The RAF Razorback Rendezvous, an every-other-year event, is designed to bring State Liaisons, key volunteers, and interested stakeholders together to educate and inspire the mission of the RAF.  This year’s conference was held in Bentonville, Arkansas May 12-14. The Rendezvous was jam-packed with a score of presentations, Q&A, breakout sessions, networking and socializing. Over 100 folks attended, including RAF State Liaisons coming from as far away as Maine and Washington State. The entire RAF board met formally afterward.

AOPA’s Mark Baker gave a state-of-GA summary and acknowledged the RAF for keeping the recreational sector strong. Mike Van Abel from the International Mountain Bicycling Assoc. spoke of their challenges and successes retaining recreational access for mountain bikers. The RAF Safety and Education committee updated the group on training opportunities. Crystal Merica, Dispersed Recreation Program Manager for the U. S. Forest Service, participated in the three day conference and afterward said, “The RAF welcomed me into your wonderful ‘family’ and I am grateful for the opportunity to carry back to our USFS people the passion and concern for aviation on our National Forest System. I am looking forward to a long partnership with RAF. I left with a renewed sense of purpose and drive to move backcountry aviation forward in the agency.”

Spouses enjoyed local field trips to the world-class Crystal Bridges Art Museum, Sam Walton’s original “5 and Dime,” and the very walkable town square, centered around a statue of a Confederate general. Some enjoyed bicycling on the gorgeous trails that thread throughout the region, just part of the outdoor recreation that Bentonville provides.

The “Wind Beneath My Wings” award was given to Montana State Liaison Ron Normandeau and Michigan State Liaison Brad Frederick for their work in those states.  The prestigious Golden Pulaski Award was awarded to Mark Spencer for his continued work in Arizona, as well as his national efforts with the U. S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Chandler said, “All that attended had a great time and left with new knowledge as well as better connections within the RAF community.”

The RAF wishes to thank Randy Lervold and John Whitish of Cubcrafters, Todd Simmons of Cirrus Aircraft and Stu Horn of Aviat Husky for their generous support of the event. The Walton Foundation and the City of Bentonville provided local support.

Submitted on May 26, 2016.

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