SANDPOINT — When Mike Reeb moved to Sandpoint in 1970, it was just a "sleepy old lumber and railroad town."
Now, as the Lions Club International celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, Reeb has been with the Sandpoint Lions Club nearly half that — 46 years to be exact — which is why his fellow Lions chose him as grand marshal for this year's Fourth of July parade.
"They decided since I was the longest active member, that I should be the grand marshal," Reeb said.
The Sandpoint Lions Club, chartered in 1953, sponsors all of the Independence Day activities each year, including the children's parade, the Grand Parade, and the fireworks show at City Beach after dark.
After its charter, local Lions Club member began making improvements to City Beach, incorporating some of the facilities, playground equipment, tennis courts and the picnic shelter. Some of the fundraisers, like the beach barbecue that was so popular in its day, no longer exist. So, each year, Lions members get out their bundles of raffle tickets to raise money for the Fourth festivities. This was actually Reeb's first interaction with the club so many years ago.
"I drove into Sandpoint in 1970, and right there near the courthouse there were a whole bunch of Lions stopping all the traffic," Reeb said. "If you didn't have a ticket on the drawing, they hauled you off to jail ... So, I went over there to the jail and bought a $1 ticket on a car."
About a year later, he said, the club members asked him to join. The tickets are now $5 each with several prizes, including a grand prize of a 2017 Polaris Ranger, a $2,000 shopping spree and $1,000 cash.
"This year we have an even bigger than normal fireworks program," Reeb said.
Reeb, who said he is "on the wrong side of 70" years old, is a retired forester. He moved to the Sandpoint area after he was offered a promotion with Idaho Department of Lands. He served as the area supervisor, covering Coeur d'Alene, Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry.
After starting with the Lions Club, Reeb said he really "took to it," although he doesn't do as much now as he used to. In the past, he has been in different positions with the club, including president and tail twister, and has served on the board of directors.
Because of the 100-year anniversary of the international charter, which started in Oak Park, Ill., Reeb noted some additional local history. The first president of the Sandpoint Lions Club, for example, was also the mayor of Sandpoint at the time. The fourth was an aspiring attorney who later became a district judge. Over the years, Reeb said, doctors, lawyers, fire chiefs and more have served as officers of the club.
"Just a whole bunch of people who really kickstarted Sandpoint," Reeb said.
The children's parade will get the festivities rolling at 9 a.m. Tuesday, with the Grand Parade to follow at 10 a.m. The parade route begins at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Church Street, heading east to First Avenue and continuing north on First Avenue to Cedar Street, and west on Cedar Street to Fifth Avenue.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.