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Generations gather for a grand celebration

Thu., Aug. 30, 2012

Spokane Valley retirement center hosts event for residents, families

More than 200 hundred residents call Spokane Valley’s Orchard Crest Retirement Community home. Many of those residents are grandparents, great-grandparents and even great-great-grandparents. That’s why activities director Tami Cheyney each year organizes a special celebration just for them

Although Grandparents Day is traditionally celebrated in September, Cheyney chooses to hold Orchard Crest’s event at the end of August. “We had it in September one year and it rained,” she said.

No rain clouds threatened on Saturday. Instead, brilliant sunshine and blue skies provided a fitting backdrop to the country fair theme.

Four generations of Ella Tils’ family joined her for hamburgers and hot dogs under a sprawling canopy. The youngest member, 2-week-old Kiona Bauer, slept peacefully through most of the festivities.

And Cheyney had a full day planned for the residents and their guests. Activities included pony rides, apple bobbing, cherry spitting, face painting, a clown making balloon creations and music by The Steven King Duo.

Tom Okerstrom, 74, and Eleanor Heinemann, 85, didn’t have family visiting, but they found a couple of rocking chairs in the pavilion and sipped their coffee while listening to the music and watching the bustling activity. “We come out here, often” said Okerstrom, as a gentle breeze blew through the shaded sanctuary.

Nearby, the loud popping of balloons accompanied by the shouts and squeals of small children all but drowned out the music. A clown wearing a bright red wig deftly twisted balloons while a line of kids waited to snag a souvenir.

Ashlyn Wilson, 11, modeled a towering multi-colored balloon hat. Wilson was visiting her great-grandmother, Mercy Luebers.

Other kids showed off the results of time spent in the face-painting area. Tynon Butler, 11, had been transformed into a scary Darth Maul. His sister Tayla Butler, 7, went for the sweet Hello Kitty face. The children were visiting their great-grandfather, Cliff Ritz.

Gayle Sander brought her son, daughter and three grandchildren to visit her mother, Maxine Bledsoe. As the clan munched hot dogs at a picnic table, Christian Sander, 6, introduced his dad, Steve Sander. “He’s 84,” Christian said, seriously, with nary a twinkle in his eye.

“Hey!” shouted his dad.

While scores of folks snacked on watermelon slices and cotton candy, Orchard Crest resident Joy Phinney relished the sweetness of surprise.

Her granddaughter had driven from Boise just to share the day with her. “I was so surprised!” Phinney said. “I thought I was going to have a heart attack!”

Phinney had three grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren buzzing around her table.

Great-grandson Kyler Tess, 6, brandished two balloon swords and showed off a third balloon creation. “It’s a dragon,” he said.

Phinney laughed and said, “This is so much fun!”

Then her two tiny great-granddaughters clambered up on chairs to deliver kisses.

“Oh my,” Phinney said. “I am well-blessed.”


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