Rangely’s Crab Crack is crack event in community

BurkheadImageUseThisOneOn Rangely’s social calendar for the year, there are several major events, including Septemberfest, Holidayfest, the Fourth of July fireworks at Kenney Reservoir and the college’s annual foundation dinner.
But at or near the top of the list is the Crab Crack.
The annual chamber of commerce event will be held Saturday in the banquet room of the Weiss Activity Center on the campus of Colorado Northwestern Community College.
“It’s one of the community highlights,” said Peggy Rector, who is involved with the event.
The Crab Crack, where, in addition to a meal of all-you-can-eat crab legs, the chamber of commerce recognizes its business of the year and volunteer or volunteers of the year — and sometimes educator of the year — continues to grow in popularity.
“I added 48 more seats this year, and we sold out tickets in a week and a half,” said Rector, who serves on the chamber’s board of directors. “We’re at capacity for the room. We’re at 252 people, and that’s all we can serve.”
The exact year the Crab Crack was started is uncertain, but it used to be the event was held at the Chevron Rec Hall and chamber members did some of the cooking themselves and the owners of a local restaurant, Ace Hi Steakhouse and Lounge, cooked the crab.
“They could seat only so many people, but even crowded it was fun,” Rector said. “However, we outgrew the Chevron hall many years ago. We checked into other places, but the growth of the event made the only place possible (to accommodate the event) at the college. It continues to be a lot of fun.”
Now, the cooking of the crab is done by James Stinson, the dining services manager for Sodexo, which provides food service for the college, and his staff.
“He was gracious enough to help put the first big Crab Crack together since we all were in the learning process with such a larger crowd and figuring out how much crab,” Rector said of Stinson.
Along with the chamber and the college, including CNCC president John Boyd, Becky Dubbert and Denise Wade, the event is a communitywide project.
“This takes a real community effort,” Rector said. “Bill Hume (owner of Nichols Store) picks the crab up and stores it in his freezer until the college is ready for it. It’s just a number of people pulling together, and that’s how it started.”
Lance Stewart, former town manager and business owner, was involved in the early days of the Crab Crack, as was June Striegel and her daughter, Teri Wilczek, as well as Matt Scoggins, a former chamber president.
“It just kind of materialized,” Striegel said. “Somebody suggested a crab crack. They might have gone to one somewhere else. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a crab season, but it’s now. That’s why they can get it at a reasonable price.”
“I wasn’t involved with the very earliest ones,” Wilczek said. “I got involved in ’95 or somewhere in there. But it’s something they had done in the past. It was always called the Crab Crack. It wasn’t very big at first. When I was involved, Ace Hi did the cooking and we did all the serving.”
“Actually, it has some prior history, and it had died away,” Scoggins said. “I think someone said they had had it in years past. They seem to have fine tuned it and made it a bigger event.”
Rangely’s Crab Crack, traditionally held around Valentine’s Day, is a welcome respite from the winter blahs.
“It’s a wonderful event,” Rector said. “It is great to have this time of year, and especially with the winter we have had. It’s just a time to have a little fun, and you bet we do that.”
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Entertainment for the Crab Crack will be provided by Buffalo Joe.
His real name is Joe Sears and he’s the CNCC criminal justice-academy coordinator.
“He has performed at everything from the CNCC Foundation Board retreat to a regular night session at the bar at Betty’s Cafe,” said Becky Dubbert, executive assistant/marketing director for the college.
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Vicki Cross and her husband, Phil, general managers of the Meeker Hotel and Cafe, sponsored a benefit dinner Feb. 2 for the Martin family.
Phil and his kitchen staff did the cooking, while Vicki and her crew waited tables. The event was a big hit, as the cafe sold out and people had to be turned away.
“Wow, what a turnout,” Vicki Cross said. “That was great. We served between 150 and 170 people. It was hard to know what to plan for, being a bit new to the community and planning it in about a week’s time. We asked some locals for advice and it was suggested to plan for 100 to 150 and maybe more. So, it exceeded our expectation when we ran out of chicken dinners by 6:30.
“The community came in groups to show their support,” Vicki Cross said. “We had people requesting a reservation days in advance for the dinner and others contributed to a cash jar for the week leading up (to the event). Radio Shack donated the printing of the fliers. Watt’s (Ranch) Market also donated a sheet cake to the event that people donated $1 a slice to enjoy. Just the cash and cake donation jar held $755.11. This speaks volumes about the community. When tragic things happen to people like the Martin family, one feels so helpless, but together we make a difference.”
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Rangely School Board continues to consider the possibility of switching to a four-day school week. Another public forum about the issue was held Monday night.
In light of budget challenges facing school districts, Meeker School Board, which went with a four-day school week in the early 1990s before switching back to a five-day week, is also studying the issue.
“It is being considered at a time when we are going to have to cut staff,” Meeker superintendent Doug Pfau said. “In order to preserve staff, we need to consider anything that saves us from cutting.”
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At last week’s Meeker School Board meeting, members gave approval for sixth-graders to wrestle — or compete in other sports — at Barone Middle School.
“If we have 16 or fewer wrestlers,” said superintendent Pfau. “The other sports that require 24 (or fewer seventh- and eighth-grade participants in order for sixth-graders to move up) are basketball, football and volleyball.”
Jim Hanks, principal at Barone Middle School, said, “The whole point is to just make sure we have enough kids participating. It’s kind of an emergency, stop-gap thing. I don’t see it happening (sixth-graders moving up to participate with seventh- and eighth-graders), just because our numbers have been so good. Wrestling has been down, but last week we had 25 kids show interest in seventh and eighth grade.”
Hanks added that, in the event sixth-graders were allowed to move up, they would “participate at a level appropriate for them.”
Asked if he had received any response to the policy change, Hanks said, “I haven’t heard anything from parents.”
At Rangely Junior/Senior High, principal Rob Winn said, “We are now allowing sixth-grade students to play up on the seventh-grade sports teams.”
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Local elections are beginning to generate some interest.
“As of Feb. 2, two people have filed to run for county commissioner, District 1 (Joe Collins’ district),” said county clerk Nancy Amick. “Wendy Gutierrez and Pat Hughes. A third person filed initially (Ginny Love), but she has withdrawn.”
Collins has indicated he won’t seek reelection to the three-member Board of County Commissioners.
“The county is divided into three commissioner districts, and District 1 is the middle district,” Amick said. “It encompasses the center section of the county and portions of Meeker and portions of Rangely.”
Amick said filing deadlines vary depending upon the process selected by a candidate.
“If a candidate chooses the party petition process, the petition must be filed by May 27. An independent candidate petition must be filed by June 15.”
Amick said all county offices are up for this election, with the exception of Commissioner Districts 2 and 3, occupied by Ken Parsons of Rangely and Kai Turner of Meeker.
“The election will include Commissioner District I, clerk, assessor, treasurer, sheriff, surveyor and coroner — along with a number of federal offices, state representative, state treasurer, secretary of state, etc.,” Amick said.
So far, incumbents Amick, Karen Arnold (county treasurer), Renae Neilson (assessor) and Si Woodruff (sheriff) have filed.
Neil Joy has filed for county surveyor, while three people have filed for county coroner — Robin Baughman, Sherri Halandras and Dr. Albert Krueger.
“I’ve not seen that (much interest in the coroner’s position) since I’ve been working in this office,” said Amick, who has been county clerk since 1991.
All of the candidates who have filed so far for the county election are Republicans.
The date of the primary election is Aug. 10, while the general election will be Nov. 2. Municipal elections, such as town boards in Meeker and Rangely, will be April 6, while special district elections, such as Rangely District Hospital’s bond initiative for a new hospital, will be May 4.
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More than 100 people turned out for the ERBM Recreation and Park District’s Family Ice Fishing Derby on Jan. 30, with help from the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
“We had several people catch nice-looking fish,” said Nicole Dupire of the recreation and park district. “We had a great day of ice fishing. The weather was beautiful.”
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ERBM’s “Membership Blitz” was a big hit, said director Scott Pierson.
“We had a little over 400 people sign up during the membership campaign in early January,” Pierson said. “We’re very impressed with the dedication the community has shown toward recreation. Now, our goal will be to meet the needs of our patrons with expanded offerings and new events.
“We’re also looking at pulling together a newsletter with some of the other entities in town that provide opportunities for older adults.
That seems to be a market that we haven’t emphasized to a large degree in the past. We’ve already started a tai chi class in January, which meets twice a week. We’ve consistently had around 10 people attending the class. A great start, but I know we can do better.”
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Quorum Health Resources (QHR), the hospital management company for Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker, is in the process of interviewing for an interim CEO.
QHR has also started the process of finding a permanent chief executive officer for the hospital, to replace Bob Omer, whose resignation was announced Jan. 22. Omer resigned “to pursue other opportunities in health care management,” according to the statement released by the hospital.
“Bob has indicated he will stay until the end of this month,” said Kris Borchard, chairwoman of the hospital’s board of directors. “QHR states we will have an interim before he leaves.”
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Last week, a medical journal retracted a flawed study linking the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism.
“I think early on that the study was a huge factor in parents not immunizing their kids,” said Kim Long, Rio Blanco County Health Department director. “It was the first real medical link to anything as a cause for the disorder. The study was published in 1998 and linked autism primarily to the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. From there, additional theories were developed, one linking autism to a preservative called thermiasol that was used in many vaccines. In 2001, thermiasol was pulled from all vaccines, with the exception of multi-dose flu vaccine vials. Still, autism rates continue to grow. I hope the retraction of this study will help change the minds of a new generation of parents. I don’t know how much this will change things … many parents believe that vaccines cause autism. That’s what they have heard, so that’s what they believe.
“The health department’s stance is that there is no link between childhood immunizations and autism. That has been our stance since before this study was retracted. In areas that have low rates of childhood vaccination we are starting to see illnesses that were once thought to be nearly eradicated coming back, these include polio and measles.”
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Congratulations to members of the Rangely National Honor Society for collecting toys that were then donated to the Rangely District Hospital. NHS members are Audrey Hogan and Sheina Fehrn, co-presidents; Eric Sisneros, treasurer; Cole Barlow, secretary; and Justin Prosser, Torie Slagle, Logan Stewart and Roz Thacker. Rangely businesses and residents generously donated the toys.
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In rural areas, such as Rio Blanco County, residents will have their census questionnaire delivered in person — by census workers — to their home, beginning March 1 and going through March 30.
“… we were notified last week that census workers will be going door to door in the Meeker and Rangely areas, including rural areas,” said Becky Niemi, administrative assistant for the town of Meeker. “They will not mail out the 2010 census forms as we were previously told.”
A couple of facts about census workers: They never ask for money, and they will always wear an official identification badge.
Also, typically, an advance letter is sent to the household before census workers show up in person.
Make sure you’re counted.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.