Randy and Brenda Johnson just wanted to start up a little fun- a regular country get-together for friends and neighbors to have a good time. They recall sitting in the Bollinger County (Missouri) Country Club Bar and Restaurant, chatting about their idea in 2013. Their buddy, Warren Miller, liked the idea, and figured they ought to have some seed money…. so he sent them a check for $1000. With money in hand, they realized the idea was “starting to get real now.”
Brenda suggested that since they were getting organized, they should use the opportunity to do something for charity. Another buddy had a Down Syndrome family member, so the first several Scopus Family and Friends Fests benefitted the Down Syndrome Association of the Heartland. Randy and Brenda’s idea blossomed because “our kids are healthy, so we need to give back to others who aren’t so fortunate.”
Randy has been giving back virtually all of his life, starting with his enlistment through the Delayed Entry Program in the US Army in March, 1972. As soon as high school was finished, he turned up for Boot Camp at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. His training readied him to be a Vulcan crewman headed for the Vietnam War, but by the time he had achieved his MOS (military occupation specialty), the Army had pulled the Vulcans out of Vietnam. Of course, the Army found other things for him to do, including several stints on “canvas duty” – or recruitment – as well as some turns driving for officers at McGregor Range in New Mexico and Fort Lewis, Washington.
After the service, Randy built his skills so that he could do just about anything. He trained in TV and radio repair and refrigeration and air conditioning; he was a welder for a while and had a TV/radio shop. “When the first cable company came to town,” he recalls, “I worked for them. Then I worked for a company that made the big dishes; I installed them.” Randy managed a Western Auto store, and then discovered he had a knack for building houses. He likes to say, “my wife got to live in 12 new houses- we’d build them, live in them, then build another and move on.”
Oh, and he was also in the National Guard until 1981.
The physical work of building that he enjoyed so much was curtailed by an accident in the 80s – a log fell on him – and he’s had to adjust his approach to the world a little bit. But Randy and Brenda can’t sit still: they moved to “town” – Jackson, Missouri – about a year ago, but soon realized that town life was not for them – so they’re back in Bollinger County. They bought the very country club where their idea was born in 2013 and are turning it into another home. And of course it’s the perfect place to host the (now) annual Scopus and Sedge Fest, renamed in honor of their first benefactor, Warren Miller, after he died suddenly a few years ago.
“Maybe,” they say, “we’ll slow down a little after the country club project is done.”
Resurrecting Lives Foundation Board member Stan Crader, a lifelong friend of the Johnsons, had a hoot of a time at the 3rd Scopus Fest, and asked Randy if he’d ever thought about raising funds for other organizations. Stan outlined the mission and vision of RLF, and Randy and Brenda were all in. The Fest, which continues to grow, has donated half of its proceeds to RLF every year since the 4th Fest in 2016, splitting the funds with charities that help kids.
What drives their generosity? Randy and Brenda don’t hesitate to say, “if it’s given to you, you need to give it back.”
That spirit seems to be in the drinking water around Scopus and Sedgewickville. A large group of neighbors come together to plan and stage the Fest each year, and have a heck of a good time doing it. About 30 of them give their time, both before the event and on the day. Randy calls them the backbone of the Fest. The volunteers canvas local businesses and residents for donations to auction, organize games and competitions (don’t forget “Chicken Poop Bingo”) and pull together publicity.
Randy – who plays a little music himself every now and then (like the guitar, banjo, and mandolin) touts the volunteerism of three local band members who attended last year and played to entertain the crowds. This year they each showed up with their full bands to hold a full-blown concert: Curtis Cook & the Damn Band, Silver Fox, and Route 67. Guitars signed by these guys, and by Travis Tritt, and by the Lynard Skynard Band, have brought in some fine prices at auction at the Fest over the last few years.
And did you hear the one about the loaves and fishes? The Fest continues to see relatively the same number of attendees – mostly from Bollinger County and its surroundings- but continues to raise more money for charities. Huh.
Randy’s had a few surgeries (17 to be exact) since his run-in with the log, but Brenda points out that her health has been great, so clearly they were meant to be together. They credit being on the go all the time, with a little rest in between, as the tonic for keeping them moving. And of course there’s that giving back thing.
They’re looking forward to a relaxing Thanksgiving Day, when they band together with other friends to serve free meals at the local VFW. They’ll play a little music, clear a few plates, and enjoy the giving. They’ll do the same on Christmas Day.
Thank you, Randy and Brenda, over and over again, for your service.