After 20 Years of Making Kenton County's Parks a Destination, He's Moving On
Tue, 08/09/2016 - 12:17 RCN Newsdesk
It is the end of an era for the Kenton County Parks, a changing of the guard, so to speak.
Steve Trauger, the longtime programs coordinator, is retiring at the end of August after 20 years. The familiar, whiskered figure in cargo shorts and T-shirt, ball cap and work boots will be noticeably absent from the park horizon.
"I will miss it greatly," Trauger said. "It is bittersweet. This job has been a godsend for me, and it was perfect for my personality. I am happy and grateful for the opportunity to give people fun and experiences that they might not ordinarily have had. "
Trauger was born in Ft. Mitchell, and raised in Northern Kentucky, and he liked that his family lived for awhile off Turkeyfoot Road in "interesting houses". He went to Caywood Elementary and Turkeyfoot Middle School. His dad died suddenly when Trauger was 12, which was traumatic for his entire family, so his mother moved the family back to Wisconsin where she was from to help her cope with the loss.
As a youngster Trauger played recreational baseball, and in high school he was successful on the track team. Trauger already had a drum set - a good one, Ludwig drums and Zildjan cymbals - but his mom also signed him up for guitar lessons in Wisconsin.
"I liked a lot of music, Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, Dan Fogelburg," he said. "When I was at Turkeyfoot they had a talent show, and I wanted to be in it, so I asked my sister, who played in an all girls' band at Dixie called the Cheerdrops if she could help me. I ended up playing 'Today', one of the popular songs at the time. Later, in Wisconsin, I got into a band called the Sound Project, and we practiced in my attic. My mom didn't mind."
He played with the band through high school, then went to the University of Wisconsin, where he continued to play guitar, this time solo and in coffeehouses, and he wrote his own music. He was asked to be part of a rock band, but it was a very hard rock band and he said his voice wouldn't work for it so he had to quit.
He attended Gogebic, a community college, and received a two-year degree in Ski Area Management, then traveled to Colorado, thinking he would be able to make a career out there. It was June, but still cold. However, the ski resorts were closed for the summer so no one was hiring. Undeterred by what might seem to be the lack of a blueprint for his life, Trauger, a child who grew up in the '60's, looked around for what he could do, whatever caught his attention as interesting and could pay the bills.
In the meantime, every year he would receive a Christmas card from a friend, Kim, who had been the girlfriend of a friend in 8th grade in Kentucky. One New Year's Eve he traveled back to Kentucky to meet her for a date, and in 1992 he ended up marrying her. Trauger had actually been thinking of moving to Nashville to work on his music, but he hung around Northern Kentucky for awhile. He had a friend who worked at Banklick Park in the summer, and once when he was playing frisbee he started helping his friend clear the brush to make a disc golf course. He had played high speed throw-and-catch frisbee with his brother, so disc golf was a hobby he liked. In the early fall, the parks department advertised for a programs coordinator, and Trauger applied.
"When I was hired in 1996, the only program they had was softball, men's and women's," he remembered. "They told me, the programs are in the summer - in the winter you plan for summer. My job was to bring the people into the parks. Part of my job was to secure outside funding, too, because the budget wasn't extensive."
One of the first programs Trauger developed was Wild Wednesdays.
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