Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

March 18, 2011

A Golden Evening
The Sedona Westerners Celebrate 50 years


by Pat Witteman

The February 10th monthly meeting of the Sedona Westerners marked a significant anniversary for this oldest of Sedona’s social clubs. Formally established on February 2, 1961 with twelve charter members, the Sedona Westerners club grew out of a small group of Sedona residents who were lovers of horses and all things western. The membership quickly grew to 39 and active recruiting had begun. Meetings were usually small and the programs might include guitar music or a slide show. The earliest meetings were held in the County Building, commonly known as the Sedona Jailhouse, located on Forest Road.

After fifty years, many things have changed. Today there are over 300 members. Meetings can be attended by 100 or more and are held at the Jewish Community Center on the second Thursday of the month. And although horses no longer have a role in the club, the members do love Western clothing and are encouraged to wear their Western duds to the meetings. Thanks to former member Bob Fuege, the history of the Westerners has been preserved on the club’s web site.

Past Trail Bosses: Left to Right, Marge Herkenham, Louise Gelotte, Tom Arni, Keran O'Brien, Norm Taylor, Al VanderPeut, Jim Tanis, Liz Sweeney, Len Ostrom, Olga Ostrom. Photo by Dorothy O'Brien.

On this February evening, over 120 members had gathered to celebrate fifty years of shared fellowship and memories of good times hiking the beautiful trails of Sedona. A Westerner tradition is to assign cowboy names to the various officers and other volunteer positions in the club. Trail Boss (President) George Witteman welcomed everyone and after a few announcements and an abbreviated business meeting, he began the festivities.

First on the agenda was a historical slide presentation, produced by Old-Timer (Historian) Gini O’Brien and her husband, Point-Rider (Web site Consultant) Jim O’Brien. Gini has been the club historian for many years, collecting photographs from Westerner cookouts, hikes, and holiday parties and preserving them in scrapbooks. With husband Jim’s computer skills, they created a memorable 20 minute slide show that was thoroughly enjoyed and much appreciated by the viewers.

Food is a highlight of all Westerner gatherings. Whether its cookies on the trail, hamburgers and beans at the cookouts, or ice cream and cake for special occasions, Westerner events are known for their good grub. Chuckwagon Boss (refreshment coordinator) Sandy Krywucki and Wagon Boss (Program Coordinator) Walter Krywucki put on a spread equal to the occasion: beautifully decorated cakes, ice cream with golden sprinkles and chocolates wrapped in gold foil, as nice to look at as it was good to eat.

The highlight of the evening was the panel of past Trail Bosses called the “Trail Boss Rendezvous”. Seated at the front of the room, eighteen past presidents regaled the listeners with stories that were humorous, historically interesting and sometimes sad. It was noteworthy that not everyone on the panel of Trail Bosses was male. The first woman Trail Boss, Marge Herkenham was present, along with three more women who have been elected president.

Each Trail Boss gave a five minute account of special events that highlighted their year as club president. As each Trail Boss spoke, the developing history of the Westerners unfolded. For almost ninety minutes the stories abounded, recalling the days before cell phones, GPS and the internet, when hike cancellations were announced on the radio, and hikes were scheduled for every other Saturday for unlimited numbers of hikers who would sometimes show up with their dogs. Trail Bosses recalled the club working with the Forest Service over the years to install metal trail head markers and bronze plaques, most still in evidence today, assisting in a rescue search, and developing the Memorandum of Understanding that serves as a guideline for the club.

Laughter frequently erupted as the panel told hilarious stories of incidents taking place on hikes. To insure these stories won’t be forgotten, Trail Boss Witteman arranged to have the evening videotaped. Perhaps in another fifty years events of this celebration will be enjoyed by a new group of Sedona Westerners. The Westerners are justifiably proud of the history of their club and the evening was a wonderful celebration of their fifty year history.

The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining the club, log onto our website: You may also join by attending the next monthly meeting, which will be held on Thursday, April 14th; at 7 pm. Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley Center, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.