Fairgrounds blaze tops news in 2013
Christina Chalmers Editor
10. Darke County extreme weather
Darke County had some extreme weather during 2013. In February, the area was still in a drought status but was beginning to bounce back according to a U.S. drought report. By the end of March, a Spring storm had struck the county dumping 7 to 8 inches of snow countywide.
Summer temperatures reached sweltering highs in the ’90s during the months of July, August and September and fog delayed county schools at the start of the school year.
December snowfall mixed in with rising temperatures and torrential rains caused many areas throughout the county to flood just before Christmas. The Greenville City Park became a place for many residents to record the flooding through video and photographs.
9. Darke County Fair continues success
The Great Darke County Fair had yet another sold-out concert event this summer as they featured two Country Music giants Florida Georgia Line and Montgomery Gentry. Nearly 10,000 fans arrived on that Sunday evening to hear the down-home country boys perform.
Fair Manager Daryl Riffle said security was stepped up for safety to accommodate for the 10,000 people in the Grandstand seats and an additional 30,000 people on the fairgrounds that evening.
And once again gate receipts beat the record reaching a total of $419,675 for the nine-day fair.
8. County residents share event anniversary memories
This year county residents and past elected officials found themselves reflecting back on big events in local and national history.
In January 2013, residents shared their stories of the infamous “Great Blizzard of ‘78” that occurred 35 years prior on Jan. 25-27, 1978. The actual storm headlined The Daily Advocate on Jan. 26, 1978 and subsequent days and detailed the county’s recovery from the massive snowfall. The storm was said to have paralyzed the county with heavy snowfall and drifts that reached from 4 to 6 feet in height and icy roads.
In April, Vietnam vets were reflecting on the end of the Vietnam War 40 years ago. On March 29, 1973 the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam. The anniversary of U.S. involvement from 1962-1973, brought a mixture of meanings and emotions to those who fought or lost someone during the war. War veterans shared their thoughts on protesters, the evolution of the military and the war itself.
On Nov. 22, local residents and media shared their memories of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination 50 years ago. Many recalled learning of the historic national tragedy by watching it on TV or hearing it on the radio. The event was so prominent that many people remembered where they were and what they were doing when they got the news that the president had been shot and later died.
With shooting tragedies hitting the headlines across the country, the topic of gun control/safety was a hot one in 2013.
The year 2012 saw the biggest increase in concealed carry licenses (78,810) in the state since they were first allowed in 2004. Darke County had issued 999 licenses in 2012 and by March of 2013, the agency had already issued 243 licenses in the county.
At the beginning of the year, gun sales were on the rise with local shops stating that they’d already seen an increase over 2012 sales. Shop owners were selling out of items as soon as they were stocked. Ammunition was flying off the shelves as well with local shops reporting that suppliers all over the United States were experiencing similar problems. In January, 2.48 million background checks for gun ownership were performed across the nation.
The issue of protection from a gun-related attacks was addressed in our county schools and businesses with shooter training exercises in the form of emergency action plans. And, many school districts discussed the idea of personnel arming themselves although no districts had implemented any such policy.
6. Child shooting case
In April 2013, Michael and Melody Fisher were found guilty of child endangering by jury for the accidental shooting death of their son Michael “Mikey” L. Fisher, III. In August 2011, Mikey was just 11 years old when he was handling a 9mm handgun in his home and he suffered from a self-inflicted gunshot.
The couple was charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangering after over 80 firearms and ammunition were found in the home, “easily accessible to the children,” stated the prosecutor. The Fishers have four other children.
5. Dylan Williams
The story of the accidental death of the eight-year-old baseball player Dylan Williams touched the hearts of Darke County residents and beyond. Williams lost his life in July when a baseball struck him in the back of the neck as he was practicing at first base. His story went national as the tragedy shocked the community.
In his honor, the Union City Baseball Boosters unanimously voted in August to rename their baseball diamonds the Dylan Williams Memorial Park.
4. The new war on drugs
The drug Heroin hit hard in 2013 reaching “epidemic” proportions in the Dayton region. Despite the negative impact of the drug, the availability of it is on the rise.
The increased use of drugs like Heroin is closely connected to thefts, burglaries and other criminal activity said local authorities. The Darke County Sheriff’s Office estimated that well over 50 percent of thefts in the county were drug related.
In December, the Darke County Coroner reported that heroin had been involved in more than 75 percent of drug deaths in the county. Since 2007, there have been 15 accidental heroin overdose deaths in the county and authorities expect more to come.
In June, the Darke County Sheriff’s Office announced the reinstatement of its Drug Task Force to combat drug-related criminal activity.
3. Greenville voters finally say ‘yes’
In a special August election, the voters in the Greenville City School District passed a bond issue for a new K-8 school building after the fifth time at the ballot. The issue passed with 3,395 votes for the issue and 2,532 against it.
After school officials changed the proposal and strengthened the campaign, “Strong Schools, Strong Communities,” more residents, businesses and officials were in support of the plan. The plan changed from asking voters for 6.43 Mills with a .25 percent increase in income tax for 28 years to only asking for 5.69 Mills with no increase in income tax for 37 years.
The $45 million bond issue will build a new 225,956 square foot facility and provide $9 million in renovations at the high school.
2. The community comes together
There weren’t many people in Darke County who hadn’t heard of Greenville teen Corynna Strawser. Her inspiring story and the events that surrounded the last year of her life touched many hearts in the county and even around the country.
Strawser who had the rare Mitochondrial disease that affects the cells in a person’s body to where it cannot convert food and oxygen to life-sustaining energy, spent her last days spreading awareness and leaving behind a legacy.
The community participated in fundraisers to build a room for Corynna during her last months to make her more comfortable. Since she went home in December, her legacy has lived on through the Corynna Strawser Research Fund through the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation that was formed by families affected by the disease.
1. Fire lights up the fairgrounds
On Dec. 27, fire struck the Beef and Dairy Palaces at the Darke County fairgrounds resulting in the loss of the two iconic barns, a couple of smalled structures in between and equipment and vehicles stored inside.
Eleven fire companies responded to the scene as well as five medical units. The total damage and cause of the fire is still under investigation, but damages are estimated to be well over $1 million.
Fair board members are still in discussions as to how to replace the barns and will likely seek public input.
The site of the charred barns continues to be a sight to be seen by many areas residents as cars are often seen driving slowly by or by people standing nearby taking pictures.
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