Author: Dean Close

New Fairgrounds patio dedicated to memory of Bill and Earlene McKenna

On Saturday night at the 2016 Benton County Fair, the descendants of Bill and Earlene McKenna gathered with friends and relatives to officially dedicate the Bill and Earlene McKenna patio. Bill was a lifelong farmer; Earlene had been a Jackson 4-Leaf Clover 4-H Club leader. They loved farming, 4-H and the Fair. Now, the memorial patio that honors many other people has been named in their honor. “John and several of the six kids were able to all help install the patio with the help of family friends, Ben and Bridget Seiler, Bill and Teddi Newton and the Mike and Laurie Ortner family,” said Nichole McKenna. “We spent a couple weeks before fair preparing the space and getting the pavers laid. The 4H foundation is selling the red colored bricks in the ribbon of the patio as a fundraiser for them.” “About 10 years ago, John and Ben had built a small patio over by the 4h building but is wasn’t really usable and would get driven over,” explains Nichole. “So they tore that out a year or two ago and had inquired with us about laying them somewhere over toward the animal barns.” The family brainstormed and thought maybe they ould do something more to honor Bill and Earlen. “We had been trying to come up with some way to honor John’s parents with memorial money that we...

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Central DeWitt ace keeps Vikes from advancing to State

Down 6-0 at the start of the sixth inning, the Vinton-Shellsburg baseball team rallied for five runs in the top of the sixth, and had runners on base. But with two outs and the go-ahead run at the plate, the Sabers coach replaced their starting pitcher with their undefeated one. Senior TJ Sikkema, the son of Sabers head coach Shane Sikkema, is 8-0 this season, with an era of .38; opposing hitters are batting just .084 against him. An infield single by Connor Miracle drove in the fifth Viking run in the 6th. Sikkema, who has signed with the University of Missouri, came in with two out and runners on first and second. He got the last out in the sixth and struck out all three Viking batters in the seventh, preserving the win for the Sabers. Tyler Rippel, in his last game as a Viking, allowed just two earned runs, but VS three errors in the fourth inning helped the Sabers build a 5-0 lead. They added one more in the fifth. Rippel also did his part to help the offense, driving in two runs with a single in the 6th. See game photos...

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Raegan’s Tornado Relief trailer accepting donations at Fareway

A Keystone girl who has earned much attention for her efforts to help people after natural disasters has now focused her efforts on Vinton. Raegan Junge, the daughter of Jerry and Crystal Junge, has been involved in helping collect and send items to disaster victims all over the U.S. for many years. She has been featured in many media stories as she helped people from distant locations who had survived natural disasters. But on June 17, without warning, Raegan – who calls herself Rae-Rae – was among those camping just a few hundred yards north of the tornado that suddenly ripped through Vinton. “This happened around 4:30 a.m., a block from where my family and my 4-H friends were camping at our local Benton County Fair. where we show horses and livestock. The weather radio went off in our camper but it was too late to take shelter. The only shelter on the fairgrounds is a bathroom on the other side from the campers. We had no idea storms were coming,” she wrote on the Raegan’s Tornado Relief Effort Facebook Page. It was Raegan’s display on natural disasters that narrowly escaped damage when the tornado hurled a board from a nearby building through the metal wall of the 4-H building and into the display area right above her poster. “I know all about the strength of tornadoes and so...

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From ball fields to apartments to houses: The path of Sunday’s storm

t started at a baseball field, the storm that will eventually make its way into the Vinton history books. Early Sunday morning, approximately 36 hours before the Vinton-Shellsburg Vikings and Marion Indians were scheduled to arrive to settle the question of who would be District Champion, the wind showed up. Whether it was a tornado, wind shear, Derecho or some other natural storm phenomenon, it began by flattening the chain link fence at the VS ball field, and hurling the “350” sign east into the yard of Doug and Susan Martens. It twisted the scoreboard like a drunk crumpling a beer can and flattened the pole that lifted two rows of lights high above the left field fence. Unlike the historic derecho that devastated a much bigger area five years and six days earlier, this storm ignored the year-old football/soccer field, spreading debris but not damaging anything at the Karr complex. Then it moved east. Just across the creek from left field, the wind ripped the roof off an apartment building managed by Imperial Apartments. It also took the entire top off the east wall, leaving a damage of a living room and kitchen completely visible from hundreds of feet away. Then it blew east, across a sidewalk before ripping more than half roof off another similarly-sized apartment building. It also blew a large hole in the southwest corner...

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‘Definitely a tornado:’ National Weather Service expert describes Sunday storm

The storm that heavily damages several blocks in Vinton on Sunday morning was “definitely a tornado,” most likely an F2 with winds between 130 and 150 mph that lasted just 15-25 seconds, says Donna Dubberke of the National Weather Service. Dubberke is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service Quad Cities location in Davenport. She joined other NWS weather experts and local leaders in touring the area near the houses and apartment buildings damaged or destroyed. The tornado caused a damage path approximately 100 yards wide, said Dubberke. Convergent vs. Divergent In assessing damage, says Dubberke, the NWS looks for the extent of the damage as well as whether the damage is convergent (gathered together) or divergent (spread around). In a tornado, the lifting action of the storm tends to cause damage to be convergent on the ground. Later as the storm whirls away, it will cast debris in many directions. Evidence of that was found in the many boards which were hurled into the ground, or through siding and windows. In a straight line wind storm, says Dubberke, the effect of the wind is to blow debris away from the damaged structures. Despite technology, human eyes still essential to storm safety The NWS will continue researching the storm, comparing the damage path to what its radar records show. Dubberke explained, however, that even with the most...

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Sash crowned Benton County Fair Queen; Hilmer named Princess

Payton Sash will spend her last year of high school representing Benton County as the 2016 Fair Queen. The daughter of Kevin and Mary Jo Sash, Payton was crowned Thursday night by 2015 Queen Sarah Kreutner. Payton, who has two younger sisters, Olivia, and Rylee, will be a senior at Union High School this fall. She lives on a small goat farm in La Porte City and currently plans on going to Iowa State to major in Agriculture in Society or Agricultural Business. In school, she is involved in the fall play, group speech, and individual speech, cross country, golf, Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), Future Problem Solvers (FPS), the volunteer program, and band color guard. Payton is also a member of her FFA chapter were she is currently serving as officer at large. Some of her favorite activities through FFA has been competing in Parliamentary Procedure helping with their greenhand camp, and running for district office. She has recently been inducted into her schools National Honor Society which she has begun volunteering. She has been a part of A-Team and Honor Roll throughout her high school career. She has worked hard on her grades ever since beginning school, she is part of the Bruce Booster 4H Club and the Benton County Council. She is excited to be a camp counselor for 4H Junior camp this summer. Payton is...

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The Brexit and the Declaration of Independence

Imagine the impact on Iowa if any of the following headlines were true: Ag Secretary Vilsack orders farmers to provide playthings for pigs USDA issues rules on shape of bananas, cucumbers Congress increases pensions of all federal employees; sends bill to Iowa Report: Deportees sent to Iowa accused in terror attack Crazy? Certainly. But all of those things have already happened. But not here. They all happened in Europe, home of the “Brexit” – the British Exit from the European Union. From Des Moines to Toronto to Sidney, newspapers have been lamenting the shocking decision of the British to tear themselves from the other 26 countries that make up the E.U. The theory from most pundits in non-UK countries (including ours) is that the Brits, in a moment of fear, Islamophobia and general pinky-pointing, tea-sipping snobbishness, decided that Brexiting is the best way to keep people who can’t properly say “Blimey, I am gobsmacked at how those bloody blinkered, gormless blokes have cocked up our country” far, far away from Westminster Abbey. In other words, Americans and other westerners say that the Brexit is simply the result of fear and racism. The vote has caused “panic and regret,” wrote the DM Register Editorial Board, adding that the vote illustrates “the dangers posed by an uninformed electorate.” “Hate wins if Brexit prevails; the debate has descended into fear and demonisation...

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Coach of the Year: State bowling group honors VS coach Amber Pattee

As she looks forward to next year and preparing bowlers for the upcoming season, Vinton-Shellsburg bowling coach Amber Pattee has received one more honor for her work last season, when the VS boys were Class 1A State Champions. The Iowa Bowling Proprietors Association presented Pattee with the Class 1A Coach of the Year award on Wednesday, during the organization’s annual summer meeting and trade show at Adventureland Inn. “The high school association gives this award to each of the state champion coaches for each class,” Pattee said. “Last week I received an email inviting me to this banquet so they can honor each of us. I am glad that my husband Tysus and I went to the banquet. There were so many people excited about bowling in Iowa and especially high school bowling. These amazing people brought us into their group as we shared stories, laughed and gained new friendships. I am humbled to receive this award and hope to continue our tradition here in Vinton.” That tradition-building continues this summer as Pattee is organizing Bowling Camp for elementary through high school students. This camp will take place July 31-Aug....

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A celebrity’s ‘favorite teacher ever’ – well, kind of

Vinton-Shellsburg High School Assistant Principal Tony Islas is a former teacher of one of Iowa’s more recent celebrities, Chris Soules from the ABC reality-TV show “The Bachelor.” Islas recently ran into Soules at the Zach Johnson Golf Classic, and posed for a photo with him. The teacher found the experience both humbling and humorous. “ When I came into the Vinton-Shellsburg school district last year I stated that one of my ‘claims to fame’ was that I knew The Bachelor’s Chris Soules.,” says Islas. “Well, I think I said I was his former middle school P.E. teacher and wrestling coach.” Then that day at the Johnson Classic Islas made it a point to find and see Chris and ask him if he remembered him. “He looked at me and said that he did, so I asked him, ‘Then who am I?’ He said I was his old wrestling coach but couldn’t recall my name.” Islas reminded the celeb of his name. “ He said, ‘Yeah that’s it. How are you doing and what are you up to now?’ We shared a very brief conversation before he had to shuttle off to golf. I did state to him that I had to get a picture of him and me I together for my wife, after getting one of him and my son. He was gracious and obliged the request.” Then...

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Vikings lose two at Indee; many experience field turf for first time

The Vinton-Shellsburg Viking baseball team lost two games on the new field turf at Independence on Friday. An 8-inning 2-1 Mustang win preceded a 3-1 victory for Independence, which was honoring it s five seniors. While Viking infielders say the new turf was a bit faster, the base runners were the ones who noticed the difference. “You slide a lot farther,” said Blake Bohnsack, who came in a couple times as a pitch runner, and advanced from first to third in Game 1 before being thrown out at the plate on an attempted double-steal play. “It looks like they are sliding on linoleum,” said one VS parent. The Vikings (22-15) wrap up regular-season action on Monday at Oelwein and Tuesday vs. Waverly-Shell Rock. They host Benton Thursday at 7 p.m. in the District opener. See the VS stat page HERE. See more photos...

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5 year anniversary: 2011 wind storm

Today, July 11, is the fifth anniversary of the historic wind storm that damaged a wide area of Benton County, particularly Garrison, Vinton and the west edge of Urbana. The National Weather Service estimated the winds at 130 miles per hour that morning. Thousands of trees, hundreds of buildings and many vehicles were damaged. No serious injuries were reported, even though some residents reported having trees land in their bedroom and campers at the fairgrounds were overturned. “I had over 350 trees on my wooded lot. After the storm I had 12,” says former resident Martin Blind. Below are...

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Garrison Fun day fills Emergency Services Building

“The weather was wonderful and so were the people. All events were well attended and supported,” said Steve Meyer, as he described the annual Garrison Fun Day. “It was a great day for Benton County Breast Cancer Survivors, Garrison Emergency Services, area children and the citizens of our community. We thank everyone who participated and supported us,” said Meyer. Garrison Fun Day is sponsored by the Garrison Emergency Services Foundation. The Garrison Emergency Services Foundation Inc. is a non-profit organization serving the needs of the Garrison Fire Department, Garrison First Responders, and Garrison Emergency Services Auxiliary assist with the event. All proceeds of the foundation are used for improvements to Garrison Emergency Services. See more photos...

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