'The Citizen' looks back on an eventful 2021
Cases of COVID-19 surged over the holidays and, in early January, there were over 100 active cases of the virus in Huron and Perth Counties as the pandemic continued to be part of everyday life in 2021.
As the pandemic raged on, Chief Administrative Officer Brad Knight of Huron East told councillors that it was very possible that a provincial lockdown, if extended, could spell the end of the local hockey season.
The overnight closure of the emergency room at Clinton Public Hospital was set to remain in place at least through the second quarter of 2021, said Andrew Williams, chief executive officer of the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance. The closures were caused by a lack of staffing and those pressures had not yet been alleviated.
For its first budget meeting of the year, Morris-Turnberry Council identified a number of cross-border servicing issues that would loom large in the coming months. One decision council made was to alter the grants typically handed out to North Huron for recreation.
The Huron-Perth region topped 1,000 cumulative cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic was declared the previous March.
Seaforth author and playwright David Scott released a new book on the hockey heroes of Huron County, bringing all of the county’s esteemed hockey figures together in one volume.
Jolande Oudshoorn of the Auburn area was elected as the president of the Huron-Perth Junior Farmers. She was integral in the group’s “Who Let The Hogs Out?” fundraiser, which brought in over $1,000 for local food banks in the summer of 2020.
The Huron Hygge initiative, aimed at encouraging residents to keep cozy, warm and entertained, all within the confines of their own home, got off to a successful start with its first-ever virtual concert. Huron County native Charlie Weber was the first musician to lend his talents to the project.
The COVID-19 vaccine began to roll out in Huron and Perth Counties. Jim Armstrong, well-known volunteer and pilot, was the first resident of Huronlea Home for the Aged to receive the shot.
Huron East, North Huron and other municipal councils made the difficult decision to pull the ice from their arenas amid the extended stay-at-home order, put in place by the provincial government.
Blyth native Justin Peters, who had recently won a bronze medal as a member of Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team, had taken on a new position as a goaltending coach with the Belleville Senators, the Ottawa Senators’ American Hockey League affiliate.
Play would be complicated, he said, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the league had not yet been given the go-ahead to play by the federal government. However, one proposed model would have the league operate with a Canadian division and an American division to eliminate cross-border travel.
The Citizen was nominated for one of the Ontario Community Newspaper Association’s 2020 Better Newspapers Competition Awards in the best special section category for its work honouring the Huron Pioneer Thresher and Hobby Association.
A team comprised entirely of Auburn residents, appropriately named Team Auburn, raised nearly $3,400 for the United Way fundraiser, the Coldest Night of the Year. The Huron County-based event raised nearly $82,000 in total.
North Huron Council, despite an impassioned plea from the Green family, turned down new cross-border services for the business, citing its moratorium on such agreements until a comprehensive cross-border servicing agreement could be reached with Morris-Turnberry Council.
The late Jack McCutcheon was named to the Hall of Fame on a famed racing website. McCutcheon was known for his prowess on the track and was honoured with a special piece written by his daughter Michelle McCutcheon Blake.
Huron East and its economic development officer Jan Hawley were honoured with the 2020 Rural Excellence Award from the Economic Developers Council of Ontario for the Downtown Seaforth Back Alley Initiative and the “Looking Out My Back Door” music video.
Blyth’s Leah Boven was able to donate over $1,300 to the Huron Women’s Shelter thanks to her maple syrup and barbecue sauce fundraiser she ran in late 2020. The money would be specifically used to aid children living in the shelter, at Boven’s request.
Joan Perrie of Brussels, a member of the Brussels Agricultural Society and the Maitland Valley Camera Club, was honoured provincially for her work, winning the People’s Choice Award for photography at the annual Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies conference. Her picture was from 2006, capturing a Brussels Fall Fair staple: Don McNeil’s parade car.
Huron East Economic Development Officer Jan Hawley passed away suddenly on March 16 at the age of 68. She was honoured with a main street funeral that featured several speakers in Seaforth.
Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson was named the Chair of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians - Canada Region. She was the first Ontarian to ever chair the board.
Huron-Perth Medical Officer of Health Dr. Miriam Klassen marked a grim anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it had been one year since the region’s first death linked to the virus.
Jolande Oudshoorn and Lauren Bos, both of the Auburn area, were honoured by the Junior Farmers Association of Ontario as the first-ever shared winners of the President’s Rose Award for the most outstanding current member.
With the provincial government shifting COVID-19 vaccine supply to virus “hotspots”, the rollout in Huron-Perth was set to slow for the foreseeable future.
Huron East Chief Administrative Officer Brad Knight said he was going to retire after over 37 years in the municipal world, walking away on June 30.
After years of debate and back-and-forth, North Huron Council took the first steps to decommission the Howson Dam, despite impassioned pleas from supporters of the dam.
Eric Coates, the long-time artistic director of the Blyth Festival, announced that he would be leaving Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company for the appeal of new projects.
The Citizen won a silver medal at the provincial level for its Thresher Reunion special section.
The Huron County Planning and Development Department marked its 50th anniversary with a special presentation looking back at all that had been accomplished over the previous five decades.
Several events, including the Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story and the Clinton Spring Fair, announced that they would be going virtual in the coming months, holding their events online so people could attend from the comfort of their homes.
The Blyth Festival officially moved ahead with an outdoor stage project at the Blyth campground. Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt said he hoped the Festival would mount outdoor productions in the summer now that North Huron Council had approved the construction of the outdoor stage.
Dave Matheson and Patrick Armstrong of the Dave Mounsey Memorial Fund completed their 100K in a Day fundraiser, which saw the two men walk from London to Wingham in under 24 hours. The event had raised nearly $20,000 for the organization.
Huron County Council was moving ahead with a report aimed at finding traffic solutions for the problematic intersection of Blyth and London Roads in the south end of Blyth.
Morris-Turnberry Council announced that the municipality would be terminating the building department it shared with North Huron. The agreement had been in place for the previous four years.
Huron East hired long-time municipal professional Brad McRoberts as its new chief administrative officer, set to succeed Brad Knight, who had held the position for the previous 10 years.
Seaforth’s Charlene O’Reilly was named one of the winners of the 2021 David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility thanks to her work in making the 2017 International Plowing Match accessible for all.
The Blyth Business Improvement Area recommended to North Huron Council that it investigate its infrastructure for potentially problematic names, stemming from a discussion surrounding Gypsy Lane in Blyth.
The federal and provincial levels of government were coming together to award a $3.4 million grant to make the renovation and expansion of the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre a reality. This came after years of work by several committees locally to put plans together and plan for the future of the centre.
While the COVID-19 pandemic made a large gathering impossible, those working for the Blyth Festival worked to mark the 100th anniversary of Memorial Hall in Blyth with a simple celebration, which included Artistic Director Gil Garratt playing the bagpipes on the roof of the building.
For the second year in a row, both the Elementary School Fair and the reunion of the Huron Pioneer Thresher and Hobby Association were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, after spending time as the Minister of Education and the Minister of Government and Consumer Services under Premier Doug Ford, was named Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs after a cabinet shuffle.
The remaining members of the Clinton Lions Club made the difficult decision to disband after 85 years. The club donated its remaining funds to the Huron Residential Hospice and the Clinton Public Hospital Foundation.
The Blyth Festival announced a five-show outdoor season for the summer and early fall at its new outdoor stage, which was being dubbed the Harvest Stage.
After a lengthy, at times heated discussion, North Huron Council decided to keep its ward system, with East Wawanosh and Blyth councillors saving the structure, while Wingham representatives voted to do away with it.
The Huron County Fastball League returned to action for the first time in nearly two years after missing the 2020 season entirely. The Wingham Hitmen welcomed the Wroxeter Rippers to Wingham for one of the first games of the season, posting a 5-1 win over the visiting team.
The Brussels Leo Club was moving ahead with a new dog park in Brussels with the support of Huron East Council.
Those working to organize the Brussels Homecoming 2022 weekend to mark the village’s 150th anniversary passed an important milestone, with one year remaining until the event. That meant the official countdown was on.
The Huron County Plowing Match was moving forward as a one-day, invitation-only event on Aug. 20 after extensive consultation with Huron County Plowmen’s Association members and local public health authorities.
The Blyth Festival officially cut the ribbon on its new Harvest Stage with the help of local dignitaries and supporters. Artistic Director Gil Garratt said there had literally been people working to finish the stage on the morning of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The season began that week with a production of The Downs, a play that had had two successful runs at the Blyth Festival’s Phillips Studio in previous seasons.
Huron County Plowmen’s Association President Brian Wiersma deemed the one-day plowing match a success, with everyone working diligently to follow COVID-19 protocols and keep everyone in attendance safe.
While the Brussels Tigers lost their undefeated season with a los to the Mitchell Junior Mets, they still finished atop the Huron County Fastball League.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a snap federal election for Monday, Sept. 20 and five locals were vying for the position of Huron-Bruce MP.
Incumbent Ben Lobb of the Conservative Party had filed again in search of his fifth consecutive election victory, while James Rice was running for the Liberals, Jan Johnstone was representing the local chapter of the NDP, Jack Stecho was running for the People’s Party of Canada and Justin L. Smith was running as an independent.
Julie-Anne Staehli, a Lucknow-area native, returned home from the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan and received a hero’s welcome from her home community after placing 17th in her heat of the women’s 5,000-metre race, improving on her world ranking in the process.
Janet Cardiff, world-renowned artist and Brussels-area native, was back in the community to go through some of her early archives and she returned a portrait she drew of Stewart Mann, who has since passed away, to his brother Stephen. Cardiff drew the portrait in 1973 when all three were students at F.E. Madill Secondary School in Wingham.
After hearing impassioned arguments on both sides of the issue, North Huron Council took no action on a request to review the township’s infrastructure names, which would have included Blyth’s Gypsy Lane street name, which had been identified by some as being racist towards the Romani people.
The late Doug Scrimgeour, who was known in Blyth as a firefighter, councillor and community advocate, was honoured with a special memorial for him along the Blyth Greenway Trail. Doug and his wife Diane Radford had worked tirelessly years earlier to make the trail great for the residents of the village.
The Canadian Forces Communications and Electronics Association and other stakeholders unveiled a historic plaque at the former Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Clinton, honouring its history from 1941 to its closure in 1971.
The Brussels Tigers worked their way to the championship round of the Huron County Fastball League playoffs, sweeping the finals over the Belmore Stingers to win their fourth straight championship.
With its run coming to an end at the Blyth Festival Harvest Stage, Bruce Horak’s Assassinating Thomson raised over $4,500 for the Almost Famous Players through its nightly portrait live auction at the conclusion of every show.
During a special meeting of Morris-Turnberry Council, Mayor Jamie Heffer expressed his council’s concerns regarding a drastic rise in costs associated with the renovation and expansion of the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre.
Six students, including Blyth’s Eleanor Sawchuk, were awarded McCall Huron County Scholarships, each of which was valued at as much as $44,000 over four years to pursue their undergraduate degrees.
The Wingham Ironmen started their new hockey season off right, winning their home opener over the Kincardine Bulldogs by a score of 2-1.
Huron East Councillor, business owner and prolific volunteer Zoellyn Onn was named Citizen of the Year for Brussels and its surrounding communities, while David Cartwright, notable Scouting leader and church volunteer, was named the winner of the award in Blyth posthumously just weeks after his passing.
North Huron Council received definitive evidence stating that its controversial non-resident user fees were negatively affecting revenue for the township.
Huron East Councillor John Lowe, serving the Brussels Ward, announced that he would be resigning his position at the end of the year, citing professional burnout and saying that “something had to give” in his life.
After a report detailing the losses suffered by the township as a result, North Huron Council decided to scrap its non-resident user fees, which had proven controversial with facility users from neighbouring municipalities.
Despite voicing initial concerns with rising costs for the renovation and expansion of the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre, Morris-Turnberry Council voted unanimously to support the project as one of its partner municipalities.
Tributes poured in from former Blyth Festival actors and artistic directors for David Fox, who passed away at the age of 80. Fox was one of Canada’s greatest stage actors and had a history with Huron County that predated the Blyth Festival, starring in The Farm Show and others produced with Paul Thompson in the area.
Ken Hopper was named the winner of the Jim McGee Community Volunteer Award, presented by the Belgrave Community Centre Board and members of McGee’s family.
After plenty of consultation and back-and-forth among Huron County Council, the option of traffic lights was approved for the problematic intersection of Blyth and London Roads in the south end of Blyth. The lights will cost an estimated $2.2 million, compared to a roundabout, estimated to cost as much as $3.76 million.
Provincial Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca was in Brussels for a special event supporting Shelley Blackmore, the Huron-Bruce Liberal candidate in the summer 2022 election.
Premier Doug Ford was also in Huron County, stopping in to a meeting of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which was held in Blyth.
A new cookbook featuring hundreds of recipes connected to Melville Presbyterian Church in Brussels, was set to be released with copies available at the Brussels Santa Claus parade.
Santa Claus parades went ahead across the county, including events in Brussels, Seaforth, Clinton, Blyth and Wingham, with the blessing of local councils and public health authorities.
The Dave Mounsey Memorial Fund announced that its successful 100K in a Day fundraiser would return in 2022, but as a relay event featuring family members of those who have been honoured by the fund over the years.
Three people - Justin Morrison, Paul Gowing and Jason Hovius - put their names forward in the hopes of filling the Huron East Council seat vacated by Councillor John Lowe. They were due to present their cases to Huron East Council in the new year.
Blyth native Grant Sparling earned a silver medal in the Precision Rifle Series North American Championship, held in Texas. He was the lone Canadian in the finals in just his first competitive season.
Blyth’s Julie Sawchuk was named the chair of the provincial government’s Standards Development Committee, which will lead a review of Ontario’s Design of Public Spaces accessibility standards.