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With warm weather, attendees at the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) picnic July 15 enjoy their meals in the open area in front of the Bancroft Park pavilion (background), where the food was being barbecued and served. The tables and chairs were lent for the occasion by the Council of Neighbors and Organizations.
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Annual OWN picnic in Bancroft provides festive time for mayor, Westsiders

Colorado Spring Mayor John Suthers (right) and City Councilmember Don Knight (center) talk with a citizen during the OWN picnic.
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July 22, 2018
       Held in Bancroft Park for a second straight year, the 18th annual Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) picnic drew an estimated 150 attendees over its two-hour span July 15.
       Among those on hand were Mayor John Suthers, City Councilmembers Don Knight and Tom Strand, and County Assessor Steve Schleiker.
       Holding a plate with a hotdog and sides, Suthers remarked that he appreciated the chance to come to Bancroft Park for the first time since the city spent about $200,000 to fix and upgrade the bandshell following the January 2017 fire. “It's the first time I've seen it since it was renovated,” he said.
       Unlike some years, the weather cooperated, allowing people to eat in the open. OWN President James Thompson said he was impressed with the turnout - which is roughly the same as in previous years - and thanked the more than 15 businesses that supported the picnic, either by providing culinary side dishes or items for the raffle.
Lynn Lucero of the Westside's Edward Jones office tries out one of the balloons the financial agency was handing out from its booth at the OWN picnic.
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Also helping out was the city's Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO), which helped with liability insurance for the park and lent tables and chairs. Entertainment included area guitarist John Spengler on the bandshell stage and face-painter Stephanie Adams.
       OWN has represented the Westside since 1978, but without city funding assistance since 2014. Past efforts have included helping locate city public improvements, facilitating publication of the Historic Westside Design Guidelines, reviewing development proposals and researching citizen questions.
       To help defray its ongoing costs, the volunteer advocacy group charged a fee for the barbecue (hamburgers as well as hotdogs) and side dishes for the second year. (Technically, it was the first year, but the fee in 2017 was advertised as a donation.) About $670 was raised, according to OWN Vice President Sara Vaas.
       A current OWN advocacy effort is urging El Paso County “to pass the same ordinance as the city did” disallowing camping within 100 feet of waterways, according to OWN board member Linda Schlarb. This would especially help businesses and residences in areas that have not been annexed into the city along the Colorado Avenue corridor west of 33rd Street, she explained.
       For more information on OWN, the Facebook page is under the full name - Organization of Westside Neighbors.
The board members of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) sit for a photo during the group's annual town hall at a local restaurant/tavern in March. They are (from left and around the table) Liz Gorman, Kathy Zehringer, Justin Stokes (secretary), Chad White (treasurer), Linda Schlarb, Jacquie Schlarb, Jim Thompson (president), Sara Vass (vice president) and Maren McDowell. All but Jacquie Schlarb, who stepped down after the July picnic (she's studying for her master's in nursing and working in a hospital) are still on the board.
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LEFT: Bonnie Lapora, an OWN board member since 2015, holds up appreciative notes from fellow board members after stepping down at the group's annual town hall meeting in March. She's also the long-time leader for the Grandview neighborhood west of 31st Street. RIGHT: Guitarist John Spengler performs on the bandshell stage at the OWN picnic July 15 in Bancroft Park.
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