A few of the events that helped shape our county in 2013
As we put 2013 behind us, we would like to reflect on some of the events that affected our area over the past year. For a few photos of the year, look at our “2013 at a glance” photo gallery in the photos section of our website
The year started out with a shock as popular cheer instructor Matthew Tinkle was arrested on rape charges, eventually leading to a federal indictment on child pornography charges. As of publication, Tinkle is still in the Cleburne County jail a year later as the cases work through the justice system. January also dumped snow on residents of the county. Weather forecasters predicted possible winter precipitation, but no one expected the fast and heavy snow dump that left traffic stranded on roads for hours and even some children trapped at school because busses didn’t make it out before the fast moving snow hit. Ground was broken on the new Cleburne County library and construction is still going on, with completion planned for this year.
An early morning wreck demolished the front of a strip mall down the street from Spring Park in Heber. The annual chamber banquet saw a record crowd as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spoke to the gathering. The biggest news of February, however, was the suicide of country singer Mindy McCready. McCready was found dead from an apparent suicide. She had been in local news the prior year for allegedly kidnapping her son and hiding here in Heber Springs.
Popular meat vendor Lonnie’s Meat Market was the target of a state lawsuit after state investigators determined that filler had been used in some of the meat that was sold. Lonnie’s would close its doors later in 2013. The Breakin’ Bread soup kitchen opened to much acclaim and as the year progressed, would become a source of pride for the community as it helped provide solid meals for some of the less fortunate in Cleburne County.
It was learned that the Heber Springs School District lost a federal civil rights case. The school district would face another small controversy regarding basketball players later in the year. The annual SIDS event raised over $6,000 for this worthy cause; meanwhile Springfest celebrated another successful year despite the heavy rain that weekend. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises was the Earth Day celebration at ASU-Heber Springs. Local groups came together to provide the most successful Earth Day ever in Cleburne County, with hundreds of area residents and children flooding the campus.
It was learned Pauline Johnston had embezzled over $15,000 from the AGATE program at Heber Springs elementary. Meanwhile, State Treasurer Martha Schofner from neighboring Independence County was arrested by the FBI on charges of extortion. A round of storms hit the county, resulting in downed trees and other debris littering the area.
Heber police announced that a wave of counterfeit $20 bills had hit the area and an outbreak of E.coli was found at the popular Sandy Beach swimming area in Heber. A brand new library was opened as part of the Cleburne County library system in Quitman. The biggest news to hit this month, and one of the biggest of the year, was the announcement of the resurrection of the proposed water garden in Cleburne County fifty years after it was approved by President John F. Kennedy.
The Hunt family was announced as the 2013 Farm Family of the Year and the annual Cardboard Boat Races proved successful once again. Unfortunately, July saw the unexpected passing of Justice of the Peace Bobby Mooney. The county came out in force to mourn the loss of a man truly loved by his family, friends, and the entire area.
The annual AMPA state convention was held at the community center and Heber’s own Sgt. Lloyd White was named state president for the organization, and added another source of pride to Cleburne’s collection. Residents were also shocked to hear of the robbery of elderly Jewell Brooks of Hopewell. Authorities eventually arrested Tanner Adcock, Zackery Smith, and Bobbylee Pointer for the crime, who allegedly tied Brooks up and robbed her home.
Festivals, festivals, festivals. September was full of them. The Cleburne County Fair was bigger and better than ever, but the surprise breakout hit was the reinvented Ozark Trail Festival. Three days of non-stop activity brought the crowds out in droves and this festival ended up being one of the most successful events held in Cleburne County in all of 2013.
It was 50 years ago this month that JFK arrived at the new Greers Ferry Dam for his last dedication before his unfortunate assassination in Dallas. A star-studded group of speakers were present at the anniversary celebration, headlined by President Bill Clinton. Thousands were at the record-breaking event to witness this moment in history. The month also had some bad news, however, as St. Jean’s announced that it would be laying off most of its workforce at the end of the year.
The City of Concord was found in violation of the Arkansas Speed Trap Law and could no longer write traffic tickets on the state highway that runs through the town. Many familiar with Heber Springs history were saddened by the news that the old Young Men’s Business Club ball field was being torn down. In better news, Debbie Thompson was announced as volunteer superhero for 2013 and Heber Springs was notified that it was being named a 2013 Volunteer Community of the Year.
Winter weather closed down businesses and schools as ice struck the area early in the month. Heber School District was visited with another controversy when they denied two students a spot on the basketball team. The School Board met in a special session and voted to allow the students to play. In another crime surprise for the year, the popular McDonald’s restaurant in Heber Springs was the target of an armed robbery. Brave citizens chased the man, but he managed to get away and elude authorities. A collaboration of local authorities and the Saline County Sheriff’s Office eventually tracked the suspect to Saline County and Robert Freeman was arrested.
These are just a few of what 2013 brought us. There was some good, some bad, but regardless of how it went, the year is behind us. We here at The Sun-Times believe Cleburne County has the potential to shine like it never has and we hope the 2014 sees that light get even brighter and brighter. Happy New Year.