RIO VISTA — Dennis and Penny Schardt were big-city residents before they moved to the quiet little town of Rio Vista.
About seven years ago, the couple decided they needed a change of pace from city life in San Francisco, so they came to Rio Vista and quickly found a home.
“We came for the warm weather but didn’t know about all the wind,” Dennis Schardt said, somewhat in jest.
Though the two aren’t Rio Vista natives, for the past five years they have been dedicated volunteers of one of the town’s oldest and biggest traditions, the Bass Derby and Festival.
This month, the Rio Vista Chamber of Commerce honored the Schardts’ volunteer work on the festival committee by giving them the Bass Derby Volunteers of the Year award. It was one of two major volunteer awards, the other going to Elaine Wemple as the chamber’s Volunteer of the Year.
The Schardts have a number of responsibilities on the committee, including building the Karaoke Idol Contest from the ground up.
In addition to organizing talent for the karaoke contest, Dennis Schardt has to build the entire beer garden stage from scratch. The Schardts also work to get money from local businesses to help cover the costs of the bands.
Dennis and Penny Schardt said they were amazed when they first volunteered at how much work and how many people it takes to put together the annual event. The committee starts meeting in March and ends in October after the event.
In the future, the Schardts said they’d like to see the level of attendance at the Bass Derby and Festival stay as high as it’s been the past few years.
“Fifteen thousand people came into town last year,” Dennis Schardt said. “It’s unlike any other festival.”
Wemple said she was shocked to learn she’d won the chamber’s Volunteer of the Year award this year, especially since she didn’t even attend the awards dinner.
She was out of town when she got a text from the chamber’s executive director, Karen Smith, about her win.
“Nobody told me anything,” Wemple said. “I was shocked when she texted me.”
Wemple has volunteered for the chamber for about eight years now. Before that, she was on the board for four years.
She juggles running her business, Assurance Bookkeeping Services, with volunteering free bookkeeping services to the chamber. Her responsibilities increased after the chamber’s executive director stepped down and Wemple stepped in as the interim executive director until Smith took over in July.
“It became all-consuming to get the work done,” she said. “I would assume (I won) for the time I spent as interim, keeping things moving in a positive direction.”
Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.