Some young cyclists find BG drivers unwilling to share streets

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Reagan Otley, 12, and a friend were bicycling down Conneaut Avenue recently when a driver laid on the car horn and scolded the girls. “I hear a horn behind us. As they drive by, they rolled down the window and yelled, ‘Don’t take up the road with your bike,’” Reagan said. Not one to be unjustly lectured, Reagan yelled back. After all, she and her friend were following the rules. They were on Conneaut Avenue, where signs are posted saying bikes can use the full lane, and where sharrows are painted on the road pavement. “Bikes may use the full lane,” she shouted at the driver. As Bowling Green is encouraging residents to bicycle in town, some of the younger cyclists are finding that some motorists aren’t very receptive to sharing the road. “This isn’t the first time that people have honked at us for being in the road,” said Reagan, who knows the rules of the road for bicyclists. She serves as the middle school representative on the city’s Bicycle Safety Commission. And her mom is Kristin Otley, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, who has been trained through the Yay Bikes program. “I get mad when people honk or yell at me for doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” Reagan said. In Ohio, bicyclists are allowed to use the entire lane for travel. Motorists are supposed to give bicyclists three feet of space when passing. The Yay Bikes program, which is being used to educate bicyclists in Bowling Green, suggests that cyclists don’t ride along the road’s edge where debris lies, but rather a couple feet into the lane – about where the passenger side tire of a vehicle runs. “They want you to own a lane,” Kristin Otley said. Cars are supposed to pass bicyclists as if they are another motor vehicle – even if there is a double yellow line, Otley said. Yay Bikes focuses on educating bicyclists on proper road etiquette, like using hand signals and complying with traffic…


Hundreds of volunteers share in Black Swamp Arts Festival’s I Love BG Award

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A volunteer enterprise that knows how to show the community a good time won the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce’s I Love BG Award. The Black Swamp Arts Festival received the award at the Chamber’s Mid-Year Meeting and Awards Program. Given the number of volunteers, as many as 1,000, with some seated in the luncheon audience, festival vice chair Jamie Sands dubbed the honor the “We Love BG Award.” The Black Swamp Arts Festival will be staged Sept. 7-9 in downtown Bowling Green and feature visual arts, music, and more than a dozen youth art activities. In his introduction, Clint Corpe, of the Morning Show on WBGU-FM, recalled talking to Floyd Craft, one of the festival’s founders, about the event’s soggy start. Craft recalled that first year organizers pulling down tents with rain coming at them from all directions and knowing they had lost thousands of dollars that they’d put into the festival. They asked: What next? The answer was: “Let’s do it again.” And they did. Again and again and again. Last year’s the festival marked its 25th year. In the spirit of the founders, the festival committee wondered after 25 years what was next, said Bill Donnelly, who chairs the festival committee. “What’s our vision for the next 25 years?” The festival’s mission is to foster a relationship between members of the community and the arts, he said. Donnelly said he’s researched other events and he could not find another festival of this magnitude that is totally staged and funded by community volunteers. Among those volunteers is Earlene Kilpatrick, the executive director of the chamber. She’s served on the festival’s artist hospitality committee. Donnelly said if he asked her to show up at 4:30 a.m. on the Saturday morning of the festival, she was there. This was the last major chamber event Kilpatrick will preside over. She is retiring on Oct. 1 after 10 years in the job. “The chamber has grown,” she said, “and I’ve grown as part of the chamber.” Heritage Corners, which won the Customer…


Wood County Fair making history with $2.2M building

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The history of the Wood County Fair has been recorded since its debut in 1851. In years to come, the history of the 2018 fair will undoubtedly note the disappearance of the old livestock barns and show arena – replaced with a shiny new $2.2 million building. “It feels good that we’re to the point of completion,” said Steve Speck, president of the Wood County Fair Foundation. “There have been countless hours put in by the foundation to work on the details.” Speck presented a program on the new fair exhibition building Thursday to the Bowling Green Kiwanis. But first, retired 4-H agent Dick Martin set the scene with a bit of fair history. The first Wood County Fair was held in a grove of trees north of Wooster Street, between Church and Grove streets. After 1851, the Wood County Fair jumped around from Bowling Green, to Perrysburg, to Portage, to Tontogany, and back again many times. In fact, for a series of years it was held in two towns because of warring fair factions. The county fair was, for many, the event of the year. It attracted families in their best clothing for food, music and competitions. Some records show that the Wood County Fair had the second highest attendance of any county fairs in the state. In 1882, the area currently used as Bowling Green City Park was purchased for the fair. Among the first buildings constructed were Needle Hall, Veterans Building, the Depot, and Girl Scout Building – which was formerly called the Women’s Christian Temperance Building, Martin said. The county fair often represented the times. In 1854, a cholera outbreak drastically cut attendance, in 1896 a group of “hoochie-coochie” dance girls stirred up trouble, and in 1962 ostrich races were held. In 1883, fairgoers could purchase side tickets to watch the hanging of Carl Bach, who murdered his wife with a corn knife. In the late 1920, the H.J. Heinz Co. put on pressure to change the fair date so it didn’t conflict…


Music is what matters to high school folk-rock trio

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The rock band Mindless Matters has now played on both sides of the street just north of the intersection of Main Street and Court Street in downtown Bowling Green. In the two years that Kameron Frankart, guitar and vocals, Joey Craig, drums, and Allan Landgraf, fretless electric bass, have been a working band, they’ve appeared on the iconic stage at Howard’s Club H. Wednesday night the trio of Bowling Green High School seniors, played across the street at the Wood County District Public Library, on the site where Howard’s was originally located. Mindless Matters did a set to support the Libraries Rock summer reading program. They performed a mix of classic rock tunes, a couple songs by Bob Dylan, and a number of originals. They also urged those in attendance to head out to the Civic Music Club at 135 S. Byrne in Toledo to cheer them on Friday night (July 20) when they compete in the finals of the venue’s Battle of the Bands. The show starts at 7, but the band isn’t sure when they’ll hit. The competition started weeks ago with 40 bands playing over the course of a number of nights. Now it’s down to eight bands that will appear Friday and Saturday. Mindless Matters stems from a time when Frankart and Craig jammed with another young musician they knew from school. When that trio didn’t work out, Craig suggested they recruit Landgraf whom he knew from the high school jazz band. The new combination clicked, but then Landgraf left town to spend a year in Austria with his family. As soon as he got back, though, Mindless Matters started playing shows. That was two years ago. They’ve made the rounds of venues, including Grounds for Thought where they launched their four-song EP, the Black Swamp Arts Festival, where they will play again this year, and the aforementioned Howard’s Club H. They also have a single making the rounds. “We all love playing music together,” Landgraf said. Recently they’ve been entertaining at friends’ graduation parties as an…


Cocoon turns to community to continue phone safety net

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For years, Verizon has provided a lifeline to survivors of domestic violence. But the company will soon be discontinuing its phone donation recycling program called HopeLine. Locally, the program has helped domestic violence survivors served by The Cocoon. In the last two years, the local shelter has received between 100 and 150 phones with pre-paid minutes and text messaging, said Kathy Mull, executive director of The Cocoon. “It’s really been a benefit to us in supporting survivors who we serve,” Mull said on Friday. “It really does provide a valuable service.” The cell phones play a vital role in several survivors’ safety plans. Phones can help victims of abuse feel safer and less isolated by giving them a way to call emergency or support services, employers, family and friends. But on Dec. 31, that HopeLine program will be ended by Verizon. The change is being attributed to several factors, including a decrease in phone donations as more customers opt to trade in older cell phones for newer models, and also by the declining availability of feature phones, which had been provided to domestic violence survivors by the HopeLine program. So The Cocoon is looking for other phone options. Mull explained that the agency works with survivors to get their own sustainable resources. But in the meantime, The Cocoon will be turning to the community for help. “We are really exploring all of our options,” Mull said. The Wood County community has been very supportive of the domestic violence agency, and Mull is hoping that response continues for this need. “We will be asking the community to donate to help folks who don’t have other options – to provide them with that safety net,” Mull said. Anyone interested in donating old cell phones with pre-paid minutes may call The Cocoon office at 419-373-1730 to arrange a drop-off. Phones may also be dropped off at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on South College Street in Bowling Green. “The community has been really gracious to us,” Mull said. Though the end…


Author talks about the importance of going native in backyard planting

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Heather Holm is always interested in doing less work in her garden. The author would rather spend her time observing the bees, butterflies, wasps, and other insects that inhabit the space. And she was pleased to tell those gathered in the Simpson Garden Building in Bowling Green that the two go hand in hand. Holm was in Bowling Green recently to speak on “Forget Television – The Real Entertainment is Happening Outside in Your Pollinator-Friendly Garden,” a talk sponsored by Bowling Green Parks and Recreation and Oak Openings Wild Ones. Funds from the Kuebeck Forum helped fund the program. Holm structured her talk around what one would find on cable TV if they weren’t out observing and working on their yards. There was everything from the food channel to crime. Her message was to cultivate plants native to the area as a way of fostering populations of pollinators needed for a healthy local environment. So plant milk weed to help feed Monarch butterflies, who depend entirely on plants for food, Holm said. Keep in mind color – butterflies and bees can’t see red – as well as fragrance as a way of attracting them. “There are plants that will thrive in the horrible conditions you’ve been struggling with all these years,” the Minnesota-based author said. And ease up on some gardening chores. Holm said she leaves plant stubble up in the fall to give nesting spaces to insects. She also doesn’t clear away natural debris because 70 percent of bees nest below ground and this provides the right material they need. On the other hand, wood mulch is a barrier for those nests. She urged the full house attending her talk to avoid applying pesticides. They inflict collateral damage on the insects that actually are better at controlling aphids and other unwanted bugs. Holm also described the many insects, some bees, some not, that can be confused with others. And when she reached the crime channel section of her talk she offered up an example that would make a…


BG school board talks about teachers, task forces & transparency

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Board of Education heard some tough talk on Tuesday about teachers leaving the district, huge community task forces, and mysterious phone surveys asking local residents how they voted on the last school bond issue. With school starting in six weeks, Superintendent Francis Scruci noted that the district had hired 25 new teachers. During exit interviews with outgoing teachers, the two most common reasons given for leaving the district were the salaries and the perceived lack of support from the community on the last two bond issues. “We’re losing young teachers,” Scruci said. “We’re losing them to neighboring districts.” The hope is that the community support issue may be resolved with two task forces being formed to come up with solutions to the district’s building issues and financing of those buildings. David Conley, of Rockmill Financial, has been hired by the district to help find answers. Conley reported to the board Tuesday on updates in the task force effort. “This is really exciting, for a lot of people to start over and have the opportunity to be involved,” he said. Conley presented the most recent numbers of people joining the task forces, with 94 signing up for the facilities group, and 64 signing up for the finance group. “To me, that’s really, really nice,” he said. “This is intended to be an inclusive process.” School board member Bill Clifford questioned if the size of the task forces would make them difficult to manage. “You can’t have too many people,” Conley said, adding that leadership, positivity, and genuine participation make it work. However, he noted that if members of a task force aren’t working sincerely on the goals, they can be asked to leave the group. “This is the community’s task force, not the board’s task force,” he said. Members of the task force will not agree on everything, but they will at least represent the diverse feelings of the community, Conley said. The first gathering of the task forces will be a joint meeting of both…


Library trustees updated on fundraiser, gas line & carpet

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The board meeting room in the Wood County District Public Library “looks like a department store exploded in there,” Library Director Michael Penrod told trustees Monday. By the end of the week, though, all should be returning to normal, after the Library Foundation’s fundraiser at Schedel Gardens. Penrod reported that the 100 tickets, which are $100 each, sold out as of Sunday. That’s the first time in the event’s 10-year history that it sold out so soon. The Foundation board, he said, has opted not to create a waiting list. The foundation set a goal of $75,000 for the fundraiser though it has raised more than that the last few years. Money raised goes to purchased books in all formats for the library. Penrod said last month that the money supplements the library’s book budget and does not replace money from the state or from the local levy. That was not the only bit of good financial news. Linda Joseph, the library’s finance officer, reported the library received a $5,000 rebate from the state Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. That money will be listed as “other income” in the library’s budget. Penrod reported that he is adamant that Columbia Gas line work now underway downtown will not disrupt the community Christmas tree that was just planted last year. The library will have a new gas line and meter installed, and it will enter at the southeast corner of the building. There are three burning bushes that were planted in 1974 when the library was built near the spot the line will run through. It’s possible one may have to be taken out, Penrod said, but Columbia Gas is committed to replacing an landscaping it disrupts. Also, Penrod reported that the replacement of the carpeting on the steps has been delayed because the interior designer he is working with is on medical leave. Work selecting carpeting continues. He said the stairway carpeting will be selected with the intent of replacing the carpeting in the circulation area as well as the back…


BG sees success attracting tourists & their spending

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wendy Chambers has long been saying that tourism brings big bucks into Bowling Green. Now she has the official numbers to back that up. Chambers, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention & Visitors Bureau, reported to City Council Monday evening that Bowling Green is attracting more visitors. In 2017, BG hotels saw an increase in room rentals of 6.62 percent, with revenue up 8 percent from the previous year. For the first time the state’s study of the economic impact from tourism gave specific numbers just for Bowling Green. According to study, tourism created: $110.9 million in visitor spending in the local economy. $30.2 million in wages. $12.6 million in taxes. 1,527 in employment – or one in every 13 jobs. “Bowing Green is alive and well – and doing well,” Chambers said. The study found that tourism creates jobs in Bowling Green, estimating it sustains 7.8 percent of private employment. The benefits span across various businesses, such as transportation, recreation, retail, lodging, plus food and beverage industries. Of the counties in Northwest Ohio, Wood County ranks third of 22 counties for tourism impact. Ranking first was Lucas County, followed by Erie County in second place. Wood County racked up $504 million in visitor spending, 6,598 jobs with total wages of $139.6 million, and $63.5 million generated in tax revenue in 2017. Recent trends in Bowling Green tourism show a growth in visitor spending from $82.1 million in 2015 to $88.1 million in 2017. In addition to the tourism numbers, Chambers was also excited about the city’s “Best of BG: A Hometown Celebration” planned for Thursday, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Simpson Garden Park. The event will recognize the city’s second time in the last decade of being named one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns by Ohio Magazine. “It’s a week of celebrations,” Chambers said. The next project for the Convention & Visitors Bureau will be to work with various businesses and groups on designing a “community brand.” “We’re pretty excited about that,” she said. Also…


Children’s Librarian Maria Simon on the mend from injuries suffered in crash

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Maria Simon is back to work at the Wood County District Public Library. Though she’s not up to rocking out, the children’s librarian is feeling well enough to return to see the Libraries Rock summer reading program through the end of the summer. Simon was seriously injured June 6 in an automobile accident on I-75. She returned to work with restrictions a week ago. Simon said she was very pleased to be back, even if it’s just part time. She attended the library’s Board of Trustees meeting Monday. She suffered a broken sternum and a concussion, so she said she’s having to limit her contact with the public. “Just a wave is all I need,” she said of well-wishers. She said that the library is a very private place, so many people probably aren’t aware of where she’s been. They may assume she’s been on vacation, Simon said. The accident occurred just south of Cygnet Road in Wood County when the Toyota Prius she was driving struck another car that was driving erratically. While trying to avoid that car she also made contact with a tractor-trailer. She, her husband Marc Simon, Bowling Green State University professor, and her mother, Mary Roemer, of South Bend, Indiana were on their way back to Bowling Green after traveling to Cincinnati to see a show the Simons’ daughter and son were performing. Roemer was very seriously injured who was taken by air ambulance to St. Vincent’s in Toledo. She has now been transferred to a skilled nursing facility in South Bend. So in addition to her own recovery, Simon was monitoring her mother’s care. Simon said she appreciates returning to the library. “I love this place,” she said. “I love libraries. Libraries incredibly healing places, places of order and stability.  There’s answers here.” Answers are hard to come by in the world of medical care where even the experts can be baffled, especially when it comes to concussions and spinal injuries, such as those her mother suffered. That “world is full of care…


More than 100 sign up to join BG School task forces

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   More than 100 citizens have signed up to help find the best path forward for Bowling Green City Schools. An email went out Friday to the 117 people who have agreed to serve on two task forces created to study future school facilities and how they will be financed. “Both are big,” school finance consultant David Conley said of the task forces. But he is not concerned about the citizen groups being so large that they are cumbersome or complicate the process. “As long as the participants involved are sincere,” the size of the task forces will not be unmanageable, Conley said on Saturday. “It’s only difficult if people aren’t sincere about the process.” Conley said he has worked with task forces numbering more than 100 people in two other school districts – Rootstown and Lexington. Like Bowling Green, those school districts had to make decisions about the future of multiple buildings. The notice sent out last week suggested the first gathering be a joint meeting of both the facilities and financial task forces on Aug. 28, at 7 p.m. The primary goals will be to set up ground rules for how the task forces will operate, review the purposes of the task forces, and establish an estimated timeline. Conley will be serving as facilitator of the financial task force. A facilitator for the facilities group has not yet been selected. Conley is searching for a person with general experience in construction, who is not a resident of the Bowling Green School District. “It would be helpful if it’s someone who can leave their feelings out of it,” he said. “I’m dead set on finding a good candidate.” Conley predicted the process – for determining the future of school facilities and how they will be paid for – will not be quick. “I fully anticipate this being a year,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done. A lot of clarity needed. It’s absolutely worth it.” Not only will the task forces need to make…


Cousins team up to tell story of family life in the inner city

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Usually book signings don’t include blood pressure tests. Antrone “Juice” Williams, though, always includes the health screening at events he’s involved in. Since he almost died from a stroke while working out back in 2012 he’s been an advocate for stroke awareness. That was the focus of the first book he wrote with his cousin Damien Womack. “A Walking Testimony Stroke Survivor: My Second Chance” was about his recovery, an ongoing process, from his near-death experience. It was meant to be an inspiration and encouragement for others facing this situation, and a warning about the necessity of monitoring blood pressure and other health indicators. The former semi-professional and college basketball player has devoted his life to raising awareness of the dangers of strokes and helping youth. Now Williams and Womack have written a second book “The P.I.L.L.A.R.S.” Originally, Womack said, this was supposed to be part of the first book, the story of how Williams arrived at the gym in Augusta, Maine, where he was felled by a stroke. But the publisher decided, Womack said, it was better to keep the book focused on the inspirational story. “The P.I.L.L.A.R.S.” – that stands for The People I Love, Last and Remain Sacred” – reflects on the families that raised the cousins. While it’s told with love, “it’s more in your face,” Womack said. “It means you’re going to run the gamut of emotions.” The book takes the reader to the inner city streets of Chicago, where Williams grew up, and Detroit, where Womack grew until moving to rural Ohio to be with his father. Each had their strengths. Williams thrived on the neighborhood basketball courts playing street ball. Womack did his best in the classroom. Neither had an easy childhood, coming from working poor families in tough neighborhoods with gangs always off in the wings. Their families were loving, but many of them tried to salve the pains of life with alcohol leading to arguments and break-ups. And, Williams said, there was the shadow of chronic illness that no one…


BG celebrates community’s ‘Best Hometown’ status

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It was a year ago that Bowling Green was named one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns by Ohio Magazine. Next week, the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau will remind local residents why their community won that honor. A “Best of BG” event is planned for July 19, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., in the Simpson Garden Park Building, and the surrounding gardens. It’s fitting that the event be held at the park, since the gardens were one of the factors that won Bowling Green its “Best Hometown” status. The event will feature at least 35 businesses in the hospitality, restaurant, retail and lodging sectors, plus non-profit organizations. “We’re pretty excited about it,” said Wendy Chambers, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re having the opportunity to celebrate again our hometown honor.” Next week is a busy one for local officials. The city and university are hosting the Ohio Town & Gown Summit, with an estimated 150 attending. The Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual luncheon on Friday, followed by the second Firefly Nights downtown in the evening. “It’s a big week,” Chambers said. “Our town’s always got something going on.” That buzz of activity helped the city secure its “Best Hometown” status. As editor of Ohio Magazine, Jim Vickers is accustomed to visiting communities throughout the state. But during his stop in Bowling Green, Vickers was struck by three features of the city – the energy from the university even though most students were gone for the summer, the healthy historic downtown, and the beautiful Simpson Garden Park. The 12th annual Ohio’s Best Hometowns issue of the magazine recognizes four communities in addition to Bowling Green: Marietta, Milford, Mount Vernon and Wooster. Bowling Green beat out other communities because of its vibrant college town atmosphere, strong sense of community and shared vision for the future. “I was in Bowling Green for the site visit,” Vickers said, so he had first-hand knowledge of why the city ranked so high. “Every year we look…


Now OH honors familiar faces on local art scene

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A year ago Aaron Pickens won best of show at the Now OH exhibit with a painting it took him two hours to complete. The painting was a small a landscape painted on location. This year Pickens won Best of Show for a very different piece. “In Da Club” took two years in the studio to complete. It draws on Pickens’ fascination with toys, and serves as a commentary on the contemporary art scene. Pickens said the piece references fashionable trends in painting. In the middle is a small self-portrait that’s slashed by a splash of paint. He also plays with the use of repetition. He also employs social media “love” and “like” icons. These are the tropes he sees in the work that are featured in magazines and are accepted in juried show. “In Da Club” has not been accepted in any juried shows. Pickens said. But the Now OH, is open to all comers from 12 counties in Northwest Ohio. The 11th community art exhibit Now OH opened Friday night in the Bowling Green State University Fine Art Center with a gallery talk by juror Michelle Carlson and the awards ceremony. The show continues through July 28. Gallery hours are: Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. The 65 artists who showed work included avocational artists, some who have been at it for decades, and an art professor. The prize winners included names familiar to those who frequent local arts events, such as Art Walk and the Wood County Invitational at the Black Swamp Arts festival. They are stalwarts in those shows, though not necessarily award winners. Painter Craig Blair received the first place in 2D work for his painting “Girl with Balloon.” In her talk Carlson praised Blair’s mastery of spray paint art and the way he used a few simple images – a woman, a balloon, a blimp – to create an evocative effect. Blair said in his 50 years of painting he’d never won an award. He’s been a regular exhibitor at Now OH. “I…


Wood County residents urged to get up and get active

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County residents are being politely prodded to get up off their sedentary seats. The Wood County Health Department has launched a campaign encouraging local residents to get more exercise using free community parks and trails. Health surveys have shown that too many people are overweight, and too few are getting the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week. Only 28 percent of Wood County adults surveyed last year said they exercise five days or more per week. Ten percent said they did not have any physical activity in the past week. Inactivity and obesity are tied to many areas of a person’s health and can lead to a variety of serious diseases. And last year’s physical activity and nutrition survey showed that Wood County residents need to do better at both. “It was enough to give us some ideas of where we should prioritize,” said Alex Aspacher, community outreach coordinator for the Wood County Health Department. “It’s pretty much common knowledge that lack of physical activity and obesity are big problems across the country,” Aspacher added. The survey conducted last year showed that not only were many people not getting enough exercise, but many also weren’t aware of local exercise options available to them. So health department officials decided to start a motivational campaign, encouraging local residents to use the exercise options already available throughout the county. “We have great parks. We want to promote what we already have,” Aspacher said. In addition to the county parks, nearly every community in Wood County also has its own park. “You can go to the park in Grand Rapids and see something completely different than you would see in the park in Bradner.” A new website, WoodCountyHealth.org/activity, lists parks and trails in different communities, as well as events such as 5Ks and fun runs, and links to recreation programs, fitness groups, SilverSneakers sites for seniors, and several links to cycling resources. “There is one place to go for the information,” Aspacher said of the website. “This might…