A memorable look back at the year 2014

Staff Writer
Story City Herald
A memorable look back at the year 2014

—by Todd Thorson

Whereas 2013 somewhat mirrored the happenings of 1913, what with the anniversaries for various businesses and the century homes celebration, 2014 was a year of continued prosperity as well, as we looked to expand on that progress initiated so many years ago. We began to look toward the future of our community, and began a new chapter in development, construction, planning and progress toward a better way of life for our families and for future generations. It is an exciting time to live in the Story City and Roland area; two communities bound by its wonderful school district, as the amenities and aesthetics of our two towns continue to provide wonderful surroundings and a stable and safe environment in which to live and raise our families. It truly is a wonderful place in which to live, and I wouldn’t trade all my years here in my hometown for anything!

And so as we look back at the year 2014, I wish each and everyone one of you a Happy New Year! May 2015 be another great year here in the heart of central Iowa!

The year 2014 began with frigid temperatures, sending chills up our spine as near record lows were experienced the first week of the new year. A reading of -20 on the bank thermometer was recorded on Monday morning, Jan. 6!

The search for the new Roland-Story Superintendent was winding down in January, as four finalists were chosen from a list of 10, who were then interviewed by the school board. By early February, the new Superintendent, Matt Patton, accepted the position. He came from the Baxter Community School District and assumed his duties here on July 1, 2014. He presided over his first board meeting on Monday, July 14.

We also said farewell to Superintendent Mike Billings, who retired after 15 years at Roland-Story. He is missed by many, I’m sure, including myself.

Herald featured several articles about Molly Ammerman’s college abroad experience in Wales in the fall of 2013, continuing the series through the winter months, including many of Molly’s beautiful photographs from her once in a lifetime experience. Kate Feil, the Historical Society Director, shared a series of articles about the Century Homes of 1913, which she extensively researched and wrote, as did Morgan Wright, who corresponded with the Herald during her year-long stint in Ecuador as part of a Peace Corps mission to that country.

Longtime Roland-Story football coach Kerry Van Winkle retired at the end of January after 40 years at the helm of the Norsemen football program. (See more in next week’s Herald when we publish the most memorable sports moments of 2013.)

The Story City GCC hired a new Executive Director to lead the organization in its efforts to promote Story City and all that that job entails. John Hall, who took over in January after Aaron Lott resigned, will also assist with other civic events, image enhancement and economic development and revitalization.

Story City Postmaster Bob Mason retired after 40 years with the U.S. Postal Service. Bob had been here in Story City for the past five years, taking over for Larry Varland in 2008. He was at the Ames Post Office for 35 years.

Civic leader Rich Olive put on his dancing shoes and took part in the “Dancing With the Story County Stars” in January. The event was a fundraiser presented by Heartland Senior Services, and was held on Saturday, January 11 at the ISU Memorial Union. Rich was among six “celebrity” dancers from around Story County “competing” for the coveted “Mirror Ball Trophy”.

A late February snowstorm proved that Mother Nature was still in charge as she kept her grip on what was perceived by most as a “very long winter”. Prior to the storm on Thursday, Feb. 20, a couple of near 50 degree days gave us a taste of spring before reality settled back in. Only about two inches fell in Story City, after predictions were calling for 9 or 10. Some areas of northern and central Iowa did, however, receive close to those predictions. The winds picked up, and blowing and drifting ensued, forcing Interstate 35 to be closed from Ames to Clear Lake early Friday morning.

Bethany Manor, as well as the Story Theater Grand Opera House, celebrated their 100 year anniversaries throughout 2014. Bethany Life Foundation continued their 100th year recognition into the spring with a special celebration, and also announced their Building Tomorrow initiative; a building and expansion project that began with a ground breaking on April 27. The Story Theater celebrated its 100 years of entertainment to the area as well by holding a series of concerts and live performances in the summer and fall on the historic stage. The funds raised will be used to purchase the necessary digital projection equipment that is needed to continue the exhibition of motion pictures. That digital conversion project will hopefully occur in 2015.

Story City Firefighter Ryan Peterson, Trent Whipple and Brian Watson won the annual Fight for Air Climb on March 16 for the third consecutive year. They won the volunteer division of the Firefighter Relay Challenge, by climbing 66 floors in full fire gear in three different buildings in downtown Des Moines. The local firefighters will defend their title this March in an attempt to win four in a row. Tyler Oberender will join the team in March as a fourth member.

The R-S Jazz Band continued to impress us with their winning ways, qualifying for the Iowa Jazz Championships for the 12th consecutive year. Throughout the season, the jazz band received first place honors at the SCIBA Jazz Festival for the 8th consecutive year, as well as first place at the inaugural Southeast Polk Jazz Festival. They finished second at the Simpson Jazz Festival and the Tallcorn Jazz Festival held at UNI. A Division I rating was earned as well at the IHSMA Jazz Festival for the 13th consecutive year.

Roland Mayor Roger Fritz stepped down as Mayor at the April 2 council meeting, effective April 16; a move he had already stated would occur following the November 2013 election. Council member Jerry Balmer agreed to take over as Mayor, and was officially appointed on May 21.

The Story City Historical Society and director Kate Feil continued a progressive and active year by setting up a new display at the Carriage House, featuring band and musical artifacts and memorabilia from the late Milt Mussehl’s career in music. The artifacts were donated by Milt’s daughters Jean and Kris.

R-S senior Natalie Vance was among 435 high school seniors from across Iowa to be honored at the 12th Annual Governor’s Scholar Recognition Ceremony held in Des Moines on April 27. The seniors were selected by their respective high schools as their highest academic achievers.

The Bertha Bartlett Public Library celebrated 20 years in April with a special celebration at the Fairview Lodge. Frances Kinne came back for the special occasion as well. Kinne was instrumental in jump starting the library building project back in September 1991, pledging an initial $50,000 to the project that would ultimately bear the name of her mother. Kinne, who turned 97 in May, also made another trip back later last summer as she continues to keep her home town of Story City close to her heart.

May is typically one of the busiest times of the year for many of us, with graduations, Memorial Day, the end of the school year, the opening of the carousel and the busy time of getting ready for Scandinavian Days. A total of 70 seniors graduated from Roland-Story on May 18, with senior speakers Zach Hovick, Sarah Lunn, Cole Johnson and Natalie Vance addressing the class and those in attendance. Also in May, several R-S track athletes competed at the state meet held at Drake Stadium in Des Moines (more information on that in next week’s sports moments). And the new Silver Spoon Restaurant, owned and operated by Justine Johnson, opened in Roland in the Community Center located at 208 Main Street. (The Reuben is to die for btw.)

One of the major accomplishments of the City of Story City was the completion of the multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art water treatment plant. A two-year project, the finished facility was presented for public viewing at an open house held on Saturday, May 17. Kevin Jacobson, who retired as Water Superintendent on July 1, wanted to see the project through before stepping down, and said it ranks as one of the best facilities in the state.

Prior to Kevin’s retirement, the city hired Co-Water/Wastewater Superintendents to replace Jacobson. Craig Hennager and Jason Loots took over their responsibilities on July 1. Hennager was a water plant operator in Ames since 2010 and Loots has been employed by the City of Story City since 1997.

The 49th Annual Scandinavian Days Festival began with beautiful weather on Friday, June 6, as large crowds gathered in the North Park area. On Saturday, June 7, late morning showers arrived just as the parade was concluding, and continued into the afternoon hours. But by late afternoon the rain had stopped and the events continued into the evening. A new event, the Antique Market, was implemented into the schedule on Sunday morning, June 8, and from the response and attendance, was deemed a success.

William Appelgate was honored with a 2014 Governor’s Volunteer Award during a special recognition ceremony held June 18 in Pleasant Hill. Appelgate was bestowed the honor by the North Central District of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

New businesses opening last year in Story City included Molly Nagel’s Upper Story Studio, which is located above PDG Printing, and Romsey Art and Gifts, located at 601 Broad, owned by Kaitlyn Romsey. Molly offers various types of art classes at her studio. Kaitlyn specializes in local art, antiques and Scandinavian items. Ribbon cutting ceremonies were held for both businesses in June and July, respectively.

June was ushered out by a fast-moving storm shortly after noon on Monday, June 30, as it blew through Story County, including Story City and Roland. Straight line winds were clocked at 70 mph and tornado sirens went off, with heavy rains accompanying the storm. Over four inches of rain fell in some areas, and numerous tree limbs and branches littered the streets and yards of area residents.

The Norsemen baseball team headed back to the state tournament this past July, winning the sub-state final in dramatic fashion. After a first round victory of South Winneshiek at Principal Park, the Norse boys found themselves right back where they were the year before - the state semifinals. Unfortunately North Polk defeated the Norse to advance to the title game, but that didn’t spoil what was yet another successful baseball campaign. (See where the baseball team’s accomplishments rank in next week’s most memorable sports moments.)

The Story City Council approved a $2.65 million bond issue vote for a new swimming pool in August, scheduling the public vote for the November election. The vote would eventually pass by a 66 percent approval, which will now move the project into the construction phase as early as this spring. The new pool will be built on the same site as the old 1974 structure.

Following a series of special meetings involving council members, civic leaders and community members throughout the early going, the proposed Love’s Truck Stop east of the interstate near the I-35 Business Park took center stage for nearly three months last fall. Re-zoning of the property from A-1 to PUD was necessary to move the project forward, and following a 5-0 first reading passage of the ordinance on October 6, it appeared the new truck stop was on its way to becoming a reality. However, a large group of concerned citizens began forming a movement and petition to voice their objection to the proposed facility, gaining signatures and support that ultimately swayed the council to vote down the proposal 3-2 on November 3, after two previous passages. The second reading of the ordinance had passed by a 4-1 vote on October 20. Large crowds were expected at the October 20 and November 6 council meetings, so the meetings were moved to the Community Center on Elm to accommodate the large contingency of citizens.

The year 2014 was also a year of viral outbreaks, as West Nile Virus, Ebola and several strains of seasonal flu kept us all aware of our surroundings and concern for our fellow man. We were cautioned to be careful and to stay alert for potential symptoms and how to take the necessary precautions. The outbreaks continue to generate awareness and can appear to be rather serious and scary at times when relating to our every day social issues and environment.

Though not a virus or threat to humans, the Emerald Ash Borer arrived in Story County, and was even detected here in Story City, and will greatly effect our resident ash trees well into 2015 and beyond. This “outbreak” spells doom for the ash tree throughout the state of Iowa and ultimately cause the demise of a long-time tree species without expensive precautions and prevention.

The 9th Annual Story Festival was held September 18-21 in Story City with various featured tellers, as well as Dinner and a Story, performances at the Story Theater, the Story Market on Park, Story Stops on Saturday morning and a Spiritual Telling on Sunday afternoon. The Story Festival Committee is already excited about next September’s event, as it will be the 10th Anniversary.

The EDC held its 5th Annual Industry Tour on October 7, featuring the Story City Locker and Lumber Specialties. The tour began and ended at the Community Center, with refreshments served following the trip.

Also in October, the Story City Friends Endowment was formed, which will provide funds for Story City community betterment. The Endowment is one of the Story County Community Foundation’s family of funds.

The proposed Dakota Access oil pipeline stirred interest in Story County this past year, as the proposed project will include a portion of the county. The pipeline is projected to pass through the county on its way from North Dakota to Illinois.

The third Story County Freedom Flight for veterans of WWII, and the Korean and Vietnam wars was conducted on Tuesday, Oct. 7. Participants were honored before their trip on Sunday, October 5, at a special sendoff ceremony in Ames. Approximately 30 Story City and Roland veterans made the trip to Washington, D.C. to view the various monuments and memorials.

A ground break ceremony was held on October 7 as well for the new spec building going up at the East I-35 Business Park. The facility will be 40,000 sq. ft. and is located south of Indoshell Precision. The building is a joint partnership between the EDC, the City of Story City, the Municipal Electric Utility and Story Construction. (For more city happenings from 2014 see Mark Jackson’s City Administrator column found on page 2.)

Story City Firefighter Trent Whipple had the privilege of speaking at a Fight for Air Climb press conference held on September 30 at the Ruan Center in Des Moines. Whipple has participated in the annual fund raising event for the past 10 years; four as a member of the Story City volunteer fireman’s team.

More improvements were completed at Roland’s Britson Park, including the construction of the multi-purpose building, which includes restrooms, a concession stand and storage area. The playground structure was also completed last year, with the addition of a swing set. Other amenities completed were a sidewalk into the park, a water line for watering the fields, 50 new trees planted and a bench near the playground, which was donated by the family of Sharon Ann Shepard.

The Roland Kiwanis Club celebrated 60 years of community service on October 26 with a special celebration at the Community Center. Nearly 100 people attended the dinner, with many special guests on hand.

Dwayne Fiihr was presented the Story City Lions Club’s 2014 Community Service Award at its November 13 meeting. Dwayne is an active member of Trees Forever, VP of the RSVP Senior Citizens, and a Story City Historical Society volunteer. He has also been a councilman since 2010, and is the council liaison for the EDC and GCC.

And finally, there has been some uncertainty as to when the community Christmas tree was first erected on the town square in downtown Story City. It was reported last year that 1913 was the first year of the tree on Main Street, but according to Historical Society Director Kate Feil, who did extensive research earlier this fall, the infamous community tree was actually first placed at the intersection of Broad and Penn in 1914. Thus, the official 100th Anniversary was actually celebrated this holiday season.

That first tree was a gift from J.H. Jacobson and was cut from his property on south Lafayette. Ironically, this year’s beautiful tree was donated by Dwayne and Dee Fiihr, who also reside near the original donor on south Lafayette. (This year’s tree is pictured on the front page, which I took on the beautiful snowy evening of Tuesday, Dec. 23, looking west from Elm Avenue.)

And as the holiday season was ushered in on Friday, November 28, with the annual tree lighting ceremony, the largest crowd in years turned out to sing carols and celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Christmas Tree on Main Street in Story City.

Happy New Year everybody! Here’s to the memories of 2014, and the hope and prosperity that is in store for 2015!