HAZARD— Every year leaves a mark on history. For the people of Perry County, 2015 was no exception. The Hazard Herald is taking a look back at some of the events that majorly impacted our community over the course of the previous dozen months. This is the Hazard Herald’s year in review.
As 2015 began, newly elected officials were inaugurated into offices at the courthouse and city hall. The Perry County Fiscal Court received three fresh faces, with magistrates Keith Miller and Kenny Cole, plus Scott Alexander, who won the 2014 election for judge executive. Jimmy Lindon became the first mayor without the last name Gorman in Hazard since 1978. Alison Wells won the election for Perry County Circuit Court Judge, a position which was wide-open to new candidates with the retirement of long-time circuit judge, Bill Engle. Dexter Howard assumed the position of jailer. Newly sworn in members of the Hazard City Commission included Susan Brotherton, Ronnie Joe Bryant and John Quillen.
The first quarter of 2015 brought treacherous weather to the mountains, with snowfall, the likes of which Perry County had not seen in nearly two decades. Winter Storm Octavia produced both ice and flooding at the same time, which created power outages, disrupted water service, and prompted Gov. Beshear to declare a state of emergency.
When the ice finally melted, Perry County shook off the cold with some exciting basketball action. The Buckhorn Wildcats made an impressive run through the regular season and the All A Classic. Perry County Central won the boys 54th District basketball championship over Buckhorn, as the Kentucky Wildcats were trying to place the finishing touches on an historic season that ended in the Final Four, just two games shy of perfection.
Across Kentucky, the internet buzzed, when a young student at Hazard Community College posted a video of Perry County Clerk Haven King interrogating her about her automobile, at the college, in a manner, which attracted the attention of several statewide media outlets.
The Hazard Chamber of Commerce presented its annual Civic Night for the 63rd year. Allison Baker was awarded young woman of the year. Sam Collins won young man of the year. Rick King and Trish Adams claimed man of the year and woman of the year honors, with the William Gorman Humanitarian Award going to Gerry Roll.
There were several new events for people to enjoy during the summer. In June, the first annual Perry County Fair attracted thousands of fairgoers to the Perry County Park, the annual Fourth of July Fishfry returned to downtown Hazard, accompanied by a fishing tournament in the river behind City Hall, which was sponsored by InVision Hazard and Thursdays on the Triangle brought fun-filled festivities to the Triangle Park throughout the majority of the summer.
However, the summer of 2015 did not escape tribulation. Heavy rains produced another round of flooding in July, which left many families in need of FEMA support and prompted another state of emergency declaration from Gov. Beshear.
As autumn closed in on the mountains, disaster struck downtown Hazard. The former Grand Hotel building on Main Street caught fire and was completely destroyed. The building served as home to several families and businesses, which were part of Main Street’s livelihood for decades. The Red Cross immediately established a shelter for the displaced families and began the search to find them new homes.
The Black Gold Festival had to rearrange its layout, due to authorities blocking off part of Main Street as a result of the fire. For days, there was speculation as to whether or not the festival would happen. City officials and the Black Gold Festival Committee worked together and the festival occurred, welcoming three major music groups this year, with Exile, Little Texas, and Molly Hatchet performing on the festival stage.
The entire nation focused on Kentucky as Election Day approached. With no incumbent in the race for governor, democrats and republicans viewed the election as an opportunity to make a statement and gain ground for their policies. Dem. Candidate, Jack Conway, visited Perry County in the crucial days leading up to the election, with hopes of gaining votes through a public meet and greet at the Circle T restaurant. When the votes were counted on election night, GOP candidate, Matt Bevin, carried Perry County and the commonwealth as a whole. One of Bevin’s first stops after winning the election was in Hazard to address his stance on issues facing the area.
In 2015, Perry County said hello to a new tradition with Oktoberfest in Vicco, but sadly said goodbye to a treasured tradition on Main Street, when the Treehouse Cafe and Bakery closed its doors. Layoffs continued for our local coal miners, but test scores for area high school students were on the rise. During 2015, we joined together to mourn the loss of friends and neighbors, who passed away this year, but we also rejoiced the news that children in our community, who had captured our hearts through their battles against cancer, were going to survive to see another year.
This year has been filled with enough tragedy and hope, triumph and defeat, to leave an everlasting mark on our community’s history. No one knows what the top stories of 2016 might be. Regardless of the circumstances which await over the next twelve months, we will march through them together as a community and the Hazard Herald will be there to chronicle our moment in time.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.