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February 26, 2008

Record-breaking weekend is a heart-warming reminder of the giving nature of our community

Retrospective by Jennifer Zartman RomanoHonestly, when I realized the number of activities going on in Whitley County this past Saturday I was…worried…and excited too. Would they all be successful?

Often, groups try to be careful and not plan activities at times that conflict with other major events happening within our community. This calendar conflict can’t always be avoided and once in awhile we have to just…have a little faith. We have to hope things will be alright. We have to hope people saw our fliers, read our signs, hear about our events from friends and that when the hour strikes, they will walk through the door.

Saturday night was a beautiful indication that it is, indeed, possible for many things to happen in our community simultaneously and that all can be successful. I am in awe that in one evening, the Columbia City Rotary raised more than $22,500 for scholarships, First Church of God’s Go And Produce (GAP) raised $7,000 to build a medical facility in Haiti and Faith Christian Academy raised nearly $5,000 to continue providing faith-based education to students in Whitley County. That is a lot of money to be generated in our community in just one evening – essentially at the same time. While there might have been some overlap, largely each event brought together a different audience of supporters. And these weren't even all of the events -- there were others as well. The Indian Springs Middle School cheerleaders, you might recall, were collecting cell phones for soldiers at Bones Theatre and Etna United Methodist Church was hosting a noodle dinner. I haven't heard how successful those events were, but with the magic that was Saturday evening, I'm hoping they did well too.

In each case, with regards to the three groups whose success I've heard about this week, the amount of funds raised broke records and exceeded expectations.

What does it say about our community and the possibilities here when we can put on multiple events for varied groups of people and that all the events are successful? We’re interested in helping our neighbors, in supporting our children, in coming to the aid of strangers and finding the means needed to make good things happen. I think it also says that we are a kind, compassionate, giving community – the kind we can all be proud to belong to.

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February 16, 2008

An exceptional week at Talk of the Town...

As the week draws to a close and we're huddled up in our home in Columbia City, I'm beaming. This has been a really, really big week. I can't go fully into the details at this point, but some significant things have taken place this week that lead me to believe I'm doing the right thing by starting this little business adventure called Talk of the Town.

This week, we hit record readership highs and page views -- meaning not only did we have many faithful readers return to the site, but many of you shared the site with friends who became new visitors and people spent a significant amount of time reading the news we're providing. Thank you to those of you who've been sending in news items as well as those who've sent words of encouragement and support.

As of this week, we are also in the process of welcoming several new advertisers. Thank you to each of you as well as those who've been supporters of this site from the beginning. Thanks also to those readers who have been great supporters of Talk of the Town's advertisers -- because of you, they've experienced some very wonderful things in recent weeks as well.

We've been able to expand our offerings this week with the addition of a new guest column section called "Community Voices." In this area, we hope to have regular contributors share their own unique points of view. Everyone is welcome to participate. I really love the idea of everyone having an opportunity to bring their own vision to this site -- it's not just my website, it is our community's website. I'm just the facilitator.

Thanks to the efforts of Jim Banks, Whitley County Republican Party chairman, I was able to personally interview Governor Mitch Daniels and present the questions many of our readers wanted to ask him. It was tremendously exciting and enlightening to ask these questions and to hear his response. I had the same feeling of giddiness as I did as a teen when I attended the Thomas Marshall Dinner and had the opportunity to photograph then-Governor Evan Bayh for a local newspaper. In both instances, I left those meetings with a better understanding and concern for government and the rights and responsibilities we have as citizens to be a part of the political process. 

It was also awesome that we were able to unveil an entirely new aspect of this site -- we are now capable of offering video and audio files in addition to our daily coverage of local events. How great will it be to not only look at photographs of our community, but to hear our residents speak or watch videos of what's happening here? The possibilities that presents are endless. That is a whole new frontier for Whitley County media.

Finally, I personally have some wonderful news to announce within the next several days and weeks -- the real icing on the cake of what will go down as a great week for Talk of the Town. Stay tuned!

I'll close by thanking God, my family and friends, my advertisers and my readers who find value in a free, local, community-minded media source that was developed with the best of intentions for enlightening, embracing and uplifting what I feel is the best community in Northeast Indiana.

Jennifer Zartman Romano

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February 13, 2008

Whitley County has lost a pioneering preservationist in Wendell Dygert

It is said that we plant a tree now so that future generations will enjoy its shade.

Wendell Dygert  and his wife, Evelyn, must have known this – and because of the shade of hundreds of trees on their property and the blankets of wildflowers and native plants growing below, their legacy will live on in Whitley County. Wendell Dygert, land preservationistFuture generations will not only enjoy that shade, they'll learn about the flora and fauna of Indiana.

Wendell Dygert passed away this week at the age of 95 and Whitley County has truly lost an advocate of land preservation – someone who not only spoke of the virtues of preserving land to enjoy – but who acted on his convictions, giving a large portion of his wooded property on County Road 50 West in Thorncreek Township to ACRES Land Trust in 2001. In 2004, adjoining property was acquired and added to the property. The property now features parking and a walking lane for visitors to enjoy nature at their own pace.

While I don’t believe I ever personally met Mr. Dygert, I recall vividly a field trip to his property long before it was really open to the public. I believe the Dygerts must have been known to allow nature enthusiasts to walk through their woods and wonder at the species of native plants and, perhaps, catch a glimpse of rare birds and wildlife.

In the sixth grade, our teacher, Clay Geiger, took us to Dygerts woods where we walked along and after studying various species of wildflowers, we were able to view them in their natural habitat – trilliums, Dutchman’s Breeches, Jack-in-the-Pulpits – we found them all in Dygert’s Woods. When I see these plants, I think at once of Thorncreek School, Clay Geiger and Dygerts Woods.

Wendell Dygert also had a brilliant mind, regularly penning interesting and informative editorials he provided to the local newspapers.

While the community mourns his passing, however, Wendell Dygert will live on in form of preserved woodlands called Dygerts Woods, casting a shade into which future generations will walk, wondering at the beauty of nature.

Jennifer Zartman Romano

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February 07, 2008

At last...the chili recipe

Retrospective...by Jennifer Zartman RomanoFinally...quite awhile after I had planned to post this here...it is finally time to post the recipe for Talk of The Town chili. If you don't have time to make it in the near future, you'll find it on the menu Thursday, February 7, at the CC Deli in Columbia City. Steve Hostetler, owner, has planned to add it to the rotation of soups, stews and chilis he prepares daily at the deli.

I have to give the utmost credit to my sister, Sarah Schmitt, for sharing this recipe several month ago. Since that time, we've both prepared the recipe many times -- each time it is a little different based on what we add to it. What we're providing below is the basic recipe -- and we'll leave it up to you to add your own additions, as we did when we entered the chili cookoff this year. All of the ingredients can be tweaked to your taste...more beans, less beans, more or less broth.

By the way, since this recipe calls for the use of a crock pot, I really must take this opportunity to thank Whitley County resident Darcy Geiger for encouraging me to dust off my crock pot and use it a little over a year ago. Geiger has published quite a few of her recipes utilizing the crock pot. Thanks to her, I now use my crock pot several times a week -- making it much easier for a busy family to enjoy home cooked meals. Thank you SO MUCH, Darcy!

UPDATE: As of 1:50 p.m. today, February 7, the Talk of The Town chili will now be a regular Wednesday feature at the CC Deli! Store owners Steve and Sharon Hostetler received excellent reviews of the chili from patrons, moving it to a regular featured menu item! Woo-hoo!

Talk of The Town Chili

2-3 pounds chicken breast (seasoned and cooked)

2 14-ounce cans of White Northern Beans

1 eight ounce package of pepperjack cheese, cubed

3 15-ounce cans of chicken broth

1 medium onion diced

The chicken can be baked or boiled, shredded or diced depending on your taste. Retain the drippings from the chicken and add those to the chili for added flavor. In a crock pot, add chicken, beans, cheese, broth and onions. Cook on high for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. You will know when it is done when you cannot find the melted cheese and the broth appears creamy.

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