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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Three Rivers Festival Director Jack Hammer at Headwaters Park.

Sunday, July 16, 2017 1:00 am

Couple grateful TRF chief went extra mile

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

The Three Rivers Festival is a great place for teenagers because they can walk around all day long and never tire.

When people get older, though, trudging around Headwaters Park for a few hours can get painful.

That's why, when I got a voicemail from a guy named Greg Kline, I thought, here we go, a guy complaining about how hard it is to get around the festival.

But he had a much different story.

Kline (he didn't leave a phone number so the voice message is all I have) had gone to the festival last week with his girlfriend, who has scoliosis and some other health problems.

But they decided to make the festival anyway, and slowly started to make their way from a parking lot on Harrison Street to the festival grounds.

Jack Hammer is the executive director of the festival, and he spends part of his days zipping around the festival on a John Deere Gator, a four-seat utility vehicle, doing whatever he does.

When asked about his routine, Hammer just says that every day when he leaves the house, he says, “Lord, put me where you want me.”

Well, on the day that Kline and his girlfriend decided to try to have some fun, Hammer found himself near that parking lot and happened to see them. The woman could barely walk.

So, Kline explained in his voicemail to me, Hammer came up to them, told them to hop in his little UTV and asked them where they were going.

For the next couple of hours Hammer drove the couple around. He took them to the Three Rivers Excursions on the west side of Headwaters and got the couple their tickets, and then volunteers helped get the woman on the pontoon boat for a cruise.

Later he drove them to the helicopter ride, and then to a couple of other activities nearby.

When they were done with their visit, Hammer drove them back to their car.

Kline, trying to express his gratitude, seemed to get a little bit emotional that they got such special treatment.

Hammer says he remembered the couple, but they aren't the only people who have been escorted around the festival.

The festival is full of volunteers, and that's their job, to help people out.

“So many volunteers have done the same thing,” Hammer said.

It took a little bit of courage for Kline and his girlfriend to come to the festival, Hammer said. So the pampering they got was just sort of a reward.

“We're a community festival,” Hammer said.

“If we can't be nice to people, we're going to have to change the name of the festival.”

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.