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Portage Mayor takes part in not-so-ordinary fundraiser

Written by ryan. Posted in Uncategorized

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Published on October 27, 2010 with No Comments

By Carl Kurek

What usually comes to mind when the word “roast” is muttered is what mom puts on the table for dinner.

But a new type of roast is becoming popular nowadays. One that can provide far more entertainment than any slab of meat that has sat in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes ever could. Sorry mom.

The dictionary describes this type of roast as a facetious ceremonial tribute in which the guest of honor is both praised and good-naturedly insulted in a succession of speeches by friends and acquaintances.

Portage Mayor Olga Velazquez was subjected to such an honor at an event held last Saturday at the Portage Yacht Club.

The whole idea of a roast started as a competition between Velazquez, Councilman Brenden Clancy and Sen. Karen Tallian. And the people spoke – well voted – to again elect Velazquez, only this time not to lead the city, but to be served up as the main course at a roast hosted by the Portage Parks and Recreation Foundation.

“You have to have tough skin to be a mayor,” a confident Velazquez said before the event as she reassured guests that she would be able to withstand the verbal onslaught that was to come.

The individuals chosen as the evenings “roasters” were Tallian, Clancy, Portage School Board Member Debra Ekdahl, Velazquez’s sister Robin and Velazquez’s husband of 32 years Julio.

Tallian helped prep Velazquez for the roast by presenting her with firefighters’ pants and helmet. The mayor later joked about wearing extra shoulder pads to the evening’s event to help survive the wrath.

While the mayor sat in a thrown-like chair in front of an audience, roasters came up one by one to stand behind the microphone. While many joked and shared stories – some true and some untrue – about the mayor, all were quick to point out the good Velazquez has done for the city as well.

“As her husband and her best friend, I can honestly say she cares deeply about our city,” Portage’s first man Julio Velazquez said. “You can never underestimate her.”

Other roasters and key people in attendance like Portage Parks Superintendent Chris Johnson talked about the beauty of area parks including Woodland Park and the new LakeFront and Riverwalk Park.

“The quality of Portage is in direct correlation with our commitment to it,” Johnson said to the crowd.

The mayor also stressed the significance of Portage’s parks.

“I have people from all over the country tell me how wonderful this place is,” Velazquez said. “The park foundation and our parks deserve your attention.”

With proceeds from the night’s event benefiting the Portage LakeFront and Riverwalk Maintenance Program, those in attendance took the lead in promoting and maintaining what has been referred to as the crown jewel of the Portage park system.

Once the roasting was over, Velazquez also pointed out that while the event was entertaining it was all for good cause. She was also relatively un-scorched by the verbal flames that she was subjected to.

“It was all in good fun,” she added. “They were actually pretty kind to me.”

The mayor’s only real encounter with flames of the night came from the candles placed atop a surprise birthday cake that was rolled out shortly after the roasting ended.

The mayor, who is Serbian, is expecting radio broadcasters from Serbia to pay a visit to the Region in the near future. They are interviewing her about American politics, but she is seeing it as another opportunity to promote the area.

For more information about Mayor Velazquez, the city of Portage or its parks, call 219-762-5424, or visit www.ci.portage.in.us.

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