By Ryan Berry
GREENVILLE — Bill Gunckle can usually be found behind the scenes during the annual Annie Oakley Festival, but for the 2023 event, he will be featured as the Annie Oakley Days Parade Marshal for his many years of service to the festival as a committee member.
Gunckle has held nearly every officer position with the committee, including president and treasurer.
JoEllen Melling, president, said, “He’s been a steady stronghold for the festival. I think he’s covered almost every position. Sometimes he’s doubled up on positions just to make sure everything was covered.”
Gunkle came to the Annie Oakley Festival Committee at the request of the late Brenda Bettler. He was asked to create a website for the festival. “My daughter and I attended to see what the committee wanted in a website. After three or four meetings, I decided I liked the mission of the committee and joined,” he said.
Gunckle has seen the festival through the good times and hard times and was there when they moved to York Woods. He recalled that decision was necessary as a cost-saving maneuver. “The festival was held there for two years until it was moved back to the south part of the fairgrounds, where it remains today,” he said.
When Delores Lawrence decided not to run for re-election as treasurer of the group, he chose to step and run for the position. Gunckle said he held that position until Judy Hathaway decided to give up the position of president and he was elected to lead the organization.
The president’s position took a lot of time and Gunckle came to a point in his life where he needed to cut back on the time commitment. While some may choose to walk away completely, Gunkle knew he wanted to continue serving the festival. He once again sought the treasurer’s position and was elected. Unfortunately, long-term COVID had different plans and Gunckle said he was forced to give up the position.
Melling had nothing but positive comments regarding Gunckle. “When I came on as president – so helpful. He was very supportive, very encouraging and was there to answer any questions that I had.”
The festival did go through a period of hard times, but Melling believes Gunckle and other members of the committee played a big part in keeping the festival going. “You have to have a good structure to keep it going through the hard times and I think that’s what Bill and the rest of the committee did. They kept the structure. They all worked their tails off. They all worked very hard to keep it going until we came up with a new kind of idea.”
Melling said the committee tries to honor someone who has been an important part of the festival. “When were talking this year, Bill has been an important part of our festival. It was time to honor him for his commitment to the festival and committee,” she said.
Gunckle is married to Sandy Profitt and they have three children, Jessica and husband Carl Hudkins, Justin and Jonathan Guckle, all of Rossburg.
The parade will take place on Saturday, July 29 and will leave the Darke County Fairgrounds at 10 a.m. and travel Fair Street to Washington Avenue before hitting South Broadway in the downtown area. Parade watchers will see many of the traditional parade entries such as bands, horses and riders, community floats and much more.
The Annie Oakley Festival will once again feature the Miss Annie Oakley Shooting Contest, annual melodrama, Cowboy Mounted Shooting, Western Arts Showcase, Annie’s Memorial Shoot, Little Miss & Mister, car show, kiddie tractor pull, entertainment, and vendors. This year’s festival will be held July 28-30 at the Darke County Fairgrounds. For more information festival, visit www.annieoakleyfestival.org.
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].