'The Citizen' looks back at an eventful 2018
The Native Earth Performing Arts theatre company announced that it would be producing the Blyth Festival-commissioned Ipperwash as part of its 2018 season.
The production, written and directed by Falen Johnson, would be in the Aki Studio at the Dundas Street East theatre in Toronto from Feb. 6-18.
North Huron Council began its annual budget process, with staff at first proposing a tax increase of nearly 15 per cent to cover increased spending and reduced funding from upper-tier levels of government.
Huron County Council approved an agri-marketing work plan brought forward by its economic development department.
The plan stretched back to 2016 and looked ahead to 2020, identifying both agriculture and agri-food as key growth sectors in the coming years.
Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, was already beginning to impact local businesses, through both staff reductions and increased prices being passed down to customers.
Some business owners said they didn’t want to have to raise prices, knowing it would affect their customer base, but that increased salaries and increased costs from suppliers might make it unavoidable.
Blyth native Justin Peters, an alumnus of the Blyth Minor Hockey system, was one of three goalies named to the Canadian men’s hockey team destined for the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Peters was joined by Ben Scrivens, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings, and Kevin Poulin of the Austrian Hockey League.
Peters had been playing in Germany for the season and said that representing his country would be the proudest moment of his hockey career.
In light of skyrocketing farm property values, the Huron County Federation of Agriculture was asking Huron County Council to adjust its farm tax rate to ease the burden on farmers.
Representative Rob Vanden Hengel suggested a subtle, gradual increase to ease the sudden burden on farmers. However, many councillors weren’t in favour of his proposal, because it meant other tax classes, like residential and commercial property owners, would have to pick up the slack in the face of a ratio shift at the county level.
Blyth native Orie Falconer was on the cusp of becoming a well-known name in the video gaming industry when Way of the Passive Fist was released in the coming weeks.
Falconer produced the music for the game and had put many hours into its production. It would be released on all major gaming platforms in the weeks to come.
At the second of two public meetings on the matter, members of the public demonstrated clear support for retaining the Wingham Police Service.
Council was mulling three options in regards to policing in North Huron: eliminating the Wingham Police Service and employing the OPP to serve the entire municipality, expanding the Wingham Police Service to cover the entire municipality or to maintain the status quo of split-level service between the municipality’s three wards.
Despite a groundswell of support and presentations from concerned Blyth residents, Huron County Engineer Steven Lund said the demand for traffic lights at Blyth’s main intersection of Blyth and London Roads simply wasn’t there according to traffic statistics.
Working in the face of the announcement that the Blyth branch of the CIBC would be closing later in the year, several concerned citizens created a petition to keep the bank in the village.
Sharlene Bolen and Patty and Irene Kellins were at the head of the initiative, aiming to gather hundreds of signatures in support of keeping the bank in Blyth.
Huron East was chosen as ground zero for an ambitious television-over-internet project taken on by Dr. Chris Cooper and his brand, Rediscovering Canada.
Cooper said he hoped the project would serve to bring local content forward on the channel through new episodes of Our Places, Our People.
Dorothy Cummings was formally installed as the new president of the Brussels Agricultural Society, taking over from Matt Cardiff, who was the youngest president in the organization’s history.
In anticipation of its Wing Night at the Boot project, the Blyth Festival and specifically its Artistic Director Gil Garratt were looking for historic stories about the fabled bar and restaurant, asking members of the public to come forward and share theirs to be included in the production that coming summer.
Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson honoured 40 constituents with Remarkable Citizen Awards. Locals receiving awards included Grant Sparling, Matt Townsend, Gerry Wheeler, Jamie McCallum, Yvonne Kitchen and Shirley Dinsmore, among others.
Paul Josling, the late Blyth fire chief and co-founder of the Dave Mounsey Memorial Fund, was to be honoured with a special defibrillator donation by the fund at the year’s Run Around The Square in Goderich.
The Brussels Leo Club celebrated its fifth anniversary with a special event held at the Brussels Four Winds Barn, marking a number of achievements over that time.
Nearly 40 attended the inaugural meeting of Sing Sing Sing at the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre, a community choral group that brought together residents and local musicians to spend time together through song.
Organizers Zoey Onn, Jim Lee and Don Chesher said they were pleased with the turnout for the first meeting and looked forward to a year full of performances throughout Brussels now that it was clear there was interest.
North Huron Council decided to reduce recycling pick-up in the township, announcing that it would be picked up every two weeks, instead of every week.
Grant Sparling, vice-president and general manager of Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company, was honoured with a Rural Ontario Leaders Award from Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal. Sparling’s award was one of five handed out that night.
Blyth native Justin Peters was on the bench in the back-up goalie role as the Canadian men’s hockey team cruised to a bronze medal with a victory over the Czech Republic.
Peters said it was truly a dream come true to earn an Olympic medal as a member of a Canadian hockey team.
With a tough budget year ahead, Huron East staff were able to cut $1.6 million from the muncipality’s budget after the presentation of the first draft.
The 2017 International Plowing Match (IPM) committee held a special wrap-up meeting in Blyth where IPM Chair Jacquie Bishop shared a report that confirmed the match had a local economic impact of $4.5 million.
After weeks of debate, North Huron decided to retain the Wingham Police Service, which meant the police department’s budget would increase by $400,000 annually through doubling the complement of officers in the town.
The Pigeon King, a play commissioned by the Blyth Festival and penned by a collective of Festival familiar faces, had been chosen to be part of the National Art Centre’s 2018/2019 season in Ottawa.
Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt said it was an honour to be chosen to be part of such a prestigious theatre’s offering for the coming season. It was the first time a Blyth Festival show would appear on the centre’s hallowed stage.
The Brussels Optimist Club held its annual spring dinner and auction, raising over $30,000 for the Tanner Steffler Foundation.
Caroline Mulroney, a candidate for the leadership of the provincial PC Party, visited Blyth as part of a cross-province tour. She spoke to supporters at Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company about the challenges that lay ahead of the province.
The Blyth Brussels Atom Crusaders players felt the glory of a gold medal around their necks, winning the Western Ontario Athletic Association’s championship with a 3-2 win over their counterparts from Goderich thanks in no small part to two goals from Ava Strome, including the game-winner.
After taking a year off for a variety of reasons, the Walton TransCan would return for 2018, with an announcement from owner Brett Lee.
The Blyth Brussels Novice Rep Crusaders won a Western Ontario Athletic Association gold medal, defeating the Minto Mad Dogs by a score of 4-3 in their final game of the season.
This came after the Crusaders won the first two games of the series, but lost the third, setting up a potential series victory in the fourth game, which would be held in Blyth.
A Wingham man was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in relation to a double homicide in the Bluevale area.
A cycling team sponsored by Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company raised over $8,200 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada through a special eight-hour spinning event at the brewery.
Sixteen cyclists, including locals Jeff Peters, Shawn Loughlin and Jessica Lunshof were among those who cycled indoors at the brewery for eight hours in an effort to raise funds for the society.
North Huron and Huron East announced that they would be sharing fire chief services, employing current Huron East Fire Chief Marty Bedard to cover chief duties for the Fire Department of North Huron as well.
Several Brussels-area residents, including Doug McArter, Paul Mutter and Daniel Fritz spoke up at a special meeting regarding the potential renovation and expansion of the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre. Residents voted overwhelmingly in favour of putting money into the facility, which hadn’t seen upgrades in decades.
Hillary MacDonald, who had been working as a student minister for the Blyth and Brussels United Churches, announced that she would be leaving Huron County for a position at St. Andrew’s United Church in Calgary.
In the latest draft of the North Huron budget, spending was expected to rise 18 per cent. Much of that increase was associated with council’s decision to retain and expand the Wingham Police Service, which would be area-rated and charged to Wingham residents.
Despite the efforts of residents aiming to keep the CIBC in Blyth, representatives of the bank were unequivocal in regards to the bank closure, saying it was a foregone conclusion.
A Junior rugby team from Surrey, British Columbia claimed the top spot in the Dinning Cup, an annual rugby tournament held in Wingham in memory of fallen soldier and rugby player Matthew Dinning.
Jacquie Bishop of Bluevale, chair of the 2017 International Plowing Match, won the Warden’s Award at the Huron Arts and Heritage Network’s annual Cultural Awards night.
Bishop was among a number of locals honoured, including Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt, the Four Winds Barn in Brussels and others.
Walton’s Mitchell Godkin was breaking new ground in the world of baseball bats with his new company, Leadbury Bat Company.
After years of working with wood and an education in engineering from the University of Western Ontario, Godkin had perfected a custom drying process that was resulting in off-the-charts performance in his bats.
The Huron Residential Hospice near Clinton officially opened its doors to the public with a large open house and pig roast, attracting many local dignitaries.
The Tanner Steffler Foundation brought Canadian celebrity and mental health advocate Michael Landsberg to Blyth for a pair of events. The first was a private dinner and lecture at Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company and the second was a discussion at Memorial Hall, which was attended by hundreds of people.
Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson would be challenged by five others in the upcoming provincial election. Don Matheson of the Liberal Party, Jan Johnstone of the NDP, Nicholas Wendler of the Green Party, Gerrie Huenemoerder of the Alliance Party and Ron Stephens of the Libertarian Party all sought to challenge the incumbent in the coming weeks.
Part II Bistro in Blyth again claimed a number of TripAdvisor awards, this time for Top Canadian Cuisine and as the Top Bistro in Canada. This was the third year in a row that the restaurant claimed national honours from the website.
Despite making a decision the previous month, North Huron Council re-opened the debate on policing in North Huron with a special council meeting set for June 11.
The fishing derby at Radford’s Pond, just south of Blyth, would be cancelled after nearly 30 years.
The Blyth Legion and Legion Ladies Auxiliary, as well as the Radford and Scrimgeour families, had hosted the event for decades, but with volunteers being tough to find, the fishing derby had to be shut down.
Nominations officially opened for the municipal election in October, although there wasn’t much action locally in those early days.
Jamie Heffer filed papers to become the mayor of Morris-Turnberry and Jim Ginn had put his name forward to be the Central Huron mayor once again.
After a special public meeting, North Huron Council backtracked on its earlier decision and began moving towards bringing the OPP into Wingham to police the town, eliminating the Wingham Police Service.
Incumbent Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson was re-elected by a landslide in her home riding for a third straight term.
Thompson received 52 per cent of the votes cast in Huron-Bruce, followed by Jan Johnstone of the NDP, who had over 15,000 votes cast for her compared to Thompson’s 27,646.
Huron Christian School in Clinton officially broke ground on its new expansion. It took the school eight months to raise over $3 million, far ahead of the 18-month schedule.
The school would operate out of Vanastra for the 2018/2019 school year while the project was being completed.
After a two-week remount of The Pigeon King, the Blyth Festival officially opened its season with the world premiere of The New Canadian Curling Club, written by Mark Crawford.
Boris Panovski, a 74-year-old Scarborough dog trainer and hair stylist, was found guilty in the 2014 murder of Don Frigo in the Hullett Wildlife Conservation Area.
After a trial that lasted several weeks, Panovski was convicted despite the case presented by his lawyers that no one could accurately identify him at the crime scene the day of the shooting.
Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, who had just been re-elected in the riding, was named the Minister of Education under Premier Doug Ford.
Thompson, who had been an outspoken critic of rural school closures in recent years, said that she would employ the “4 Hs” of Ontario 4-H (head, heart, hands and health) in all that she does in her new position.
The Brussels Tigers again welcomed the Australian Junior Men’s Steelers to Brussels for a pair of games against the tough Australian squad.
Not only did the two teams play a double-header for village residents, but they also jointly held a baseball camp for the village’s youth earlier in the day.
The Blyth Festival season continued with its parade of world premieres, staging Judith: Memories of a Lady Pig Farmer by Heather Davies based on the novel by Aritha van Herk.
With a municipal election on the horizon, a Blyth councillor position on North Huron Council was thrown into flux with the resignation of Councillor Bill Knott.
Knott’s resignation came 22 days before the opening of a 90-day resignation window before an election, meaning that North Huron Council had to find a replacement for Knott for just a few months.
North Huron Council announced that it would be selling the Emergency Services Training Centre and build a new fire hall in Blyth. Whether or not council would build a new public works structure in Blyth had been discussed, but a final decision on the matter had yet to be reached.
Blyth’s John Stewart was chosen to fill the vacant Blyth council seat abandoned by Knott’s resignation. He beat out Brad Carther of Wingham, who was also vying for the seat.
Clinton native Terry Snell embarked on a cross-country cycling trip that began on the west coast. He decided to travel across the country when his grandmother was diagnosed with dementia and he wanted to spread awareness about Alzheimer’s Disease.
He made his way into Ontario, greeted by enthusiastic supporters, friends and family members when he got to Clinton, taking several days off before resuming his trek.
The Brussels Tigers claimed the A-A championship in their own tournament, beating the Linwood Chiefs by a score of 2-1 in the final.
Amanda Morrison was crowned the Brussels Fall Fair Ambassador, besting candidates Taylor Dietrich-Illsley and Brittany Struthers. Kaleigh McCallum was named the Little Ambassador and Maddy Bernard the Junior Ambassador.
With the premieres of the Blyth Festival productions of 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt and Wing Night at the Boot, Artistic Director Gil Garratt said the Festival was enjoying a banner year.
He said that the Festival had sold nearly 23,000 tickets, which was a milestone not seen at the Festival since 2008, the year that Innocence Lost: A Play About Steven Truscott premiered.
Leona Armstrong, Huron County’s first-ever female warden, passed away at the age of 84.
The Walton TransCan officially returned to Walton, attracting thousands to the track for several days of motocross action.
Organizer Brett Lee said that while the event was certainly a pared-down version of TransCan events of years past, he heard from many that they felt Walton was “back”, which made him proud.
Loretta Higgins of Brussels was crowned Huron County Queen of the Furrow at the annual match just outside of Clinton. Higgins triumphed over Maranda Klaver and Lauren Bos, who were also vying for the crown.
Jaden Shortreed of the Walton area was named the Princess of the plowing match, coming out on top of seven other contestants.
Allan Thompson of Goderich, who was narrowly defeated by Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb in the last federal election, announced that he would again be seeking the Huron-Bruce Liberal nomination ahead of the 2019 federal election.
The Festival of Wizardry, which was set to be held in Blyth for the second year after going viral and selling out in Goderich, announced that tickets for its Saturday festivities had sold out.
Huron County Cultural Development Officer Rick Sickinger announced that after several years, the Culture Days would be returning to Huron County.
Though a national initiative, Huron County had not taken part in Culture Days for a number of years.
The Brussels Tigers were close to completing one of the great seasons in recent Huron County Fastball League history, finishing the regular fastball season with a dominant record of 17-2, ending the season on a 14-game winning streak.
The following week, the Tigers would go through the league’s year-end tournament undefeated, winning their four games after receiving a first-round bye.
Pastor Mark Royall resigned from his position at Huron Chapel in Auburn after just under seven years in Huron County.
Nancy Michie, the long-time clerk-treasurer of Morris-Turnberry, announced that she would be retiring in 2019 after over 40 years of working in the municipal sector.
The Brussels Terry Fox Run raised over $6,600, bringing the local run’s nearly 25-year total to over $160,000 raised for the Terry Fox Foundation.
The Blyth Festival officially closed the doors on its scheduled 2018 season with a matinee of Wing Night at the Boot and an evening production of 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt.
However, it was the final Wing Night at the Boot show that drew theatre goers’ attention, as Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt filled in for actor Daniel Roberts on the final show.
The Festival would go on to add a number of productions of The New Canadian Curling Club to the end of the season, citing the show’s through-the-roof demand, which resulted in a sold-out run of additional shows.
Two Festivals made headlines for the right reasons at the end of September. Festival of Wizardry organizers estimated that over 10,000 people made their way through the gates in Blyth for this year’s festival, despite the forced cancellation of the first day due to wild weather.
Meanwhile, the Blyth Festival, thanks in part to a remount of The Pigeon King, an extended run of The New Canadian Curling Club and a solid season of shows, said that over 25,000 people watched a Festival show this season.
The Festival’s attendance was an improvement of over 8,000 patrons over the previous year, which was already trending upwards from years past.
The Brussels Fall Fair marked a successful return to Brussels after hosting the fair at the International Plowing Match in Walton the previous year. Though the 2017 arrangement was an unprecedented partnership with a respected provincial entity, members of the Brussels Agricultural Society said it was good for the fair to return to its roots in Brussels.
North Huron Council penned a deal to sell the Emergency Services Training Centre to Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company for $3.5 million.
The deal was expected to close in late November pending engineering and environmental inspections.
Local halls and Legions were busy with all-candidates meetings being held throughout Huron County, allowing candidates to voice their opinions on the issues at hand ahead of the election later that month.
Thanks to a positive showing at the International Plowing Match in Chatham-Kent, Blyth’s Lucas Townsend was named the competition’s Reserve Junior Champion, meaning that he would represent the province at the Canadian Plowing Championship when it was next held.
Doug Sholdice was named the Brussels Citizen of the Year, thanks to his years of work on the Brussels Fire Department and numerous other achievements in the community in recent decades.
Sholdice was joined by Londesborough’s Carl Nesbitt, who won the award for Blyth and its surrounding communities.
Nesbitt was nominated thanks to his four decades of work with the Londesborough and District Lions Club and throughout the Londesborough and Blyth communities.
Blyth-based artist Kelly Stevenson was chosen to produce the artwork for the 2019 season of the Blyth Festival.
The second Rural Talks to Rural conference was held at Memorial Hall in Blyth, bringing together rural-based professionals and academics from across the country.
By all accounts, the event was a success and organizers were already looking ahead to the future.
North Huron would have a nearly entirely new council for the coming term, with Wingham’s Bernie Bailey ousting incumbent Reeve Neil Vincent for the municipality’s top position.
Incumbent Huron East Mayor Bernie MacLellan defeated challenger Cailtin Gillis, while Jamie Heffer was acclaimed in Morris-Turnberry and Jim Ginn was acclaimed in Central Huron.
After months of work behind the scenes, a public meeting was set to discuss the design proposal and potential costs associated with the renovation and expansion of the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre.
Organizers said they hoped to show the public what they had been working on for months and to get feedback from residents and user groups ahead of making any kind of commitment at the meeting on Nov. 27.
The Brussels Agricultural Society realized a profit of over $8,000 from its harvest social, which would infuse the 2019 Brussels Fall Fair with funds to help it run.
With North Huron Council selling the Emergency Services Training Centre, the municipality was now in the market for a new fire hall and residents of North Street , Blyth were critical of discussion that placed their neighbourhood in the middle of those discussions.
Several North Street residents presented a petition to council asking that councillors reconsider another location in the village for the new hall.
Incumbent Huron County Warden Jim Ginn and Bluewater Deputy-Mayor Jim Fergusson both announced that they would be seeking the county’s top position in December.
The Citizen reported that numerous businesses and volunteer service clubs had been left out in the cold in the wake of September’s Festival of Wizardry in Blyth.
Through a Citizen investigation, it was noted that over $40,000 was left unpaid by the festival to at least three local businesses and at least two local service clubs.
At the first meeting of the newly-installed North Huron Council, Reeve Bernie Bailey advocated for amalgamation between his municipality and Morris-Turnberry. His suggestion, however, was quickly struck down the following night as Morris-Turnberry Mayor Jamie Heffer stressed the importance of autonomy for the future of his municipality.
The community was busy with Christmas celebrations both new and old.
The Brussels Santa Claus parade took over the village as it does every year, while the Hometown Holiday Weekend in Blyth attracted hundreds to the village. Nature’s Nest in Londesborough also welcomed many people to its celebration, which included sleigh rides and visits with Santa.
After a public meeting regarding the renovation and expansion of the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre, committee members informed residents that potential work at the centre would cost $4.5 million.
Huron-Bruce MPP and Minister of Education Lisa Thompson was in Clinton, alongside Minister of Infrastructure Monte McNaughton and Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Sylvia Jones to break ground on a new OPP station in the north end of Clinton.