Strong Building

The Strong Building which collapsed in Jan. 2020

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The year 2020 was an unusual one. We all had challenges and setbacks. With the COVID-19 situation, there were hardships and sadnesses, sicknesses and disappointments, and we found out COVID-19 affects kids in ways we didn’t know. But, let’s address things one item at a time.

On Jan. 3, little Memphis Timothy Premo came into the world at Bear Lake Memorial Hospital as the New Year’s Baby weighing 7 pounds 14 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches. He is the son of Dakota and Karlie Premo of Soda Springs.

Brad Schaffer won Maverik’s DEWnited States Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, Winnebago Camper. How fun and surprising that must have been!

There were some sad events in the valley, unfortunately, such as drownings at Bear Lake, semi runaways in Garden City, car crashes — one of which ended in fatalities, and a murder in Montpelier.

In Government, Brad Wilks became the new Paris City Mayor as Brent Lewis left. The Montpelier City Council, as well as the Georgetown City Council, swore in new council members. New School Board members were also sworn in.

Also, the new County Courthouse was built, and county employees and the Sheriff’s Department moved into the building in October. The old courthouse went up for bid.

The Montpelier City Hall relocated to the old First Security Bank building, and Georgetown City Hall had a face lift with new siding and some additional things such as a “Handicapped Parking” sign.

And, the old DJ’s Building, the Stone Building, partially collapsed.

On a lighter note, Bear Lake had the earliest Spring in 124 years. It was beautiful and lasted quite a while.

During that time, COVID-19 hit and the Governor of Idaho signed the State’s Emergency Declaration. Our County Commissioners also declared a state of emergency. At that time, we all sheltered in place or quarantined, those of us who could.

The schools shut down and businesses closed due to the pandemic, and all students began schooling at home. Parents had to work from home or stop working altogether to help their children with schoolwork. Jobs were lost, and times became tough for a lot of our residents. Teachers were heroes as they handed out packets and bags with electronic devices to parents in drive-through lines at the schools. Lunch ladies handed out sack lunches as well. The valley really pulled through and helped each other out during this tough time.

The Montpelier Rotary did, however, hold the July 4th Fireworks in Montpelier, allowing people to park and watch from the golf course, high school parking lot, or the fair grounds. It helped morale a great deal. Unfortunately, the Bear Lake County Fair was cancelled. However, FFA and 4-H competitions were held.

Several high school seniors did a senior project which was a Suicide Walk to reach out to help and make people aware of the suicide situation in Montpelier as it is a high risk area.

Idaho did finally move to Stage 4, the final stage in the Governor’s plan, and he began reopening the economy.

Bear Lake High School held their 53rd Annual Commencement ceremony in a different way. It was held via speakers on a stage built in the rodeo arena facing the parking lot of the fairgrounds where parents and grandparents were able to park. It was then broadcast over The Wave and 1450/FM101.7.

Georgetown held a parade for its graduating Seniors down Stringtown Lane.

Speaking of The Wave, they began bringing fresh broadcasting to the valley, including expansion of sports coverage.

And in sports, the Cokeville High Cheer Squad took State 3A Champion.

The Bear Lake Bears Cross-Country Team broke the longest championship streak in Idaho history by taking the 2A Championship. They actually shaved the coach’s head after winning State!

The Lady Bears Volleyball took District Championship and 2nd in State.

The Lady Cubs Volleyball completed sweep and won the All American Tournament at Star Valley.

The Cokeville Lady Panthers took 1A in State.

Many entities in the area received grants or donations. The Middle School received a $15K grant from INL for the coding class, the pickleball court received a donation, the Senior Center received a $150,000 grant for construction, AJ Winters received a donation from Bayer for STEM education for tools, and Direct Communications donated over $13,000 to the School District.

Bear Lake Memorial Hospital was named Top 2 Best Practices 2020. The hospital also began its expansion of the emergency room and radiology departments, which it had earlier put on hold due to the COVID-19 situation. The Manor received a new covered entry.

At the end of summer, the School Board approved a back-to-school plan, which continued to change throughout the rest of the school year. Bear Lake High School’s outdoor opening assembly was a roaring success as was Homecoming.

During the month of November, the national election caused a stir, but locally there were no contested races

The High School did their annual Service-A-Thon, performing service to a number of businesses and the school. They also served Thanksgiving dinner to 51 families.

Broulim’s began curb-side pickup and a delivery program for the first time.

The War Memorial, which was located on the grounds of the old City Hall, was moved to the War Mother’s Park.

In December, Montpelier Police Chief Russ Roper retired and returned to Caribou County.

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived on a fire truck to the Chamber Building for a drive-by where kids stayed in their cars and talked to Santa. Instead of a light parade, there was a COVID-19 Christmas Cruise-In where decorated cars cruised Main Street for prizes. And, there was a house decorating contest for homes and businesses.

Cokeville had their own kickoff with a light parade, a tree lighting, and a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Santa.

Last but not least, we learned how the “exciting” voice of the Bear Lake girl’s basketball team, Glade Bullock, came to announce for them although he lives in and has announced for the Soda Springs teams for years.

All in all, it turned out to be a pretty fantastic year given the underlying hardships and tension. We Bear Lakers are a pretty resilient lot, and we make the best of any situation we are handed. We always have, and we always will.

Now we wait to see what 2021 has to offer!

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