The Year 2021 in Review

The year 2021 was a lot better than the previous one, and maybe because everyone has learned to adjust. It seems like success this year has been all about flexibility. As always, adjustments come with every year, with the changing of the guard for politics, policy, and precedent. Of course, some of the best parts stayed the same, but progress continues its slow and steady march.  A new County Judge and Sheriff, Commissioners, and a return to in person events were great highlights. 

Considering 2020 was a wash for the most part, a return to the traditions that make Bosque great inspired us all. They serve as reminder of the strength of companionship and fellowship, which perseveres always through hard times. Some of the greats left us, but their memory lives on in spirit of those that continue to work diligently today; Together, and from learning from one another, we will get through this.

2021 Begins

Who can forget the snowpocalpse (just kidding, we don’t want to remember), but even better, the snow day we all had in the weeks before.  Central Texans took to the street to enjoy the rare treat, building snowmen, sliding around, and finding a winter use for the old inner tube.

Pictured on the left is incoming (now current) Judge Cindy Vanlandingham, with former County Judge Don Pool. Pool stepped down from his position early, appoint Vanlandingham in the process. Right, Sheriff Trace Hendricks is sworn in January 1, 2021 at midnight. The Oath of Office was also administered to County Judge Cindy Vanlandingham, County Court-At Law Judge Luke Giesecke, Commissioner Precinct 1 Billy Hall.

January - February

Of course, the following weeks (one in particular) was a challenge. The Bosque County Office of Emergency Management and Bosque County Sheriff’s Office worked hard together to provide warming stations and water for those in need. For some residents in the Iredell area, the situation became dire, with neighbors banding together to check on others and make sure everyone stayed warm, and made it through okay.

Then-BARK President Jackie Murski is pictured with BARK donor Steve Olsen, who received the Friendship Award at the 2021 BARK Gala held in February.

The BARK Gala was a huge success for planned kennel upgrades, raising more than $60,000 in a single evening. Donors from all over contributed to the success, in addition to local business owners, artists, and good Samaritans. In the county seat, volunteers and members of the Meridian Parks & Recreation Board worked to set up a disc golf course across two city parks. The arrival of spring chicks is a hallmark of the time of year, with many appearing at Clifton Feed.

March - April

March saw Dr. Seth Witcher Jr. return to the Bosque Museum to release his book, a memoir of Clifton and the early days of his life. As the son of a founder of Goodall-Witcher Hospital, the book captures the town in a simpler time.

The K Cockrell Fun Run saw many participants return for the annual fundraiser for local students and scholarships.

A demonstrator shows and lets children touch the rattle shortly before showcasing the fangs at a distance.

 In mid-March, the BCSO, Valley Mills Police, Clifton Police, and Meridian Police paid tribute to fallen State Trooper Chad Walker. The event was a somber reminder of what it means to answer the call of duty.

In the early days of the month known for showers (and rightly so), the Bosque Arts Center returned with Casino Night and the Big Event fundraiser.  

Children and even parents joined in on the Healthy Kids Running Series in Clifton, Texas.

Local city council and mayoral elections were on, with Clifton, Valley Mills, and Meridian candidates all seeking a spot. School board elections were perhaps even more contested. Clifton reelected Mayor Richard Spitzer, and the same happened with Meridian Mayor Johnnie Hauerland. Residents of Valley Mills voted for Mayor Josh Thayer over incumbent Jerry Whitmer. A changing of the guard occurred with councils just about across the county, with those new to city government and some returning.

Pictured are Barbara and Gene Aars, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual “Boots and Business” Clifton Chamber Banquet. Both have conducted incredible fundraisers for aspects of the community over the years. Barbara stepped in as Executive Director of the Bosque Museum during an interim period, serving the community institution well.

May -June - July

The Tour De Norway attracted more than 600 cyclists this year. They lined up in front of Clifton High School at the first stop sign on Avenue Q, and nearly stretched all the way down to the stop sign on FM 3220.
The scenic route is often the path less traveled, and the Tour De Norway was full of them. One rider flies past St. Olaf’s Kirke (the Old Rock Church).

The routes ranged between 20, 40, 60, and 80 mile trips as selected by the rider. 

Some cyclists stopped to admire the courthouse, while others rode on through in an effort to make the best time possible. The longest route on the Tour De Norway took them through Meridian, and back to the finish line in Clifton.

The Bosque Museum held a successful Clay Shoot fundraiser again, thanks to sponsors that keep its history alive. 

Kids got out of school as fast as they could, with Summer Reading at the Meridian Public Library keeping activities learning going for the young ones. As the classes that made it through COVID-19 year walked across the stage, they received a diploma, but left a high bar for progressing in the face of change and adversity.  

Fresh veggies and local craft vendors sold their wares at Farmers Markets in Meridian, Clifton, and Valley Mills.

The Cen-Tex Classics Hot Rod Car Club hosted a big show in Clifton, while many visited the Chisholm Chili Cookoff for a competition ahead of the barbecue in Meridian.

Makail Brandenberger shows off a prize steer at the Central Texas Youth Fair held in late June. The youth fair preceded the rodeo for the first time in several years.

The Central Texas Youth Fair drew youth from all over. Most from local FFA Chapters and Bosque County 4-H showed their prized animals, and hoped to make it to sale. Many seniors had big plans for the future, while others were focused on showing better in 2022. Craftsmanship showed in Ag Mechanics and Home Economics as well. 

The crowd collectively held their breath at roping challenges, barrel racing, and the headliner both nights; bull riding. 

Although bull-riding was the highlight of the evening both nights at the 70th Annual Clifton, Texas Rodeo, things got a little too close for comfort, even for those watching from the stands.
After a 14-year absence, workers with Parsons Roofing prepare to hoist Lady Justice back up to the top of the Bosque County Courthouse. She resumed her rightful perch, about 87 feet off the ground below the clock tower.

Lady Justice made it back atop the Bosque County Courthouse, after an absence of more than a decade. The statue was placed carefully back onto its perch, and secured to overlook the Top of the Hill Country. 

Pictured (l to r) is Betty and Annabelle. Betty made international headlines upon being born. Both Jack and Nancy Harvard own the ranch, and were overjoyed to introduce Betty, whose namesake is Nancy's late mother, Elizabeth.

Betty stole the show in June, however, as the first baby giraffe born to Annabelle, at the Texas Safari Ranch. Viewers from across the world watched as she slowly, but surely, gave birth on a livesteam camera for a healthy calf. The pictures and story that followed kept everyone hooked.

A total of 75 hooks picked up the drag for the Annual Tractor Pull in Clifton. This was the first one held in several years, as COVID-19 hit the year prior, and rain cancelled the three before that. Horsepower and proper shifting was key to making it to the finish line.

The Tractor Pull in Clifton was a sight to see, as contestants hooked a drag, shifted gears, and used as much horsepower as they could to get to the finish line. The pull was the first in four years, due to rain intervening for three years, and then the pandemic. 

Chrstine McMillan was recognized by the community of Valley Mills in July.

In July, Valley Mills held a celebration like no other. With a parade of many vehicles and residents of the county, the Fourth of July swung into action at Santa Fe Park. Longtime Valley Mills resident Christine McMillan was honored for her contributions as a historian, resident and community volunteer, and pecan pie-maker like no other. 

Attendance was high for the Valley Mills Fourth of July Parade this year. Pictured are likely the youngest participants in the parade before fun at Santa Fe Park.

Sadly, McMillan passed just before Thanksgiving at the age of 100 years old. She was a pillar of the community, having lived in the area since shortly after her birth in 1921. 

At the end of July, Meridian lost one of its own, with Mayor Johnnie Hauerland passing away due to COVID-19. He was celebrated as an elected official of the public, an educator that understand students of all walks, and one that truly loved the people of the City of Meridian. He worked tirelessly to help Meridian Parks & Recreation redevelop the downtown Meridian area, and particularly, its beautiful parks.

August - September - October

Remembrances of September 11, 2001, echoed across the county, while a successful fundraiser in Valley Mills allowing the Valley Mills Police Department to purchase updated equipment for officers. Officials held a ceremony with a huge flag at the Bosque County Courthouse. 

Travis Stewart holds his award at the 36th Annual Bosque Art Classic. Pictured right is Vice-President Virginia Richards of the Art Council, while President John Linn is pictured right.

The story of a child abduction in Walnut Springs drew attention and national headlines from news outlets, in which both children were recovered with the assistance of the Texas Rangers, Texas DPS, Bosque County Sheriff’s Office, Hill County Sheriff’s Office, and other agencies.

Pipp Gillette plays before the crowd at the Lomax Gathering in Meridian. The event was hosted by the Bosque Museum and Meridian Parks & Recreation Department, bringing the music with folk roots to local residents.

October meant the return of FallFest in Clifton, Bacon Bash in Cranfills Gap, and the National Championship Barbecue Cookoff in Meridian. These events drew crowds, tourists, and locals. The focus was autumn and the heritages of the area, fun, and a competitor to find who had the best Texas barbecue

Sanderson Farms’ Bacon Bash packed the streets in Cranfills Gap yet again, with a focus on bacon, great music, and adult beverages.

The focus was autumn and the heritages of the area, fun, and a competitor to find who had the best Texas barbecue. 

Yellow Jacket John Bernal pushes hard against the Kerens Bobcats in the first home game of the season in Meridian.
Ariana Devora (pictured center in green) was selected as the 2021 Homecoming Queen during the Clifton Homecoming. Pictured are also Ava Anderson, Elise Webb, Berit Bizzell and Ariana Devora. The Homecoming Court was Kaleigh Cochran, Kelsey Wetegrove, Sumaya Moshiur, Brittany Ramirez, Cameron Ritz and Kyndall Hunt. The Cubs won 33-32 against the Buffalo Bison.

Football teams across the county faced difficulties in district play this year, but volleyball teams showed intense effort, with several making it to playoffs.

Chloe Jones was selected as the 2021 Homecoming Queen in Valley Mills. The Eagles soared above the Itasca Wampus Cats 56-0. Photo credit: Melanie Scallion/Blue Lily Event Productions/Valley Mills ISD

Halloween was fun-filled for all ages, with downtown Trick-or-Treat on Main Street packing crowds in Clifton and Valley Mills. 

November - December

November is always a time of thanks, and changing of the seasons; a time to reflect, share food and fellowship with others, and enjoy the time with those that are family to us. Veterans Day Ceremonies in Clifton, Cranfills Gap, and at Valley Mills ISD gave solemn gratitude to those that serve, and have served our country.

The 29th Annual Santa’s Angels Toy Run was success both for the riders that flew in on steel horses (some with Santa hats and beards), and the foster children in care that benefit.

The 59th Annual Sausage Supper was held at Zion United Church in Womack, while Thanksgiving meals hosted at Foothills Restaurant and Bar and Corner Drug Café in Clifton.

Staff served 422 at the 5th Annual Corner Drug Café Thanksgiving Thursday, November 25. Cars lined up, while volunteers readied the meals. The meal was free, although a donation from each recipient (of their choosing) was requested. This ended up paying off in a big way for those in need. Owners Ed, Phyllis and Nena Rieser then presented checks to local food banks to pay it forward.

Parades were held in Laguna Park and Valley Mills as Christmas celebrations as well. 

As we headed towards the final days of 2021, Wreaths were placed in area cemetery in Clifton and Cranfills Gap. This is done in part of Wreaths Across America. The goal is to honor, remember, and teach youth about veterans’ sacrifices, and what it means to our country today.

It's a Wrap

Remember, as we approach the final days of 2021, be kind. The holidays can be the most wonderful, yet difficult time of year for many. Joy is contagious, and can be spread faster than anything else by embracing happiness. Give a gift without expecting thanks, or anything else in return. Think of your neighbors, and exercise patience for one another as we head into another year that’s sure to be one for the history books.

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