Once a Rhino, always a Rhino.
In its 18th year, this is the first year many longtime members of the Chingawassa Days planning committee are no longer involved in the grand scheme of the festival.
However, some former members wanted to remain involved in the event as more than just spectators, so they volunteered to plan, produce, and host a new event on the first night of this year’s festival.
The group calls itself the “Retired Rhino Committee.”
“We should actually be called the ‘Tired Rhinos,’” member Mike Powers quipped. “We know how many hundreds of hours go into planning Chinga.”
A self-proclaimed “compulsive organizer,” Powers has helped orchestrate Chingawassa Days since before it started in 1997.
In past years, Chinga planning meetings typically started in August and got progressively more frequent and intense leading up to the June outdoor event.
“Meetings were two or three hours long — monthly, then weekly, then daily, the closer we got to it,” Powers said. “With all the hours we spent planning, it was like we literally abandoned our spouses. Being a ‘Tired Rhino’ doesn’t even compare. It’s much more informal.”
While he doesn’t miss the excessive hours spent planning, nail-biting pressure and stress of selling tickets, or nervous nights spent worrying about bad weather, he noted the Retired Rhinos all seemed to miss each other’s company.
“We became pretty good friends,” he said. “Not being part of the committee anymore, we weren’t seeing each other as often.”
After serving on the Chinga planning committee over 10 years, Retired Rhino Paige Brunner echoed Powers’ sentiments.
“We had so much fun. I just wasn’t ready to not be involved anymore,” Brunner said. “We’ll probably be doing this until the end of time. We all have our own little niche, and we just work so well together.”
Retired Rhino Chris Meierhoff served eight years. He said leaving was “a little like going cold turkey,” because many members had become a lot like family.
As a way to remain social with each other and stay involved in the festival, only on a lesser level, the Retired Rhinos decided it would be fun to plan a new event for Chingawassa Days called the “Newlywed Game”.
There are still some kinks to work out, including which one of them will act as game show host, but the basic framework of their version of the game has taken shape.
“It’s based off the old TV show by the same name, but we are going to change it a little bit,” Powers said.
The premise of the TV show was that four newlywed couples who had all been married under a year were each separated, after which they were asked questions about their spouses while the other could not hear.
“The fun came in the answers and seeing how well they really knew each other,” Powers said. “Points were scored on how well the couple’s answers matched up.”
In the Retired Rhino version of the game , there will be three age groups with three couples competing in each age group.
The first round will be composed of couples who have been married for fewer than five years. The second round will be couples who have been married more than five but fewer than 20 years. The third round will feature couples married for more than 20 years.
“In the final round, the three champions from each age group will face off against one another,” Powers said. “It will be fun to see if age and length of time married really makes a difference in the winner.”
Stepping back, Powers said he and the “Retired Rhinos” have been pleased with how the current planning committee is handling the event.
To avoid any conflicts with funding the overall festival, the Retired Rhinos also each put money toward the Newlywed Game.
Members include Powers and wife Judy, Chris Costello and Brunner, Christian and Stacey Pedersen, Darla Gore, Pat and Jandee Moore, Gary and Lisa Suderman, Jake and Jessie Wiebe, and Meierhoff and his wife Kathy.