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Small Town Weekly

Piedmont Freedom Fest to feature parade, music, veterans, fireworks

Gazette file photo
This year’s Freedom Fest begins at 5 p.m., and will boast a variety of events, including a country music artist performing, the Patriot March for veterans, a parade and fireworks.

By Amanda Elrod
Mid-America Christian University student

The Piedmont Freedom Fest has something for everyone this year and can fill your day with many activities to help celebrate our nation’s birthday. Come join us on July 4 at Piedmont Elementary School for the annual Independence Day Freedom Fest.

Start the day with the Piedmont Patriot march to honor our heroes: registration begins at 7 a.m. at Piedmont Elementary School, and the march will start at 8 a.m. We will walk just a mile or two and honor our many veterans and active service men and women. Then return to the elementary school and allow your children to express their creativity in the Freedom Fest sidewalk chalk mural. Evening activities begin at 5 p.m. with local vendors located at Piedmont Elementary School offering a wide variety of food, crafts, inflatables, face painting and pony rides. The Freedom Fest Parade will kick off at 7 p.m. with popular Oklahoma country artist, Kylie Morgan, performing at 8 p.m. The firework display will begin at dark and end the day’s events with a beautiful show of patriotism.

Piedmont’s Mayor Valerie Thomerson said, “I look forward to the Freedom Fest every year. I always enjoy the strong feeling of community, coming together and having fun, the kids, the candy, but mostly the fireworks. The 4th of July is a time to celebrate, as a nation, our independent nature, our willingness to take a stand and be counted for something worthwhile and it is about our collective will to fight against tyranny and oppression.”

For more information about the Piedmont Freedom Fest, visit the website at www.piedmontfest.com

or like us on facebook at piedmont freedom fest.

Piedmont HS senior earns spot at prestigious Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute

Marisa Brown, a senior at Piedmont High School, earned a spot at the prestigious Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute recently at Quartz Mountain.

By Anne Peters
Oklahoma Arts Institute

Years of hard work and dedication have paid off for Piedmont High School senior Marisa Brown. She earned a spot at the prestigious Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute to be held June 14 to 29 at Quartz Mountain (OSAI).

Brown is studying drawing and printmaking at OSAI with nationally renowned artists from across the U.S. In conjunction with acceptance, Brown received a full scholarship to the program, worth over $2,500.

“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s performances and talents as well as learning new styles and techniques from the instructors and guest artists. I am hoping to gain experience that will further my artistic ability,” Brown said.

At OSAI, Oklahoma high school students spend at least six hours a day studying one of nine artistic disciplines in the literary, visual and performing arts.

In the evenings, they attend a variety of performances, lectures, and demonstrations that give them an appreciation of the arts outside of their chosen discipline. Students from different disciplines and backgrounds study, reside, and eat meals together. Read more →

Piedmont band director resigns, takes job with Yukon

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
Piedmont Chamber of Commerce President Marian LeCrone awards Darnell Zook the Pride of Piedmont Excellence Ward during the 2013 Piedmont Chamber of Commerce annual awards banquet at the First Baptist Church of Piedmont.

By Matt Montgomery

Piedmont Band Director Darnell Zook announced May 30 he accepted a position with Yukon Public Schools as the head director of bands and coordinator of instrumental music, and will no longer be with Piedmont.

Zook led the Piedmont Wildcats to multiple Class 5A band titles during his 11 years with the district.

He said there was nothing about the Piedmont community that made him want to leave, rather it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“There is nothing about the students, parents, administrators, schools or community of Piedmont that makes me want to leave,” Zook said in a facebook post. “What I was presented with was an opportunity to be able to do what I was currently doing in Piedmont on a much larger scale. I looked for, and honestly kind of hoped for, something about the position in Yukon that would justify me not continuing to look into it. What I found was a situation that I could not justify saying no to.”

Zook said he will miss the students from Piedmont the most and hopefully they learned from some of what he taught them.

“To my current students, I’m sorry,” Zook wrote. “I hate the thought that this will cause many of you pain. Realize that our relationship is not ending, it’s just changing. Realize also that the Piedmont band program is not ending, it’s just changing in some ways as well. The good news is that every amazing performance, every state championship, and every musical moment that you have experienced has one thing in common: It was performed by YOU, not by me.” Read more →

Piedmont parade horse dead at 37

Submitted by Bob Eufinger
Mariah led the Piedmont July 4 parade for more than 25 years. She died suddenly at age 37.

By Matt Montgomery

After leading the Piedmont parade for more than 25 years, Mariah the black mare has died at 37.

Mariah, owned by Bob Eufinger, was a two-year quarterhorse mix and a gift to the family of Charles and Nancy Brewer and their small children. Each child in the Brewer family learned to ride Mariah after Nancy Brewer taught her to barrel race, pole bend and other riding varieties.

After a short while, the Brewers purchased a Pinto Stud. From this union came a Palomino/White, who was named One Painted Wind.

Mariah was then sold to a local Piedmont veterinarian named Kramer who had a young son who had quickly lost interest in Mariah. Then Dr. Kramer sold Mariah back to Eufinger.

“She was a great horse,” Eufinger said. “It was love at first sight and continued until her death.”

Eufinger said Mariah was fast and extremely gentle and loved everybody. Read more →

Thirty years later: Piedmont played host to Hollywood

Courtesy Wikipedia
The VHS film title was changed from Surviving to Tragedy in 1993, eight years after the film was released on television.

By Matt Montgomery

It has been 30 years since Piedmont residents saw Hollywood filmmakers come into their quaint town to film the television movie, “Surviving: A Family in Crisis.”

It featured a slew of famous Hollywood actors including 1980s teen movie star Molly Ringwold; the late River Phoenix, Paul Sorvino, who would star in the 1990 gangster classic, “Goodfellas” by Martin Scorsese; Eleyn Burstyn, who had won an Academy Award in the 1970s and starred in the horror classic “The Exorcist” and Zach Galligan, who was famous for starring in the 1984 Joe Dante classic “Gremlins.”

Phoenix and Ringwold were virtually unknown when the film was released but soon blossomed into stars, especially Phoenix who died of a drug overdose on the sidewalk of Johnny Depp’s Viper Bar in Los Angeles on Oct. 31, 1993. The film also featured Heather O’Rourke in one of her final roles. She was well known for saying “They’re here,” from the historic horror film “Poltergeist.” A now-well-known Oklahoman even had a small role in the film as an extra: Gov. Mary Fallin.

Gov. Fallin has been instrumental in bringing Hollywood films to Oklahoma.

She said during her time as Oklahoma’s governor, she signed into law a tax incentive program designed to bring movies into Oklahoma.

“As lieutenant governor, I served as chairman of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission and the Oklahoma Film Advisory Commission,” Fallin said. “As governor, I signed into law this year a bill that extends a tax incentive program designed to attract more movie productions to Oklahoma.”

Surviving tells the story of two troubled teens who flirt with suicide and the choices their families have to make trying to deal with everything. A made-for-TV movie, Surviving was first aired on ABC in 1985. Read more →

Flying high over Sundance

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
A biplane stalls in mid-air about 1,000 feet over Sundance Airport Saturday in Piedmont. Sundance held the Discover Aviation Airshow from noon to 4 p.m. and featured many flying planes, exhibits and food and drinks for more than 2,000 area residents.

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
A parachutist soars to the ground waving the American flag while a woman on the ground sings the National Anthem Saturday during the Discover Aviation airshow at Sundance Airport near Piedmont. The parachutist timed his jump just right so that he landed the second the anthem ended.

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
This plane takes a nose dive towards the runway Saturday at Sundance Airport during the Discover Aviation airshow. Sundance owner Jerry Hunter said he was happy with the turnout to the airshow Saturday and hopes events like this put Sundance on the map. For more information about the airshow and for more pictures, see next Thursday’s edition of the Piedmont-Surrey Gazette.

Making a joyful noise…

Submitted by Lyndall Jones
Lyndall Jones with his wife, Kari, and son, Landon at First Baptist Church in Piedmont.

By Matt Montgomery

First Baptist Church Music Minister Lyndall Jones has been bringing down the house lately, so to speak, with his uplifting version of “O Happy Day.”

Since Jones has been the music minister at First Baptist Church in Piedmont, he has brought a flare of musicianship to the church that is second to none.

“The way I believe that I am called by God is to use music or the arts of any kind to bring a focal point on who God is,” Jones said. “I’m using arts tools through music to worship God and point to who he his, whether it is something that we can understand from a textual standpoint by reading the bible or whether it’s something that is expressed through feeling or emotions.” Read more →

BLOG: What makes a story front page worthy?

Front page of the Piedmont-Surrey Gazette from Dec. 8, 2011.

All stories are important but obviously some carry more weight than others due to placement and topic. I sometimes get asked what qualifies a story for placement on the front page, as opposed to inside the paper, and while there are no specific qualifications, I do follow a set of rules when picking stories to feature on Page 1A.

First, I always tend to give priority to stories involving tax dollars. If there is a story about a major project at city hall or the school district, it will usually be placed on the front. However, that is not always the case. For example, a story about the police department purchasing a new police cruiser may not warrant front page placement, but construction of a new police station would.

I also tend to give priority to stories involving local elected officials, especially is there is news impacting the status of an elected official, such as a recall effort or resignation.

A great photo, even if it’s not necessarily from a major event, will sometimes warrant 1A placement because we value good art.

But most of all we try to balance our front page with stories that we think readers will find the most interesting with stories we feel our readers most need to know about.

Sometimes we get accused of trying to sell papers with “negative” stories or articles that are controversial, to which I can say is simply not the case. First off, there is no thought given to what is a negative or positive news story. I really don’t know how you would define the difference and it really doesn’t have a place in journalism. Our job is not to be cheerleaders for a particular group or person and our job is not to attack a particular group or person. I realize we hold a special responsibility with the platform we have to publicize news, but our first priority is to our readers and stories that impact their lives are valued, no matter the tone.

Small town newspapers still doing their job

Small town newspapers thrive with local news, especially local sports coverage of high school teams.

The journalism industry is in turmoil, but not weekly newspapers, according to Judy Muller’s recent piece in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Where newspapers thrive.”

Muller spent some time recently exploring the world of small town newspapers and said they are an example of journalism success in an era when many have already pronounced he death of newspapers.

“At a time when mainstream news media are hemorrhaging and doomsayers are predicting the death of journalism (at least as we’ve known it), take heart: The free press is alive and well in small towns across America, thanks to the editors of thousands of weeklies who, for very little money and a fair amount of aggravation, keep on telling it like it is,” Muller said.

Muller does a good job exploring the challenge many small newspapers have when it comes to covering a beat where many editors are neighbors, or at least closely work with those they are required to hold accountable. It’s easy for a daily newspaper reporter to slam the mayor of a small town or school district superintendent, but for small newspaper editors like me, you want to be careful not to burn bridges while also practicing good journalism.

Muller also identifies the reason many small town newspapers are thriving, which is they are hyper-local, publishing stories readers can only find in the weekly newspaper. However, local news is personal news. Local business, schools and crimes are extremely personal issues to many people and its not uncommon for readers to respond passionately to the issues they read. Take for example the Williams Foods grocery store issue, which is only news in Piedmont. The story has been an important one for about a year as it deals with millions in taxpayer money, but many readers have made the issue extremely personal because it deals with their neighbors, family members and the future prosperity of their town.

But for all the challenges our industry faces, and we do face many, there does seem to be hope in many places, including the small town newspaper, where many of the founding pillars of journalism still live.

“I wouldn’t be so bold as to predict the future, not in a media landscape that is constantly shifting,” Muller said. “But when we engage in these discussions about how to “monetize” journalism, it’s refreshing to remember a different kind of bottom line, one that lives in the hearts of weekly newspaper editors and reporters who keep churning out news for the corniest of reasons — because their readers depend on it.”

The art above the fold

Front page of the Sept. 8 issue of the Gazette.

Like many newspapers across the country this week, the Piedmont-Surrey Gazette recognized the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a reflection on what the event means, particularly in our local community. Piedmont is thousands of miles from the three sites of that tragic day, but the impact was still felt and the article interviews teachers, a pastor and residents from Piedmont on what they remember about that day and what has changed over the years.

I thought it was an important story to make our front page feature and gave a lot of thought to the art to use. Photos are always best, especially with a story that is above the fold, but there didn’t seem to be a photo that really captured the connection of 9/11 and the Piedmont community. There are plenty of pictures from Sept. 11, 2001, but they are from shots in New York and Washington D.C. There are a few special ceremonies taking place in Piedmont to mark the anniversary, but they are on Sunday and getting art from those events was not an option.

So, for only the second time in my career as a newspaper editor (if I remember correctly) above the fold of the front page is without any photos. There is a photo in the masthead that teases the Founders Day guide, but no photo to go with the 9/11 story. I don’t think the graphic of the New York skyline is necessarily spectacular, but the image is easily recognizable and allowed us to not have to use the terms “9/11” or “Sept. 11” in the headline and still communicate to the reader what the story is about. Below the fold there is an image of a farm. The original intention was to place the farm in the shadows of the Twin Towers, in an effort to show the connection between the 9/11 attacks and the Piedmont community (the heartland), but instead the text serves as the bridge.

I think the art work works well for this story, if for no other reason than it doesn’t distract from it. Hopefully the image of the towers is powerful, but not overreaching. I also enjoy utilizing a lot of white space at times because sometimes the absence of images and text is just as gripping as art and words.

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