Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

May 6, 2013

BUSINESS CONFIDENTIAL: In Jacksonville, the month of May will pack a powerful punch to your business calendar

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — If the months of May and June were movie stars, they probably would be action heros such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Bruce Willis — possibly even Sylvester Stallone.

Both months, after all, are crammed full of Jacksonville and Cherokee County goodness.

For instance, there's Byron Underwood, president of the rodeo association, who is speaking locally and enthusiastically about our this month's TOPS in Texas rodeo — which pretty much spotlights the town's own local action stars.

As this column was being written Wednesday, Underwood was slated to speak about the rodeo at a Kiwanis meeting at Lupe's Mexican restaurant.

The TOPS In Texas rodeo, now in its 51st year, takes place May 15 through May 18.

There's a bit of a saga that comes along with the rodeo this year.

Consider it Jacksonville's own little action movie — with an interesting and suspenseful plot:

• The rodeo grounds were only recently recovered from bankrupt Lon Morris College by city of Jacksonville officials — who had deeded the rodeo grounds to Lon Morris College with specific considerations in April 2009.

• After Lon Morris declared bankruptcy, doubt was cast about the future of the rodeo. Officials with auctioneer company Ameribid accidentally sold the rodeo grounds and related city property to a high bidder during a January auction, then passed the problem on to federal bankruptcy judge rather than correct the mistake themselves.

• But. The judge ultimately returned the property to the city after Jacksonville's own action stars — Mo Raissi, city manager, and Joe Angle, city attorney — specifically intervened.

However, all that drama is now in the past, officials say. All the necessary contracts have been signed, and the rodeo is full speed ahead, according to Underwood.

More detail on this month's rodeo can be found at http://www.topsintexasrodeo.com.


This "former Lon Morris College employees not being paid their final wages" issue has dragged on for quite awhile. And it's still dragging.

There's a new wrinkle, though: Dawn Ragan, the Plan Agent for the LMC bankruptcy estate (overseeing final liquidation) has posted a message to unpaid employees on the LMC website, http://www.beabearcat.com:

“Employee wage claims are expected to be satisfied when the Debtor receives funds coming from two foundations in settlement of certain litigation,” Ragan wrote. “The Debtor and the foundations have agreed to a settlement that will provide those funds for the purpose of paying allowed employee wage claims once the Texas Attorney General has approved the settlement and so advised the foundations. Until such time as the foundations have received this approval, they are unable to remit the funds to the Debtor.

“We are hopeful the settlement and approval will be forthcoming in the very near term. Accordingly, Debbie Hamilton, the former controller, will be attempting to contact each employee to verify amounts owed and prepare for distribution,” Ragan wrote.

The Texas Attorney General's Office declined to comment on Ragan's post Wednesday.

And the beat goes on ...


We at the Jacksonville Daily Progress are still looking for data regarding former Jacksonville Tomato Festival Queens — names, numbers and information regarding as many as possible of these champions who came after Billye Sue Hackney of 1934 and Violette Slaton of 1935.

We're hoping to start reporting and writing on this topic in earnest in the next couple of weeks. So please write in now.

Tomato Fest Officials are looking to revive the queen position this year. In 1937, the contest attracted applicants from as many as  55 cities. Tomato Fest chairman Robin Butt has gone as far as to say he hopes it can serve as an eventual lead-in to the Miss Texas Contest.

Anyone with information can contact the Jacksonville Daily Progress at btinsley@jacksonville-progress.com.


Another hugely-anticipated event, the 29th-annual Tomato Fest is fast approaching on June 8!

Speaking of which, how about a tomato showdown? Commercial growers and backyarders  are being asked to demonstrate tomato growing skills during the event.

“Categories for this year include bragging rights for both large scale operations and individuals,” according to a release from the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. “The winner of each category will be awarded $75. The Best Homegrown Tomato Contest is a part of the Jacksonville Tomato Fest and is sponsored by East Texas Medical Center of Jacksonville.”

 Entries will be accepted inside the Norman Activity Center between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 8.

For additional information and entry form, please call the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce at 903-586-2217 or check out the website at www.jacksonvilletexas.com