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The Versailles Republican

July 16, 2015 • Headlines

Tony Stewart, a Columbus, Indiana native, prepares for the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, July 11. For more stories and photos of the winners pick up a copy of The Versailles Republican at your local newsstand.
Milan's Maisy Allen, 15 years old, is becoming quite the motocross queen! The Milan sophomore has 15 first place wins. Read the entire front-page story in today's The Versailles Republican. Pick up a copy at your local newsstand.
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It’s time for the 4-H county fair

Mary Mattingly

EDITOR'S NOTE: Pick up a copy of The Versailles Republican for the 4-H Fair special section with the complete schedule.

The Ripley County 4-H fair is a part of Monica Hansen’s summer as much as say ice cream and swimming pools. A former 4-H member, she’s grown up around it, her father Kevin Menchhofer being a former board member. Now she’s president of the Ripley County 4-H Fair board. “I love it. I feel like it is a highlight of the summer, and it’s a big part of my life,” she said last week at her office at the fairgrounds in Osgood.

She’s not alone. There are 603 4-H members in some 14 clubs this year. Many of them, like Hansen, come from generations of 4-H members. There are 29 who have been involved for 10 years and will be recognized at a special dinner at the end of the week long fair. Not only are they looking forward to the start of the fair on Sunday, July 19, but so are their younger 4-H counterparts, parents and local residents.

As Hansen noted, the county fair is a summer tradition. It takes many behind the scene workers to make sure the fair operates smoothly for seven days. It begins with the 4-H leaders. They encourage the children to enter various projects, from walking (animals) to non-walking entries, and lead them along the way. Several will enter four or five projects. There will be several thousand entries, all which must be judged. Finding judges is one of the tasks of the fair board. A week before judging, Hansen said she is just shy of one or two judges. They must be from outside the county.

Prior to the fair kick-off, the fair board makes sure all the buildings are clean. They will set up tables, banners, fans, pens and racks, and ensure water and electric hook ups are available for vendors or campers. Also ahead of time, they try to find sponsors to provide mulch and sawdust. The fair book and brochures have already been printed. Dumpsters for trash are arranged as well as security for the week. Each of the 21 fair board members sign up for shifts, as they like to have two people there every fair night to troubleshoot, she said. She’ll camp there the week of the fair. It’s what she did when she was a kid, and now since she is on the fair board, it’s just convenient.

What’s happening
There is only one new event this year, midget racing, but the past attractions and events are back since they have proved to be popular. The fair opens on Sunday at 6 p.m. with the crowning of the 4-H King and Queen, the banner parade, and the greased pig contest at 7:30 p.m. at the grandstands. The pig contest became controversial at the state level, as some groups have cited cruelty to animals, but it’s not been an issue here, according to Hansen.
2014 Ripley County 4-H Fair queen and court


Pictured left are the 2014 Ripley County 4-H Fair queen and her court, all smiles and covered in mud.

One thing that won’t be at this year’s fair will be the poultry show. A widespread disease has caused the state to ban 4-H poultry shows. Locally, the 4H leaders opted to have the members complete their poultry projects by submitting a poster with pictures of their birds. They won’t be able to bring the birds or chickens in for the livestock auction either on Friday, but they can show a picture or poster. Hansen suspects several of the kids will opt out of it then.

While swine and beef are the more popular animal shows, new parents want to show off their pride and joy! The Baby Show is Monday at 5 p.m. at the free stage. Older siblings are often brought to enjoy one of the three wristband nights for the Midway. For $18 you can ride all night long. That same night they will have the QT Midget races. It was supposed to be on July 2, but got canceled due to rain so sponsor organizer Terry Eaglin suggested to fit it in during fair week. Hansen thinks it will be a nice addition to the grandstand events. “We do have the rodeo again on Wednesday. It’s the second year, and it went over really well,” Hansen said. Wednesday is also wristband night. Friday is the pay off for the culmination of a year’s worth of work for many of the 4-H members. The community has always been big supporters of the livestock auction which begins at 3 p.m. The fair wraps up Saturday, July 25 with the 4-H awards program, and wristband night at the Midway.

Proceeds from the fair are put back into 4-H programs, and into an endowment fund that was recently created. The county runs the fairgrounds property, with a park board to oversee it. That change was made more than 20 years ago and since then, the grounds have been paved, a horse and pony barn built, and more project buildings, Hansen said. The county has helped fund such projects with grants. “We’ve come a long way!” according to Hansen. While the board and volunteers do what they can to ensure a successful fair, a lot of it depends on one thing: the weather. Hansen is hoping for 80 degree, rain-free days. She figures we’ve had so much rain it’s bound to let up for fair week!

A tree of life...
Milan makes sure teacher’s dream grows

Mary Mattingly

When Steve Gutzwiller stands by the 32 trees recently planted at the Milan Town Park, he is standing in awe and appreciation of life. Not just the life the trees represent, but his own. The trees are symbolic of how one passionate idea can become reality with the help of many.
Steve Gutzwiller


Steve Gutzwiller stands next to the newly planted trees at the Milan park.

The story goes that the Milan biology teacher had always wanted trees that provide shade for young ball players or families enjoying the local town park. More than a decade ago, “Mr. G” as his students call him, got the idea while watching a game at the Batesville Huntersville Road diamond and enjoying the shade of the Catalpa trees. He then saw an article about a large state grant to provide a matching grant to towns for tree planting..He thought wouldn’t this be great for Milan’s park? Having never written a grant, the teacher proceeded to do so, and it was not an easy task. Thirty-nine cities were awarded, but unfortunately Milan was not one of them. However, upon mentioning it to his high school students, the kids said, “Mr. G you never give up on anything” and wanted to take on the project for the recycling club. Shortly thereafter, 50 seedlings were planted, obtained for free from the Ripley County Soil and Water Conservation. “But all but three were ruined by the mower or by parked cars. They were just twigs, and really small,” Gutzwiller recalled.

Change of plans
On career day this past spring, he ran into a Milan classmate, Jeff Meinders, who mentioned that his son had planted 100 trees 10 years ago and Gutzwiller could have many for his tree park project. These were good size red maple trees, not twigs, something that could withstand a mower or strong winds! But to move and plant the trees is not cheap. The club had $400, but when the Milan Town Council heard of it, manager John Ingram mentioned they had earmarked $1,200 for park improvement funds, and this would fit in that category. Tim Schwipps, a former student of Gutzwiller’s who works for the USDA Natural Resources, got involved and helped Principal Ryan Langferman coordinate the project. Bob and Joe Brewington, who operate a local tree service, donated over a dozen pin oak trees and offered the equipment to move the 15-20 foot red maple and 10 foot pin oak trees. All this was done at a nominal cost.

“So, it was all working out great. On the day they were to be planted, I had a massive stroke,” Gutzwiller said. It was March 16, the day before his birthday. “My body just let go on me,” he said now recovering in his home in Batesville. His own son, a freshman, was in the class at the time the stroke happened. One student pushed the emergency button and his son, Steven, ran to the principal’s office seeking help. Their quick response made a big difference. “My students, they saved my life!” Gutzwiller gushes. He was rushed to Margaret Mary Health, but his condition deteriorated and he was transported to UC Health. That’s when he gets fuzzy on the details. He was in intensive care for a week, and had lost the functioning of his entire left side.

But, as his students had reminded him once, he doesn’t give up be it for the trees or his own life! Gutzwiller, 62, then began intensive rehab for weeks, moving in with one of his brothers in Greenwood during the week. His eight brothers and sisters and friends made sure he got to rehab, and helped him through this most difficult time. Neighbors mowed his lawn at his residence in Batesville, brought meals, and checked on him regularly when he was at home on the weekends.

As of July 1, Gutzwiller is home on his own. He has responded tremendously to rehab, fighting hard to speak and walk again, and to return home, and hopefully, back to work. He’s taught at Milan for 35 years. Langferman, also a former student of Gutzwiller’s, says he’s amazed at his recovery. He was called to the scene when Gutzwiller had the incident, and recalled it did not look good for him at the time. Gutzwiller goes to rehab just once a week now, and received a good report about a recent MRI. In addition to his family and friends, the Milan school community has been instrumental in his recovery, lifting his spirit to continue the battle. A 12 foot long get well card was sent from the students and school. “I’ve got more cards than you can count,” he said, gushing. “And, the prayers. It’s just been unbelievable. I want to tell them all thank you and I love them!”

Tree reality
In the meantime, his beloved tree project is no longer a dream, but reality. Langferman and Schwipps ensured that Mr. G’s tree project wasn’t forgotten, and the high school kids staked out the trees in late May. “He wanted his students to get involved,” Schwipps commented. Kim Jolly with the county’s soil and water conservation organization came up with the tree placement design, and Joe Brewington took care of watering them. It was no doubt a team effort, between the idea, the donations, the manual labor and more. “I didn’t do anything, but get four people to carry out the dream,” Gutzwiller says, awed by the generosity of time and treasure of many Milan folks. He even gives credit to the German immigrant who had the foresight to bring the Catalpa seeds overseas and then plant them in Batesville. He also acknowledges a priest at St. Louis School where he attended as a boy, and later taught there for 3 years before Milan, for planting the seed of his love of nature and environment. The priest held a bluebird house contest, and Gutzwiller wanted to win, but lost to the guy who made the house from nature’s bounty, like clay, straw, etc. “Father Herculan told me mine was built for a human, not a bird!” As a teacher, Gutzwiller, used that contest, in the priest’s honor, and recalls his Milan student, Tim Schwipps, winning every time.

The trees in Milan were planted recently, much to the delight of many (and there will undoubtedly be more in the future when they provide needed shade during hot ball games), but most of all to Gutzwiller.

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• Motocross queen: Local girl dominates in sport (front page)
• Property owners turn out at Versailles meeting (front page)
• Supporting our youth, protecting our future by Charo Boyd, Social Security Administration (page 4)
• Amazon adding jobs in Indiana (page 6)
• On the Record from the Ripley County Courthouse (section B, front page)
• Versailles Town Court (section B, page 3)
• Regional Wrap-Up: DCS manager sues department (section B, page 4)
• Ripley County TV listings (section B, page 8)
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