Seeing as how I began my tenure here at The Evening Sun approximately three weeks prior to the start of 2010, selecting my favorite stories from the past year was, for the most part, a fairly simple task. I will admit to one undeniable fact – a year ago I had no idea what 2010 would bring, other than a number of significant changes to my personal life, and I can honestly say it’s been a surprising and enlightening experience, to say the least.
Considering the fact that I’ve attended every Chenango Blues Festival but one since its inception nearly two decades ago, I’ve got to start there. This event is truly a defining one for our community and draws thousands from throughout the county, the northeast and beyond (not to mention the quality of the musicianship year after year). On top of that, an opportunity to speak directly with some of my favorite blues and blues-influenced performers was an awesome experience. I’ve got to hand it to Eric Larsen and the rest of the Blues Fest Committee, they do a fantastic job year after year and this event is one we can all look forward to throughout the cold winter months.
On the same note, I’ve had the privilege to cover many of the other annual events which make this city and county such a fantastic place to call home. Colorscape, Gus Macker, Pumpkinfest, St. Baldrick’s and the Chenango County Fair – the list goes on and on. All provide an opportunity for local residents to really enjoy what our way of life is all about in a safe, fun, family-friendly atmosphere. Years ago, you wouldn’t have caught me within twenty miles of the hordes of people who attend these events, yet now I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
One particular story, one which struck me as simply amazing, was that of Richard W. Hamilton and a dog tag of his unearthed in the California desert by Vietnam Veteran Carl Virden. I spent a lot of time on this story of a World War II soldier, Hamilton, who just happened to be a Norwich native. During desert training in California under General Patton, a young Hamilton apparently lost his dog tags (I’ve often wondered just what the consequences for that were ever since I wrote the story), which were then discovered by Virden decades later, while he was practicing his metal detection skills. After a couple of weeks of research I finally found historical records of Hamilton, who had returned to Chenango County following the war to his wife and family. Ironically, it turned out Hamilton’s closest living relative was the mother of Linda Green, who works about fifteen feet away from me here in the offices of The Evening Sun. Unbelievable.
Historically speaking, I also had a chance to write numerous stories for the Chenango County Historical Society and the Rexford Street Museum. As a long-time history buff it was great to have an opportunity to learn so much about our local history and, over the last year, I’ve gained a tremendous appreciation for what that means to our community. CCHS Director Alan Estus has been a pleasure to work with throughout the year, and I’m definitely looking forward to 2011 and the many changes which are taking place at the museum, particularly the newly renovated Research Center. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out the museum’s new Pharmaceutical exhibit, don’t miss out, it’s truly incredible.
As a local musician for nearly twenty years, it was really great to meet, and write about, so many of our area’s exceptional singers, songwriters and instrumentalists. We have an inordinate amount of talent in our community, especially when it comes to the performing arts, and I loved being able to provide some exposure for these extremely talented individuals and ensembles. In addition, every chance I’ve had to cover the Purple Tornado Marching Band and Mary Mayo’s gifted choirs has been truly inspiring. As a former member of the marching band, jazz band, madrigal singers, mixed choir and symphonic and concert bands, I was so excited to revisit my old high school and write each and every one of those stories. It really took me back and it’s been a great experience.
Another favorite story – and probably the most humorous by far – our yearly downtown crow invasion, which has always been good for a laugh. I honestly don’t know what’s funnier – Warren with his laser pointer, the obnoxious Jurassic Park-like recording blasting over the downtown PA system or the random concussion shots that ring out at 6 a.m. (and sound like a bank robbery in progress). These pesky avian scavengers are just not that easy to get rid of I guess, but at least it provides a chuckle when things get stressful in the newsroom.
In addition, it’s been extremely gratifying covering our area senior citizens and local non-profit organizations. The Still Creating II event, held at the Council of the Arts, was especially cool, and I was so proud of my grandmother when her artwork was chosen as this year’s “signature piece.” All around, the artwork created by the seniors in our community was amazing. Covering the Chenango County United Way, Relay for Life and all of the other non-profits who do so much locally was also a pleasure and I hope the stories I’ve written have helped them out in some way.
In the end I have to say it’s been a fun and interesting first year here at our hometown daily and I’ve enjoyed the experience greatly. As a “born-and-raised Norwichian” I get quite a kick out of writing about the city where I grew up. And while there will always be bad news, no matter where one lives, it’s nice to know that, here in Chenango County, we have plenty of good news to balance things out. Happy New Year to all of our faithful readers and here’s to a fantastic 2011!