By Tonya Garner: CNJ Staff Writer
Thousands of residents, young and old, assembled at Saturday’s event at the Clovis Civic Center to celebrate the new Special Operations mission for Cannon Air Force Base.
As numerous American flags waved in the light breeze, residents sought shade under awnings to enjoy free refreshments and live music.
The patriotic atmosphere was evident, as attendees arrived dressed in red, white and blue.
Skip Runquist, an Air Force retiree, casually lounged against the back wall of the civic center ballroom awaiting the arrival of the dignitaries scheduled to speak. Proudly wearing the American flag in the form of a button-down, short-sleeved shirt, Runquist said he attended the celebration because it was a “big event.”
Beside him stood his wife, Robbyn Runquist, and their 18-year-old daughter, Alyssa Runquist.
Robbyn Runquist said her family is originally from Amarillo, so being based at Cannon Air Force Base was ideal because of its proximity to their hometown.
“We’ve been here four years,” she said, “and we love it.”
“When we got here we were immediately accepted by the community,” Skip Runquist said. “Clovis deserves the new mission.”
Shana Weathers joined in the festivities to celebrate a new-found sense of job security. The Clovis resident is employed by the Caprock Inn located at Cannon.
“I was worried,” Weathers said. “It was an iffy situation.”
First Christian Church Pastor Jon Forrest, who attended the celebration with his wife, Cheryl Forrest, said he sees the new mission as an opportunity to share Christ.
“I think it (new mission) is wonderful because maybe there will be more people in church,” Jon Forrest said.
Cheryl Forrest said she was thrilled when she heard of the new mission. She is a secretary at Ranchvale Elementary where many military children attend school.
“I am so happy I will be seeing those kids in school again this year,” she said.
Dressed in a red shirt, Vivian Cabrera said she came to listen to the music, but was also celebrating the reason for the event as well.
“I think it (new mission) is great,” Cabrera said, “I was excited. I think it will be a real opportunity for Clovis to grow.”
Richard Powers of Clovis agreed. “I’m glad it’s (Special Ops) here,” Powers said, “because this town needs it to stay alive.”
Other residents said they attended the event to socialize with their neighbors, enjoy the food and entertainment, and try to win a raffle prize.
Four-year-old Caitlyn Townsend sat under an awning with her grandmother, Roberta Townsend. The younger Townsend’s mustard-rimmed mouth wrapped around a hot dog as her doting grandmother straightened the flag-themed bow in her blond hair.
“She (Caitlyn) loves music so I thought she would have fun,” Roberta Townsend said. “Plus I want to win that truck,” she said, referring to one of the raffle prizes.