In a lot of ways, 2016 was kind of for the birds.
Yes, we lost some talented musicians and actors, but doesn’t that happen every year? Going back five years to 2011, for example, we saw the deaths of Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Falk, Jane Russell, Amy Winehouse, Cliff Robertson, Bubba Smith and Randy “Macho Man” Savage. That doesn’t even include Col. Potter from M*A*S*H (aka, Harry Morgan) or James Arness.
Think I picked a loaded year to make a comparison? Alright, let’s go an even five years before that, to 2006, when we lost Don Knotts, Darren McGavin, Jack Palance, Peter Boyle, Dennis Weaver, Jane Wyatt, Red Buttons and Steve Irwin — the “Crocodile Hunter.”
No, 2016 didn’t stink on ice because of those we lost (at least the celebrities we lost). It was tough because of racial and socioeconomic splits across the nation. It was tough because we saw many in our society raise a stink-eye to those we depend on to protect and serve. It was tough because we saw an election for the most powerful seat in the world boil down to two choices that were, well, less than perfect to the idealogical palates of many of us.
To be clear, 2016 wasn’t all bad, folks. Remember Simone Biles and her teammates on the US women’s gymnastics team? That was great stuff. Ditto for Michael Phelps, giving us all one last view of his greatness before he hung up the Speedo for good. Giant Pandas came off the endangered list in 2016, and that’s pretty cool.
Locally, we had an eventful year around these parts. We lost some familiar faces, had our share of tragedies and saw heroin and the crime that accompanies it continue to flourish. On the other hand, we saw some new businesses pop up that have contributed to the community, watched some bright young stars shine in our schools and seen ground broken for the new botanical gardens near Dagsboro.
So, yeah, 2016 was like any other year — except it wasn’t. If each year is truly a chapter in the history book of the world, 2016 will be one that gets a lot of highlighter marks on it at finals time. It was eventful. Without further adieu, let’s take a look at what happened just in our little oasis by the shore over the past 12 months...
January brings with it Baby New Year and hungover people jumping into the ocean, at least around here. Brian Calloway was sworn in as the new chief of the Millsboro Police Department, while Gerry Hocker was saying goodbye to his mayoral duties in Millville. Dozens of schools and hospitals received very creepy bomb threats at an overly-alarming rate, and some controversy started to emerge over plans to move the Dinker cottage in Bethany Beach. A pretty significant winter storm hit us during a pretty mild winter, and police made some significant arrests in their fight against the rising heroin epidemic. On a personal note, I got to spend a lot of time with the family on Sundays since my Ravens had seen their season fall apart by, oh, mid-September.
February might be the shortest month of the year, but it is usually a busy one, and 2016 was no exception. The Millville Volunteer Fire Company (MVFC) began pitching an ambulance subscription fee to Ocean View and Millville, and Frankford voters elected Marty Presley, Pam Davis and Skip Ash to serve on their council. Our bravest were recognized for their efforts at the Joshua M. Freeman Valor Awards, hosted by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, and officials at the Indian River School District (IRSD) began preparations for how to deal with a massive increase in students to their rolls. The Fenwick Island Town Council passed a moratorium on new hotels being built, and the Coastal Point celebrated 12 years of publishing a newspaper every week. As for me? Well, I realized that eating seven pounds of chocolate, even in a very lovely container shaped like a heart, is not actually “heart-healthy.” Fear not, faithful readers, I’ll try it again this year, hoping for different results.
March typically sees things start coming back to life, and residents of Beach Cove and other locales were excited to hear that DNREC excluded those areas from shellfish aquaculture plans. I know, that transition was a bit of a stretch. You try coming up with 12 clever starting points...
But I digress.
The ever-popular Freeman Stage announced their 2016 entertainment lineup in March, and the Ocean View Town Council voted to give a $160,000 grant to the MVFC. Members of the Frankford Town Council voted to settle a lawsuit with their former town administrator, and a suit was filed to prevent Bethany Beach from moving the Dinker cottage. The Sussex County Board of Adjustments denied an application for the Bethany Beach Police Department to build a gun range near Omar after residents of that area voiced their strong displeasure. I had an amazing St. Patrick’s Day celebration but, coincidently, found myself feeling under the weather for the following three days.
April showers may bring May flowers, but April also brought us the ever-popular Springtime Jamboree, presented by the Hocker family, and benefitting the Millsboro Little League in 2016. The IRSD’s financial officer, Patrick Miller, was placed on a paid administrative leave, raising some eyebrows around the community, and Frankford announced the J.P. court would no longer be in town. Melissa Grise, of the John M. Clayton School, won teacher of the year for the IRSD, and Mary A.H. Mumford celebrated 67 years of singing in the choir at Salem United Methodist Church, in what was my favorite local story of the year. On a personal note, I did not sing in any of our wonderful church’s choir, and you can all collectively thank me for saving you from the potential horror of hearing me attempt to sing.
May is when everything changes around this community every year, as Memorial Day brings us an influx of vacationers, and last May also brought us news that Indian River High School’s Brooke Beam was named State Gatorade Player of the Year for soccer. Bethany Beach won its lawsuit regarding the Dinker cottage, and Frankford Police Chief Michael Warchol announced his resignation. The Hocker family announced it had acquired the former Harris Teeter property near Salt Pond, and 10-year-old Garrett Rogers was struck by a van while playing. A state audit report found that the MVFC had nearly $200,000 stolen from them by their former treasurer. My daughter started stringing together words for the first time, combining “dada” and “poopie” in the same sentence. I had some mixed feelings on that accomplishment, to be perfectly honest.
June is the unofficial start to the “dog days of summer,” but it also kicked off the season at Freeman Stage, with a performance by the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. Local medics and police worked together on a training session to deal with potential “active shooter” situations, and the community rallied with fundraisers for the family of Garrett Rogers. I began my annual hibernation period that seems to take place every summer season.
July is famous for barbecues, swimming and fireworks, and there were plenty of all those things in 2016. The Band Perry had its show at Freeman Stage rescheduled after perceived threats to concert-goers by two men earlier in the day, and the traffic barricade at Cat Hill was extended. Food Lion in Millville was purchased by Weis and Merritt Burke IV announced his resignation as town manager in Fenwick Island, to take the job of CEO at the Sussex County Association of Realtors, and Faye Lingo retired after 38 years of service to the Town of Millsboro. I almost stayed awake long enough to watch the fireworks this year. Almost.
August is typically hot. And sticky. And hot. We had plenty of that in 2016, and the action in Roxana was hot, as well, as both the Senior League and Big League Softball World Series games were played in our very own “Fields of Dreams.” Sheldon Hudson was hired to replace Lingo in Millsboro, and Garrett Rogers was making amazing progress in his return from being struck by a van. Multiple law enforcement agencies combined to take down more than 100 marijuana plants in a field west of Ocean View, putting a dent in both the local pot trade and the sale of Doritos in our area. I had a birthday. Not as crazy about those things as I once was.
September means the kids head back to school, and it also brought an influx of true heroes to the area with the annual Operation SEAs the Day celebrations, honoring those who have been injured in defense of our nation and their families. The popular Nanticoke Powwow entertained through a celebration of culture, food and dance, and Millville officials voted to approve ambulance subscription fees in their town, while Ocean View tabled the discussion. Millville Town Manager Debbie Botchie was appropriately named Town Manager of the Year for the state, and Garrett Rogers showed off his amazing comeback by throwing out the first pitch at a Shorebirds game. I started to become a little excited about my Orioles, but had that tempered a bit when my daughter addressed me as “Dada Poopie” in the grocery store.
October is a month for witches and warlocks to grab the spotlight, and they did throughout the community, as evidenced by the plethora of Halloween events in nearly every town. The Millville Town Council approved plans for a new playground on Dukes Drive, while Selbyville officials were searching for answers in regards to some sinkholes popping up around town. Or, “popping down.” Bethany Beach Public Works employee Sean Ely and Bethany Beach Police Sgt. Chuck Sharp worked together to save an 11-year-old boy who got caught in rough waters offshore, and St. George’s United Methodist Church celebrated 200 years of worship and community. I, like hundreds of other people, had a blast at the Ocean View Cops & Goblins event, and ate far too much food. That was not contained to only October, but I needed a closing line for the month.
November is a month for turkeys, which probably makes it my favorite month of the year. The Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated 40 years of service to the community this past November, and Ocean View Town Council approved the ambulance subscription fees to the MVFC. South Bethany officials discussed the Town’s police department building, which is apparently not adequate to house their needs, and two people were injured when an air cannon malfunctioned at Punkin Chunkin — probably putting an end to that event locally. A critical state audit on the IRSD was released right before a referendum, which was subsequently defeated by 20 votes, and another wonderful Return Day reminded Sussex County voters that we’re all human beings following the election season. I dazzled in a hat and coat ensemble that made the ladies swoon.
December brings about the last page of the aesthetically-pleasing Coastal Point calendar, and it also brought some attention to Selbyville when a winning Powerball ticket for $121 million was purchased at a local gas station. IRSD denied allegations of racial discrimation at Carver Academy, and scheduled another try at the referendum. Joan Deaver retired from Sussex County Council, and ground was broken at the Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek. I wrote a column about everything that happened in 2016 and realized there wasn’t one mention of me doing anything to save the world. Media misses everything that’s truly important.