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Wheels Donors on a Roll

By Charlotte Balcomb Lane
Of the Journal

Friday, October 18, 2002

Count on Leba Freed-Pierce and the other folks at the WHEELS Museum to come up with a little something different for Saturday’s “Romancing the Wheel” benefit. In addition to a silent auction, dinner and dancing, this fund-raiser offered a live performance by internationally known escape artist Rick Maisel of Albuquerque.

Maisel impressed the audience of about 400 at the Hyatt Regency by dangling upside down from a 20-foot ladder and wriggling free of a straitjacket in less than a minute. Earlier, he managed to pop out of a pair of handcuffs in seconds flat.

Racing great Bobby Unser and his wife, Lisa Unser, were among the guests applauding Maisel’s show. The Unsers won their own applause later in the event when Freed-Pierce announced the couple have agreed to lend the WHEELS Museum their huge personal collection of auto-racing memorabilia, including cars, uniforms and films of historic races.

WHEELS, of course, stands for “we have everything everyone loves spinning,” and seeks to preserve and highlight Albuquerque’s role in transportation history.

Also at the fete was Mayor Martin Chávez, who made an impassioned plea to restore the Santa Fe Railroad Rail Shops in Barelas, where the WHEELS Museum will eventually be built.

Chávez also praised the work of another guest, former Mayor Harry Kinney. Chávez said when he is faced with a tough problem, he thinks “how would Harry do it?”

Organizers estimate the gala raised about $50,000. The museum has grants from city, county, state and federal sources but still needs to raise an extimated $25 million. The museum is building a circle of private donors in Albuquerque, including antiques dealers Bob and Cyndy Gallegos, who presented “Miss Wheels” to the museum. Miss Wheels is an antique carousel horse on a bicycle designed to simulate the running movements of a race horse.

Other guests were board member Julia Seligman; tireless volunteer Bernice Young, who organized the vast silent auction; and accountant Mikel Bornfield, who dressed up — and down — for the occasion in a tuxedo jacket, sport shorts and tennis shoes. At 6 feet 8 inches tall, he created quite a sight.

Events

New Lego exhibit at the Wheels Museum. View The New Mexico Lego Users Group has
partnered with WHEELS to have a beautiful Lego Train layout for children of all ages to enjoy. The exhibit will vary from season to season and we invite you to come see this new Lego train exhibit.

Do you have a few hours each month to help the Wheels Museum? Volunteers are needed so the Museum can be open more; run the model railroad trains, also help needed with events, marketing, fund raising. Call Leba Freed at (505) 243-6269.

Febuary 16, 11 am. Bob Bovee Long Steel Rails concert. This program for all ages presents songs and stories about the famous trains, rail workers, hobos, train wrecks and train robbers. Call or email Leba Freed for reservations at (505) 243-6269 or leba4@aol.com.

March 17, Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at WHEELS. Movie, tours, train ride and food celebration.

April 1, 1 pm. Doug Figgs and Badger. Back by popular demand. By reservations only (505) 243- 6269. Doug’s show was sold out last year, so call early! Donation: $10.00.

April 8, 11 am. “Historic Albuquerque” Ronn Perea will present old Albuquerque anecdotes including delightful stories about our beloved Alvarado Hotel and the politicians, actors and entertainers who stayed there. This is a free event but, of course, donations are always appreciated.

April 22, Wheels Museum Day trip to Rancho De Chimayo Restaurante, El Santuario de Chimayo and the Santa Fe Plaza. Call Leba or Janet at (505) 243-6269 for more information. The museum is a 501C3 non-profit community organization whose mission is to create a transportation museum at the downtown Albuquerque Steam Locomotive Repair Shops.

May 19-May 23, Train trip to the Grand Canyon. Only a few spaces left.Scheduled through Amtrak Vacations, call Leba or Janet at (505) 243-6269 for reservations and more information.