Publisher John Schaffner’s Year in Review
In February 2020, Covid-19 virus descended upon Ottawa County. A lot of people got sick, including myself. The virus is still plaguing all of us here, and around the world.
However, by summer, the masks started to come off and the boating season flourished in 2021. The annual Kettle Campaign set records in December of 2020, reporting over $100,000 raised locally. Long-time Juvenile/Probate Court Judge Kathleen Giesler stepped down. Her replacement was former Municipal Judge Fritz Hany.
The new 26,000-square-foot Port Clinton Field House training facility opened thanks to financial help from noted international waterfowl call makers Fred and Dawn Zink of Port Clinton.
Toward the end of the year we all were fortunate to enjoy the playoff run of the Port Clinton Redskin football team, which won a record 14 games, including four post season tournament games, before losing in the state Division IV semi-finals to Youngstown Ursuline.
In 2021, the Port Clinton Kiwanis Club celebrated its 100th anniversary while the Port Clinton Rotary Club observed its 75th anniversary.
The Oak Harbor wrestling team continued its annual date with excellence, sending 11 wrestlers to the District Tournament and six to the State Tournament. Oak Harbor’s Wyatt Miller went undefeated on the season, winning the 185-pound State Division III Championship. Meanwhile, both the Oak Harbor and Port Clinton High School swim teams sent many competitors to the state tournaments in Canton.
Construction began in early 2021 on the Lake Erie beach repairs in downtown Port Clinton. The new Portage River Walkway is connecting the downtown area with a boardwalk out to the East Harbor light. Downtown Port Clinton also introduced the Music On Madison (MOM) program, closing off a major section of Madison Street for picnic tables, LiveNation Stage and weekly entertainment.
The 2021 fishing season officially opened with the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit tournament in April with 119 two-man teams participating from all over the country. The 2021 Lake Erie walleye season was very productive, producing lots of limit catches for sport anglers and tons of very big walleye.
One of the big new additions for Port Clinton was the conversion of the city’s Maintenance Garage on West Perry Street into a brand-spanking new art gallery known as The Arts Garage (TAG). Despite the pandemic, birders from over the world descended on Ottawa County again for the annual Biggest Week in American Birding.
Ottawa County was slated to receive nearly $8 million in recovery funds from the federal government’s pandemic relief programs. Among the sad news from May of 2021, we learned of the death of Joy Roth, founder and director of the Ottawa County Community Foundation. The foundation’s assets reached the $10 million mark this past year.
In the summer of 2021, the Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) that were such a problem in 2019 and 2020 were dramatically lessened, thanks in large measure to the high water situation we had in 2021. One of the biggest occurrences of high water came in the early stages of the Walleye Festival as Waterworks Park flooded on Memorial Day weekend, with a severe nor’easter forcing a short postponement of the Walleye Festival.
Close to 500 seniors from Port Clinton, Oak Harbor and Danbury High Schools showed us the quality of our local schools again this year.
In June, Shea McGrew succeeded Joy Roth as executive director of the Ottawa County Community Foundation. Danbury Township broke ground on a new fire station, Bistro 163 celebrated its 5th anniversary, local officials sought to expand Port Clinton’s crowded Route 53 Corridor and Port Clinton Police Chief Rob Hickman retired, turning over the reins to long-time Sgt. David Scott.
Ottawa County greeted the Fourth of July with a big bang, as usual, and crowds gathered for the 57th Ottawa County Fair. Speaking of crowds, the summer “after the summer of Covid-19” began drawing large crowds once more to the local beaches, campgrounds and hotels while pent-up demand and low interest rates drove local real estate sales to new highs.
A nature preserve in the name of former veterinarian Bob Nehls opened on Catawba. The Arts Garage in Port Clinton enjoyed a lot of traffic with the showing of Viet Nam War photographs by Pulitzer Prize-winner Eddie Adams.
The Port Clinton Knights of Columbus brought back their annual Peach, Perch, Pierogi and Polka Festival that once again drew large crowds. Catawba Trustees dedicated a section of State Route 53 as Veterans Memorial Highway honoring William Galloway, Jim Davenport and Lance Kohanke, service members who gave their lives for their country. Ottawa County citizens also took time to remember the attacks of 9/11. Hundreds of alumni gathered from near and far for the bi-annual Port Clinton High School Alumni Weekend.
In October, Oak Harbor completed a Fitness Trail in Veterans Park just in time to welcome thousands to the annual Apple Festival. Construction continued on the Portage River Walkway in Port Clinton. Three Oak Harbor High School legends, J.D. Bergman, Pat Kania and Gary Quisno were inducted into the Rocket Athletic Hall of Fame.
Portage Resale Center in Port Clinton celebrated 10 years of operating their high quality “pay it forward” second-hand shop, touting over $200,000 in community donations in 2021 and topping more than $1 million since they began operations.
Election year was a quiet one in 2021, with one important exception. The voters of Port Clinton emphatically voted yes in support of a massive local infrastructure project that is designed to fix nearly 100 years of neglect to water and sewer connections and lines beneath city streets.
Due in large measure to the 2020 Ohio Redistricting Plan, Ohio’s 9th Congressional District was changed dramatically, losing bunches of territory to the east — almost to Cleveland — and adding significant territory in more rural areas of Northwest Ohio. In light of those changes, long-serving Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur will have some significant challengers in the mid-term elections next year. Three Republicans, including State Senator Theresa Gaverone and Port Clinton resident J.R. Majewski will be vying for the Republican nomination along with former Miss USA Gesiotto Gilbert, an attorney from Canton.
Finally, with wins over Toledo Scott, LaGrange Keystone, Sandusky Perkins and defending State Champs Van Wert, the Port Clinton Redskin Football Team made history before finally falling to Youngstown Ursuline in the Division IV Ohio football post season.
Many prominent locals and good friends passed away in 2021. They include: Bob Snyder, John Lukac, Eva Castillo, Tom Hetzel, Connie Link, Helen Nemecek, Dave Glasser, Stephanie Richard, John Bennett, Nancy Bailey, Dr. Bob Geiger, Barb Drusbacky, Phil Gravengard, Joe Von Thron, Mim (Gabel) Somers, Duke Benevento, Paulette Weirich, Jerry Rusk, Catawba historian Don Rhodes, former long-time employee of The Beacon Ginny Wise and former Port Clinton Mayor Lock Zeis.
Now comes 2022, which follows two years highlighted by Covid-19 and its local impact. May 2022 be “mask free” and healthy for all.