Wheaton hosts 100th birthday gala

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Over 4,000 Barry County residents journeyed to Wheaton to help the town celebrate its 100th birthday this weekend. The Wheaton Centennial Celebration was held in the city park on July 5, 6, 7 and 8.

"I think the event turned out excellent," said Nancy Rosentreter, Wheaton Centennial Committee secretary and city alderman. "We had a very large turnout. I would estimate we had between 4,000 and 4,500 individuals attend the celebration throughout the weekend."

The 100-year celebration began with a Fiddler's Contest in the Wheaton City Park on Thursday, July 5. Over 20 musicians entered the contest, which attracted a crowd of over 300 individuals. Fiddlers played a waltz, hoedown and player's choice song.

Michael Thompson, of Rose, Okla., took first place in the youth division and was awarded $100. Other youth winners were: Will Durkin, of Santa Rose, Calif., second place, $75; and Glen Sigler, of Joplin, third place, $25.

Jake Duncan, of Jenks, Okla., was awarded first place in the open division, which was for musicians over the age of 15. Duncan won a $500 cash prize.

Other open division winners included: Douglas Thompson, of Rose, Okla., second place, $300; Alita Stoneking, of Bolivar, third place, $200; and Bubba Hopkins, of Spavinaw, Okla., fourth place, $100.

On Friday night, hundreds of individuals crowded the Wheaton City Park for a special performance by Nashville recording artist Sonny Burgess.

"The concert was a big success," said Rosentreter. "We have heard nothing but praise for the Sonny Burgess show. Many people turned out for the concert."

The celebration swung into full speed with a Centennial parade on Saturday morning. Parade entries included antique automobiles, horsedrawn carriages and marching units.

Members of the Wheaton Volunteer Fire Department began serving barbecued chicken, baked beans and buttered baked potatoes to the hungry crowd at around 11 a.m. Members of the Wheaton United Methodist Church also sold an assortment of pies and desserts throughout the afternoon.

Barbecue entertainment included musical acts, a car and tractor show, arts and crafts booths and amusement park attractions for young attendees. Musical entertainment included performances by the Wheaton Centennial Singers, Sage Grass Revival Band and Tradewinds.

The 12th annual Spud McCracken Horseshoe Tournament began at 1 p.m. Participants pitched for around seven hours before tournament champions were announced.

Jackie Cargile, of Washburn, and Dave Sparkman, of Cassville, took first place in the tournament. The team was awarded $65.

Other horseshoe tournament winners included: Bob Renfrow and Bob Outt, both of Diamond, second place, $55; Gary and Janell Brattin, of Exeter, $40; and Ronnie Senseney, of Exeter, and Ronnie Bohannon, of Jackett, $30.

"We had 20 teams, and we each pitched 19 games," said Janell Brattin. "It was a marathon this year." Due to the generosity of Dale "Gizmo" McCracken, who donated $200 to the event, all tournament participants were awarded cash prizes for participation. Teams who placed fifth through 10th received $20 and teams who placed 11th through 20th received $10, which was a reimbursement of the entry fee.

"Everybody had a good time," said Janell. "This was the biggest horseshoe tournament we have had since we began this event."

At around 2 p.m., many individuals journeyed to the farm of Joe and Jackie Higgs, off of Highway W east of Wheaton, for a Trail of Tears Remembrance Walk.

Jim and Molly Smith narrated the event, which re-enacted the journey that Native Americans took across the area during the Trail of Tears. The event also included a demonstration of Native American games and stomp dances.

Later in the afternoon, centennial attendees returned to the Wheaton City Park for the Little Miss and Mr. Centennial contest. Lily Ray, of Wheaton, and Grant Bradford, of Wheaton, received the titles of Little Miss and Mr. Centennial. Runner-up titles were awarded to Allison Whitman and Logan Clifford.

"The old time costume contest was wonderful," said Rosentreter. "I would like to personally thank all who were a part of the contest. Everyone did an outstanding job putting the costumes together."

Over 30 individuals participated in the Turn of the Century Costume Contest. Gabriella McFall, of Bentonville, Ark., won Best of Show.

Adult costume contest winners included: Marianne Witt, first place women's division; Lauren Powers, second place women's division; Tracy Henderson, third place women's division; Skyler Lewis, first place men's division; Gary Cartwright, second place men's division; and Cecil Brattin, third place men's division.

Youth costume contest winners were: Aspen Lewis, first place; Tyler Hopper, second place; and Cameron Cartwright, third place.

After the centennial costume contest, the Wheaton Centennial Committee held the $10,000 drawing. Over the last year, committee members sold $20 tickets for the drawing, which gave participants a one in 1,000 chance of taking home the cash. Kevin Miekley, of Exeter, was the lucky winner of the cash prize.

Saturday's entertainment wound down with the annual Wheaton Fire Department duck race at 8 p.m. Over 700 yellow, pink and blue ducks entered this year's race, which attracted a crowd of centennial attendees to the ditch on the southeast corner of the city park.

Duck race winners included: Kendall Haynes, first place, $500; Linda Yang, second place, $250; Jay Wilson, third place, $125; Rodney Allen, fourth place, $75; and Amy Kelly, fifth place, $50.

The Wheaton Centennial Celebration continued on Sunday with a community church service and dinner on the grounds. The event was directed by Sheila Young, and the message was delivered by Jerry Francisco.

All area pastors participated in the special service, which included a musical performance by the Centennial Singers. Other Sunday entertainment included performances by The McCrackens, Canaan Bound, Gateway and Al Brumley, Jr.

"People jumped in and did what they were supposed to do and everything went very smoothly," said Rosentreter. "It was hot, but it was all worth it in the end. The whole town had one heck of a birthday party. It was 100 percent successful."

Over the next few weeks, Wheaton Centennial Comm-ittee members will be gathering Centennial memorabilia for a time capsule that will be placed in the Wheaton City Park in honor of the centennial event.

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