Citing threats, backer bows out of games


News staff writer

April 19

One by one the event organizers straggled onto White Salmon's Jewett Street sidewalk in front of a vacant office building where Columbia Gorge Summer Games director Keith Liggett had been waiting for them.

And one by one, Liggett told them Monday, the games weren't going to happen. John Gotts, the man who had sparked the idea with a promise of $50,000 in cash prizes a month ago, was abandoning the entire concept.

No more meetings. No more sandwiches. No more money.

But why? they asked solemnly.

“Threats,” Liggett replied. “John (Gotts) was physically threatened last week. He called me on Wednesday and he was freaked. He was truly freaked.”

Who? Who would do such a thing?

Liggett shook his head.

Last Wednesday, Gotts had called several people, including the Hood River News, claiming someone had physically threatened him through a phone call. He did not call the police.

“One call told me I should watch my back,” he said later. “That if I think I can steal the games away, I should watch my back. I couldn't believe I had just been threatened. Physically threatened. They'd (the calls) go all day long. All day long.”

At the height of it, Gotts said he was getting a call every half-hour, nearly all with their caller identification blocked.

Gotts said he made his decision then to abandon the games.

But he'd keep the White Salmon office on Jewett so that if the event organizers decided to pursue it, they'd have a common meeting area. And he made a cryptic promise.

“If they want to knock on my door later, treat me like every other person on the block, maybe I'll donate, maybe I won't, Gotts said. If I do, it'll be anonymous. Nobody will know. That's if I decide to donate.”

The event organizers filed into the rental-white walls and unlit ceiling of the office building Gotts had rented weeks earlier. They set up lawn chairs in a semi-circle when four of the total seven event organizers had gathered there a quorum.

They talked about what to do next.

Liggett said he had been trying to figure out a way to make the games work in the absence of Gotts and his money since Gotts first called him about the threats.

He called the GOHO board, looking for financial support. He pleaded to businesses in White Salmon, Stevenson, Hood River.

But he's had no luck.

“Unless somebody comes to me with a huge chunk of change to go forward, it's done,” he said.

He's figured it'll cost at least $30,000 to $40,000 for the bare minimum.

Before he can pay for the $1,000-permit for the windsurfing event at the Hatchery, for example, he'll first have to find $5,000 to $6,000 for insurance. That's just one event.

“I can't understand why Hood River can't get it together when Cascade Locks and Stevenson put together sustainable, nationally-ranked events that started as part of Gorge Games,” Liggett said.

The event organizers have already invested too much to hear their efforts won't amount to anything.

To prevent that, Shane Gibson and Kathleen O'Neill, owners of Wicked Adventure Racing, announced they have decided to pursue their multi-sport, team event race on July 16 at Beacon Rock independently. They have a Web site:

Emma Pfister, event organizer for the mountain biking event, had been working on her respective event since March. She had planned on searching for a competition spot in the Gorge last Sunday with two Mountain View employees. But she found out on Saturday the games might never materialize.

“I heard we had no more sponsorship for the event,” she said. “No award or monthly salary.”

But, she says, they're still going to put together an event. It might attract only a handful of local riders. It won't offer any prize money. And the entry fees could be steep.

But they're going to pursue it, she says.

Gail Zaccai, kiteboarding event organizer, is sitting in a lawnchair next to the only window in the office. A blind is covering it.

Maybe, she says, we can still have a kiteboarding event too. Potential sponsors have been calling her, asking how they can help. Maybe she can put it together.

By the end of the meeting, those five event organizers had decided to pursue a series of events for the July weekend of the 16-17.

We're going to do a very informal games where every event is responsible for its own permits, Liggett said later. We're going to put up a Web site ( and we're going to list what's going to happen in the Gorge.

The idea is to build it for next year. Always next year.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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