Looking back at the year’s headlines

January

Citizen’s Bank opened its new headquarters on a main drag, 655 St. Louis Street.

February

The City built a new steamboat-themed playground in place of the old wooden playground located beside the train engine. Total cost: $100,000.

March

The Batesville Lady Pioneers won the state basketball championship for 4A.

April

Heritage House, the oldest gift store in town, located at the corner of Harrison and Fitzhugh Streets, closed its doors because the owner, Virginia Ketz, retired. It was the go-to for buying wedding and baby shower gifts, and in its last few years carried high end clothing and accessories for women.

May

Intimidator, in its sixth year of operation, completed construction on a building of more than 206,000 square feet taking up five acres at 1525 White Drive. Governor Asa Hutchinson and country music legend Neal McCoy attended its grand opening,

A one-hundred-year-old mural was repainted by the Lyon College Art Department under the direction of art professor Dustyn Bork. The students worked for an entire month restoring the classic Coca-Cola logo located in downtown Batesville.

June

Southside, established in 2014, completed construction of its City Hall building located at 2181 Batesville Blvd. It broke ground in June of 2018 on a 4,650-square-foot, $675,000 building.

The only local, daily newspaper, the Batesville Daily Guard, completed its first entire year under new ownership. (The Jones Family sold to Paxton Media Group of Paducah, Kentucky in June of 2018. At the time it was sold, it was the last non-chain family-owned daily newspaper in Arkansas.)

More than 800 people attended Batesville’s inaugural Pride Celebration in downtown Batesville.

The Batesville Community Center hosted two Pyramid Fights in 2019: on June 22, Justin Frazier defeated Benjamin Rowland, and on Nov 16, Solo Hatley Jr. defeated AJ Cunningham. As of the end of 2019, Cunningham of Batesville was ranked 5th in the state for his division, Arkansas Pro Featherweights.

The Arkansas Country Music Awards announced Tim Crouch of Strawberry, Ark., as Fiddler of the Year. Kenny Loggains of KWOZ Batesville was nominated for Radio DJ of the Year which was won instead by Del Hughes of KWCK in Searcy. KWOZ ‘The Country Super Station” in Batesville was nominated for Radio Station of the Year, but lost to KDXY “The Fox” in Jonesboro.

Two new coffee shops opened around the same time this summer: Nova Joe’s Coffee built a building beside the new Hampton Inn hotel on Harrison Street, and Blue Moon Coffee built across the street from the Riverside Conoco gas station.

Former Arkansas State Senator, Linda Collins, was found murdered in her home.

July

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences opened a new family medicine clinic beside Hobby Lobby, and started a new family medicine residency program, which will bring a total of 18 resident physicians and their families to Batesville when at full capacity.

Flowers Baking Co. of Batesville earned the 2019 Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) ENERGY STAR certification, which means it scored in the top 25 percent of all U.S. commercial bread and roll bakeries for “improving energy performance through best practices and making cost-effective improvements,” according to a Flowers Foods press release.

Cave City celebrated its 40th Watermelon Festival with concerts by Shenandoah and Mark Chestnutt.

August

A study conducted by Background Checks.org concluded that Batesville ranked as the fifth safest city in Arkansas (based on FBI crime statistics of cities with a higher than 10,000 population).

September

Stan and Shanna Fretwell renovated the Maxfield-Wycough Building, built in downtown Batesville in 1897, to be a luxury boutique hotel, The Royal on Main. The bottom floor is a salon and clothing boutique, Main Attire.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded $500,000 to two Main Street properties in the United States, and one of them was The Adler Building, located in downtown Batesville. The grant specifies the money be used to renovate the building to include affordable apartments.

There were two National Merit Semi-finalists in Independence County this year. One was Batesville High School senior, Veronica Laslo. The other was 16-year-old Zach McClain, one of only two homeschool students in the state this year to achieve this honor.

More than 200 community members gathered to provide input to the City of Batesville and IMPACT Steering Committee on priorities for the town going forward. Riverfront development was mentioned the most.

Batesville Community Theater bought the old Van Atkins building at the top of Main Street, and plans to build a theater.

University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville (UACCB) saw a 10 percent enrollment increase in one year, from 2018 to 2019. Other news from UACCB for 2019 is that RegisteredNursing.org, based out of California, ranked its online nursing program eighth in the nation (among online licensed practical nursing to registered nursing school programs) due in part to national licensure pass rates. The college also hosted a concert by Lee Greenwood, who is known for “God Bless the USA” in Sep 2019, and a meet and greet with University of South Florida head football coach Charlie Strong in Mar 2019.

A new 80-room Hampton Inn hotel opened in Batesville, located across Harrison Street from the old White Rogers building.

Independence County voted to sue the City of Batesville for outstanding payment of jail fees.

October

Danny Dozier, alongside the Batesville Downtown Foundation, completed a playground at Maxfield Park using recycled materials from the old Riverside Park playground torn down in February. Dozier gave credit to local stonemason Lloyd Blake and master electrician Andy Edwards for helping with the project. The park also now contains the only public restroom downtown.

The Foll Family Farm, established in 1919 and owned by Stanton and Cheryl Foll of Stone County, was honored by the Arkansas Agriculture Department for having been owned by the same family for more than 100 years.

Ozark Mountain Poultry completed its first entire year under ownership of George’s, headquartered in Springdale.

Peco Foods, headquartered in Alabama with a processing plant in Batesville, created a new corporate director position to focus on health and safety. Peter Van Derlyke, with a Ph.D. in Safety Sciences, is the first person to fill the position.

November

Sulphur Rock Elementary earned a Grade of A on school performance for the third time in a row from the Arkansas Department of Education.

Local man, Larry Bentley, bicycled 80 miles on his 80th birthday. Story found here.

The Child Advocacy of Independence County completed its first full year in the house it renovated at 510 East Boswell Street, diagonal from the Post Office.

The North Arkansas Dance Theater performed their 15th annual Nutcracker ballet, and featured four professional ballet dancers, Leah Morris and Aldrin Vendt of Ballet Arkansas, and Jon Drake and Amy Turner.

Future Fuel Chemical Company’s net income for the first nine months of 2019 was down to $15.8 million from $51.3 million in 2018.

December

The cities of Batesville and Southside, and Independence County agreed collectively to buy Ramsey Mountain (19 acres) to preserve it for future generations.

Matt Smith bought the vacant movie theater located in the Oaks Shopping Center, and plans to renovate. Smith’s other theaters in the state offer luxury seating, an extensive food menu, and some serve beer and wine.

Independence County went from a ranking of 17th in the state in 2018 to 71st in the state in 2019 for how much important information its website contains, according to the report Access Arkansas: County Web Transparency released by the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics at the University of Central Arkansas. Independence County’s website is under construction. Jefferson County showed the most improvement, mostly due to its new stand-alone website.

Due to a lawsuit filed locally, the community learned a grandson of the former Vice-President and 2020 Presidential candidate Joe Biden currently lives in Independence County.

Four out of four Lyon College students who applied to dental schools were accepted. Keifer Hartwig will be going to Tennessee Health Science Center College of Dentistry, Vinston Van will attend the University of Florida College of Dentistry, Ayden Henry will attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, and Taylor Dale was accepted to five schools and is still undecided. In other news from Lyon, alumni Clare Brown, Ph.D., was interviewed by CNN about her article concerning the effect of Medicaid expansion on low birth weight and preterm birth published in April 2019 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. And…Lyon built a dog park this year and named it in memory of a beloved biology professor, Mark Schram, Ph.D., who passed away in 2017.

White River Health System (WRHS) now offers telemedicine via Ivanti, a computer software company with 1,600 employees, headquartered in Utah. Other news from WRHS in 2019 includes recognition from the Arkansas Hospital Association of Dylan Carpenter, MD, for being the first surgeon in Arkansas to offer minimally invasive anterior hip replacement (using Stryker’s Mako, a robotic arm); Dianne Lamberth for her work with the Independence County Child Advocacy Center; and Kevin Spears for his work in getting sleep chairs for Stone County Medical Center. Additionally, a local pharmacist, Erin Beth Hays, was selected to serve as President for the Arkansas Association of Health-System Pharmacists.

Cave City erected a new monument to honor veterans.

For the 25th year, the Southside School District hosted its highly successful and annually sold-out ‘Ye Olde Christmas Madrigal Feaste’.

First Community Bank opened three new branches in Arkansas: Newport, downtown Jonesboro, and Conway. Then the bank broke ground on an operations center addition off its main headquarters. The new three-story addition will be more than 28,000 square feet and house 125 employees. Also in 2019, First Community Bank partnered with television host P. Allen Smith to install pollinator gardens at 20 of its bank locations in Arkansas.

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