More than 100 turn out for roast of Don “Red Dog” Gardner

Anyone who knows Don “Red Dog” Gardner will tell you he knows how to get people together.

Don “Red Dog” Gardner and his wife, Bev, right, accept a presidential award Saturday night for their dedication to fitness and physical activity through Red Dog’s Dog Days workouts. Red Dog was the guest of honor in a roast held at Alvamar Country Club.

There was no better proof than the showing at Saturday night’s roast, held at Alvamar Country Club in his honor.

More than 100 of Don and wife Bev’s closest friends turned out to enjoy an evening of sticking it to the man who made them stick to their workouts for years.

“We have to jump and run and climb and all manner of evil things,” friend and Dog Days participant J.R. Demby said. “So to be able to take a pitchfork and drive it in his back for a few minutes was worth it.”

And friends of Gardner let him have it. For three hours they poked fun at his age, habits and legendary use of a megaphone. Two of the scheduled roasters even disregarded their formal attire to show off their hard-earned Dog Days T-shirts. The stories about Gardner covered the entire range of appropriateness, and there was no shortage of laughter for the night’s entirety.

“We had as much fun planning it as we did doing it tonight,” roastmaster Jeff Sigler said. “It was good that we had some laughs.”

Gardner took the teasing well, taking a few opportunities to issue his own retorts. Dog Days, a local health staple for 26 years, has always had a following. Gardner said he was nervous about what roasters were going to say but was pleased with the turnout.

“It surprised me,” he said. “It was much larger than I expected, and it went even better.”

Another surprise during the event came in the form of an award from the U.S. president. Don and Bev were presented with The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Community Leadership Award. It was one of 28 given in 2010 across the country.

“That was something else,” Bev said.

And when the roast wound down, the Gardners took to mingling with the community they helped create.

“Don and Bev are just icons in Lawrence,” Sigler said. “They truly care about people in the community. They care about people’s health. Nowhere else in the country does something like that happen, and it starts with Red Dog and Bev.”