In this edition, we finish up our year in review for 2016. In the Wednesday, January 4, edition, we highlighted the top stories of January through June of last year. As a reminder, we chose our top stories from the positive events of the year, rather than rehashing any crime stories that made our headlines during the year.
July kicked off with the annual Independence Day celebration at Sandy Beach in Heber Springs and the big fireworks display over Greers Ferry Lake that evening. Residents and tourists flooded into the area on July 2, to witness the extravaganza and attend the festivities on Sandy Beach in Heber Springs.
What started as a relatively mild summer became almost unbearable as Mother Nature turned up the heat on Cleburne County. A large section of the nation's midsection suffered through a weather phenomenon commonly referred to as a 'heat dome'. This dome, or bubble, of heat has driven heat indices into the triple digits, reaching as high as 118 degrees on some days.
The Pokémon Go phenomenon that swept the nation hit Heber Springs, as local gamers searched the city in an effort to catch ‘em all. Many local players said the game encouraged them to be more physically and socially active. “I’ve met so many people that I never would have talked to before, and it’s good exercise. I’ve probably walked more in the last week than I have in the last six months,” said Joe Nations, who created a “Pokémon Go Heber Springs” Facebook group to bring local players together.
The 2016 World Championship Cardboard Boat Races took place on August 30 at Sandy Beach in Heber Springs. What started as cloudy, potentially rainy day, ended with plenty of sun as visitors near and far crowded the beach to watch the nationally known event. The “UP” House boat by Green Bay Packaging out of Tulsa, Oklahoma took home the coveted Pride of the Fleet award.
Families and veterans filled Spring Park in Heber Springs in celebration of the 129th Old Soldiers Reunion and Parade. The reunion kicked off with a “Celebrate America” parade down Main Street. Crowds packed into Spring Park for the carnival.The Old Soldier’s Reunion, sponsored by the American Legion Post 64, started 129 years ago as the Reunion of the Blue and Gray, a means of rebuilding relationships after the end of the Civil War, and has grown over the years to recognize veterans of all foreign wars.
Heber Springs High School and Heber Springs Middle School Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) won big at the national competition in San Diego. Bianca Elslander, Sara Davis, and Emily Forrest received gold medals in Sr. Focus on Children; Kylie Green, Tatum White, and Emily Petersen received silver medals in Jr. Focus on Children; and Jacob Cantrell received a silver medal for Jr. Recycle Redesign.
Relay for Life was held in September. Teams formed by local businesses and residents walked all through the night to raise money to help fund the hope to find a cure for cancer. Along with the Relay events, a Mr. Relay contest was held, as well as musical entertainment.
The 11th Annual Quitman Fest kicked off with a bang at the Quitman Sports Complex. The popular festival was packed with activities such as a car show, a hole shot, pony rides for the kids, vendors, and a live performance from the Aces Wild Band. Whatever your interests, Quitman Fest offered a little for everyone.
October was a busy month for events and festivals. The 14th Annual Business Expo took place at the Heber Springs Community Center. Visitors were treated to a plethora of booths representing a variety of local businesses. Approximately 600 people attended the event.
Beautiful weather helped draw crowds to last year's annual Ozark Trail Festival. Crowds filed into the downtown square and Spring Park to take part in what has become one of Heber's more popular attractions.
Visitors to Jackson Creek Homestead in Quitman were treated to a slice of 19th Century Cleburne County during their Living History Weekend. From Confederate soldiers to authentic candlemakers, corn cob pipes to corn husk dolls, the day was filled with the sights and sounds of rural life in the 1860s.
By far the biggest event story of the year was the runaway success of the new After Dark in the Park festival in Heber Springs. What was planned as a modest, hopefully successful reimagining of Heber Springs' traditional Halloween festival turned into a massive success, surprising both organizers and participants alike. It was estimated estimated well over 2000 people flooded Main Street and Spring Park through the course of the festival.
The 2nd Annual Heber Springs Night Out was a grand success once again, as first responders and the public came together to meet, talk, and celebrate the important work first responders do for the community.
After what proved to be one of the longest, strangest, and most visceral election seasons in American history, Election 2016 came to a close with what has been called one of the most dramatic upsets since Harry Truman's surprise victory over Thomas Dewey in 1948 as Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to become the next president of the United States. Locally, the biggest race to still be determined was the election of Cleburne County Sheriff. Republican Chris Brown defeated Democrat John Murphy to serve in that position for the next two years.
Ceremonies were held around Cleburne County to honor veterans on Veterans Day. A ceremony in Spring Park hosted by American Legion Saxton-Willis AR Post 64 was attended by a number of notables, including Department Historian from District 6 Executive Committeeman Wallace Rosier, the immediate past Arkansas American Legion State Commander Verlon Abram, members of the VFW Quitman, VFW Tumbling Shoals, American Legion Heber Springs, Daughters of the Confederacy, Disabled American Veterans, Daughters of the American Revolution along with Heber Springs Police Chief Bobby Walker and Heber Springs Mayor Jimmy Clark.
The 10th Annual Cleburne County Santa Run took place the first weekend in December. Riders and other participants drove toys from Red River Dodge in Heber Springs to the Drasco Trading Post in Drasco. There, the toys were delivered to the National Guard for distribution to needy families in Cleburne County.
After the success of After Dark in the Park for Halloween, organizers decided to bring it back for the After Dark in the Park Christmas Edition. The annual Heber Springs Christmas Parade was held the same night, turning out crowds for fun and festivities despite it being one of the coldest nights of the season to that point.
We hope you've enjoyed looking back on 2016 with us and look forward to 2017 with our readers and our community at large.