By Rosalyn Roy
STEPHENVILLE – Every year the staff at Wreckhouse Press picks our Top 10 favourite stories that have appeared in the Wreckhouse Weekly newspaper, and this year we poured through past print and online editions to do the same for the Appalachian. It was difficult to choose and for good reason.
We are fortunate to have profiled a great number of artists, seniors and innovators over the course of 2021. We've also had some fascinating news stories that have triggered strong reactions – both positive and negative. We've endured yet another long year of a pandemic and provincially mandated lockdowns.
But we've scoured all of the issues and pulled our Top 5 favourites from the first (half) year of The Appalachian. Here they are, along with a brief note about why they made the cut. Did yours make the list?
1. Stephenville airport sale
The choice for the Appalachian's top story of 2021 was a no-brainer. No story provoked as much reaction as the sale of the Stephenville Regional Airport to Ottawa's Dymond Group of Companies (Dymond Group buys Stephenville Airport, Volume 1, Issue 7, Sept. 15, 2021).
The 1.4 billion dollar investiture by Dymond Group – without any taxpayer funding – includes a hefty 200 million in infrastructure upgrades, a new $10 million dollar fire hall and the creation of an expected 5,000 new jobs, as well as international and domestic flights for West coast residents.
While most around the region and the rest of the province embraced the sale, others have remained skeptical that it all seems to be too good to be true. Four months after the announcement, an airport control tower has been ordered for the re-branded Dymond International Airport and work has begun on infrastructure upgrades, while there is a tentative projection for commuter flights to start as early as this spring.
2. Courage and COVID-19
The second choice on the list was a more personal one but remarkable for two reasons. First, in the age of almost instantaneous social media judgment, breaking an unwritten rule can open oneself up to undeserved criticism. Second, sharing one's private medical status surrenders a level of privacy to which all Canadians are entitled.
By announcing that she had tested positive for COVID-19, Sharon O'Neill-Parsons sought to combat the stigma that still surrounds the pandemic two years after it began, while attempting to do her part to keep her loved ones, contacts and community safe. (COVID and courage in St. George's, Vol. 1, Iss. 12, Oct. 20)
The support she received in so doing was a refreshing and incredibly welcome change from the usual negativity, suspicion and speculation that permeates community forums once a positive case has been announced in an area. By stepping forward, O'Neill-Parsons displayed consideration, kindness and courage for which this province is so well-known.
3. Pizza wars
Taking on an internationally recognized pizza chain and winning sounds like a movie plot, but Domino Pizza House did just that (Dominos Pizza House proves to be an original, Vol. 1, Iss. 2, Aug. 11). The Stephenville pizza house was established in 1964 and actually started out as Domino Tearoom a year earlier by a pastry chef.
By the 80s, Domino's Pizza sued them for the rights to the name of Domino's and lost. Like most food establishments, the pizza house is grappling with the pandemic and adjusting as best they can. It helps that customers are loyal.
"People come back after a long time away because of the memories," said Estoppey. "It's a taste of home."
4. Truth and Reconciliation
This article about National Truth and Reconciliation Day (Vol. 1, Iss. 10, Oct. 6) may have seemed to the casual reader as yet another piece about the horrors of residential school system. Instead it was a hopeful piece that focused specifically on the future of this region.
On Sept. 30th the day was recognized across the nation, and in Stephenville the People of the Dawn Indigenous Friendship Centre (PDIFC) hosted events in recognition of the Indigenous lives lost at Canadian residential schools. Contrary to popular belief, residential school horrors are actually recent history – the last of these schools closed in 1996.
Interspersed with highlights of the day's events, PDIFC's Paul Pike shared why this day matters to Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, and what still needs to be done to heal the trauma and scars that remain, including education. For reporter Jaymie L. White, the story was definitely a personal one.
"This was a big story for me, not just because of my family's Indigenous roots, but because it was extremely difficult to fathom how this kind of injustice was able to stay buried for so long. The unearthing of the bodies at residential schools in Canada was a big awakening for everyone," shared White.
5. Family Feud
There were plenty of feel good stories in the Appalachian in 2021, but for feel good fun it's hard to beat the Ploughman appearance on national television. In Stephenville family competes on Family Feud (Vol. 1, iss. 13, Oct. 27), the Ploughmans shared a bit of insight into how they got picked, what it means to get chosen, some behind the scenes fun, meeting host Gerry Dee and the bond that the family shares, which this adventure served to strengthen.
Not only did readers have fun watching the Ploughmans compete, the newsroom had a lot of fun and gained some fresh experience while writing it.
"This story was one of the most enjoyable stories I've ever done. Not only was it a family from my hometown (which was extremely exciting), but it was so unique to anything I'd ever done. It was a new experience for me as much of my communication was through a media representative before speaking with the family. It was just so fun and getting to watch the episode on TV afterwards was priceless!," shared author Jaymie L. White.