smokey Bear’s shiny red fire engine (balloon chase vehicle) and then helped inflate Oggy the Friendly Dragon and Air Bear. Others rode the Balloon Fiesta Park and Ride buses to watch how the special shaped balloons are inflated. On Friday morning, we had a very nice memorial service remembering those in the FWS family who had died within the past year, followed by a good group discussion on equality within the ranks.
See a group photo of the reunion attendees at 2006 Attendees
See the list of Registered Retirees and Guests at the 2006 Reunion
If you have photos or remembrances of this reunion, please contact us at web@FWSRetirees.org