Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
The Sept. 11, dawn brought sunshine and blue skies for Meeker Cooperative's Member Appreciation Day and 75th Anniversary celebration. The Nelson Farm southwest of Litchfield buzzed with activity in preparation for the more than 1,500 members and families soon to come. Touchstone Energy hot air balloon pilot Dave Champion, CEO of Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, Paxton, Illinois, had been watching radar and weather forecasts and although skies were clear, winds were in excess of the 8 mph limit to inflate the Touchstone Energy balloon that was going to be one of the highlights of the day. That didn't seem to dampen the members' enthusiasm for the celebration, however. Nelson Farm provided dozens of activities to keep kids and parents entertained. Meeker Cooperative provided a free meal of grilled hamburgers or hotdogs, chips and a cookie and mini donuts. Members also had the opportunity to participate in games played during the electric Cooperative's dedication picnic in 1936 with cash prizes or electric bill credits awarded to the winners.
During the day, Operation Round Up- distributed $9,625 in grant money to charitable organizations within Meeker Cooperative's service area that had applied and been selected by the Electric Trust Board. The grant money was donated by Meeker Cooperative members who chose to round up their electric bill, and by employees who chose to round down their paychecks. Additional money was raised during Member Appreciation Day by selling helium balloons that could be released into the air. Members' whose balloons are found will be eligible for a prize.
Early the following morning, winds were favorable enough to inflate the Touchstone Energy balloon. This was great news to Cindy Knutson and daughter Katelyn of rural Watkins, who had won a member drawing for a one-hour balloon ride. During the ride, balloon pilot Champion floated the balloon over the Nelson Farm corn maze, which was designed in the shape of Willie Wiredhand, the official mascot of national rural electric cooperatives. A photo of the crossing was captured by Champion's wife, Dij, who was suspended above the maze in a helicopter piloted by Litchfield local Del Dammann. "It was amazing, the ride of a lifetime," said Cindy. "Awesome! I wasn't afraid at all," said Katelyn.
"It was great to see so many smiling faces at Nelson Farm," said Tim Mergen, Meeker Cooperative's CEO/General Manager. "The Co-op's Member Appreciation Day is always a fun event for the Co-op's employees and directors to host. Adding games that were played at the Co-op's dedication picnic in 1936 really added to this year's event."