A little bit about a lot of things:

•  Special event Sunday morning in Gustine, where the Shrine of Our Lady of Miracles held a “blue mass” to honor the first responders in our communities.....those good people who come to our aid when trouble strikes.

I am greatly appreciative of their service.

Those men and women are not only woven into the fabric of our community but are part of its backbone.

Think about it for a moment.....would you not feel a bit less comfortable and secure if police, fire and ambulance services were not readily available?

These folks are the unsung heroes in our communities.....the people you don’t ever want to have to call but take comfort in knowing are there if needed.

In a small community, there is a good chance that you will know at least some of the first responders should you ever need to make that call for whatever reason.....and under difficult circumstances a familiar face can be comforting.

Police, fire and EMS personnel are sometimes called upon to deal with situations I cannot fathom and hope to never experience.

They are deserving of our appreciation.....and certainly of our thoughts and prayers.

•  The blue mass, by the way, was the start of the Catholic Schools Week at Our Lady of Miracles Catholic School.

That’s a big event in their annual calendar, with a week full of activities you will read about elsewhere.

That parochial school has long held a special place in the heart of the community, and its spirit is simply amazing!

•  Seems like a long time ago that aircraft were buzzing in and out of what was then the Crows Landing Naval Auxiliary Air Station, doesn’t it?

There was actually a fair amount of air traffic in and out of the facility when I first came to Newman in the mid-1980s, if I recall correctly. One of my favorite base memories was having the opportunity to be on the flight line when F-15 (I believe) fighters were doing touch-and-go. To say that it was impressive doesn’t begin to describe the sight (and feel) of having the impressive jets thunder by a few feet away.....

But those days are long gone, and for many years Stanislaus County has pursued its dream of transforming the one-time base into a business/industrial park and airport. The controversial West Park project fell by the wayside several years ago, and after no other master developer stepped forward the county took the lead in the planning.....much like the city of Newman has done with the Northwest Newman project.

It has not been an easy road, to say the least. But it certainly feels like this project is coming closer to becoming a reality - and hopefully through the course of coming decades (it is a 30-year project after all) Crows Landing lives up to its full potential of bringing much-needed jobs to the West Side.

What, exactly, happens at Crows Landing remains to be seen.

But the success of the logistic centers a few miles north on Sperry Road in Patterson is testament to what can happen right here on the West Side in terms of job-inducing economic development.

•  Just a reminder. Newman’s 50th annual Fall Festival rolls around this Labor Day weekend, and organizers will need plenty of volunteer help to put together the festive party they envision.

The Fall Festival has always been a community-based organization which runs on volunteer power....but unfortunately the volunteer ranks have flagged at times.

Volunteers are needed to make the coming celebration a memorable one, and to ensure that the festival tradition continues in Newman.

The first planning meeting for this year’s Fall Festival will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, at the community meeting room behind the police department.

Please consider pitching in.....every volunteer makes a difference.

Dean Harris the Managing Editor of the West Side Index and Gustine Press-Standard. He can be reached at dharris@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 243-8104.