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For the past 36 years, the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame (CSHOF) has stayed true to a mission of honoring and preserving sports history in Chautauqua County. This year is no different. On Monday, Feb. 20, the CSHOF will hold its annual induction banquet and instate its biggest class of athletes yet: 11 men and women from across the county who have made lifetime contributions to sports. The dinner, which is sold out for the fifth year in a row, will take place at 5:00 p.m. at the Lakewood Rod and Gun Club.
Different from previous years, this year’s banquet will not feature a keynote speaker. In the past, the CSHOF has hosted such speakers as Don Beebe of Buffalo Bills fame and Sharon Robinson, daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. The decision to nix a keynote speech was the result of a jam-packed banquet schedule.
“We’re inducting a larger class than normal, and time becomes an issue,” said Randy Anderson, CSHOF President. “In order to make time for the inductees, we’ve decided to do away with the keynote speaker.”
Not only will the CSHOF be honoring 11 inductees – when the organization has never inducted more than nine athletes at a time – it will also be recognizing 41 honorees, as well as awarding six brand new legacy awards. The honorees are high school, collegiate, and community teams and individuals who have made significant athletic accomplishments in the last year. The legacy awards, on the other hand, are specific accolades backed by CSHOF sponsors. They are new this year, created as a fundraising effort to secure the future of the CSHOF.
“As some of us [board members] get older, we’re starting to be concerned about the long-term sustainability of this organization,” Anderson said. “At some point, we’re not going to be here, but we want the organization to be here…so we gave donors the option to purchase naming rights to legacy awards. The Hall of Fame, working together with the donors, has identified the winners of these legacy awards. We’re really excited about them.”
The selection process for inductees, honorees, and legacy awards began back in September. The 30 members of the CSHOF’s Board of Directors spent months narrowing down 140 inductee nominations submitted by the public. There were a couple of criteria board members looked for among nominees: they must have been born in, lived in, or played sports in Chautauqua County, and they must have made a lifetime commitment to sports, whether that was through playing, coaching, refereeing, or volunteering.
“We’re not overly impressed by short careers in sports…like an athlete who was good in high school but then never did anything else,” Anderson said. “We’re impressed by people who were successful and then went on to make lifetime contributions to sports.”
Anderson also explained that diversity is very important to the CSHOF. Board members feel a responsibility to represent an entire spectrum of sports, female athletes as well as male, and all the towns in the county, not just the metropolitan areas of Jamestown and Dunkirk. This is evidenced by their diverse 2017 inductee class: it features one woman, Deb Palmer, and an athlete whose sport is new to the CSHOF, bow hunter Jake Ensign.
“We recognize that there are great athletes that live in all parts of Chautauqua County,” Anderson said. “The number of inductee nominations we receive each year keeps growing. There’s just something about this county that is really into sports. They’re important to people. That’s why I think we’ve been so successful.”
Read on to learn about the lives and accomplishments of this year’s CSHOF inductees.