The Gazette's 2012 Editorial Awards

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Our annual look back at the best and worst of the past year

By The Gazette

2012 is over, but don’t worry — it’s not the end of the world.
Or maybe you should worry.
With some of the weird stuff that went on last year, we suspect that a lot of folks were getting the crazy out of their systems because they thought there would be no one to hold them accountable after the whole thing went ka-blooey.
Well, guess what? We’re still here, so dig out of your apocalypse bunker, Sunshine, and let us remind you of what you might have missed while living underground and dining on that stash of store brand Pork-N-Beanz and potted “meat.”
It’s 2013 and The Gazette is ready to award the best and worst our coveted awards.

We feel conflicted about the year in news from 2012. We would like to look back from the vantage point of the new year and make the pronouncement that all the happenings were unequivocally positive in the last 12 months, so we’ll start with the positive.
The City of Galax felt an enormous sense of victory over the odds when Vaughan-Bassett announced the re-opening of the long-dormant Webb Furniture factory, which gave many locals the much-needed opportunity to get back to work, thus earning the “Sigh of Relief" award.
After watching in dread as many American businesses packed up shop and moved their factory lines overseas, it was almost a patriotic moment to see smoke billowing out of Vaughan-Bassett’s chimneys again.
MedFit also gets a “Bright Spot” award for bringing product lines back to the U.S. from overseas and reversing the trend of factory closings. They are actually exporting products made in Independence to  Asia.
Those were feel-good moments, but other subjects get into more of a murky area.
(You might want to put down your Pork-N-Beanz. These events can be a little nauseating.)
Hillsville, for example, got turned on its head by what might be characterized as distrust of the democratic process and the peaceful transfer of power. For a couple of months around the time newly elected leaders took office and the old guard transitioned out, town council meetings nearly degenerated into angry mobs hurling personal insults and accusations both vague and overt at town officials and each other.
These vociferous and vitriolic citizens get the “Torches and Pitchforks” award for their uncivil behavior.
The irony was that, after the animosity cooled, things in Hillsville became downright peaceful. Rather than directing their ire at Carroll County, as has been the case in years past, town leaders quickly made overtures of cooperation to the county, earning them the “There’s Hope For Us Yet” award.
Carroll made some gains in 2012 — county officials did spearhead the effort to actually utilize the natural gas that flows through the Patriot pipeline and arranged a deal to buy the old KDH facilities at a deep discount — but many other headlines out of the county involved officials accusing each other of unsavory acts and conflicts of interest. This earns them the “Finger Pointers” award.
(Alright, you can go back to your Pork-N-Beanz now. The worst is over... for now.)
One happy event involved many people on social media becoming virally enamored of the faith shown by Webelos Scout Lane Snow in keeping his salute steady for the entire 2.5-mile funeral procession of Virginia State Police Trooper A.D. Fox, who after being killed in the line of duty received his final resting place in Elk Creek.
Kudos to Lane, then 9 years old, as well as the unknown photographer. Our “Indelible Image” award might not mean as much as other attention Lane received, but please add it the list of accolades.
Richard Lee Norris of Hillsville is showing an amazing recovery following his transplant surgery, which was done to fix parts of his face damaged by a gun accident. After 15 years of living in seclusion and wearing a mask in public, he received the most extensive transplant surgery ever, including replacement of both jaws, teeth, tongue and skin, along with nerve and muscle tissue from his scalp to his neck. We present Norris for the “New Life” award and wish him the best.
From physical to spiritual healing, Carroll County residents didn’t flinch from acknowledging the painful truth of the 1912 Courthouse Shootout that left five dead, seven wounded, two executed and many families in tatters. They earn the “Facing the Past with Dignity” award for the centennial events. A play dramatized the complexities of the event, a memorial service for the families and graveside observances helped people on both sides of the shootings who long felt traumatized by the history and provided an opportunity for healing.
The area became an “Early (Involuntary) Retirement Community” in 2012, an award we don’t really want. As a rule, we like our visitors to the Twin Counties to be of the living sort, but we seemed to earn the disturbing distinction as a “body dump” in 2012, with four corpses — two of unknown origin, one possibly part of an unsolved murder and another inside a stolen car — found in Carroll County, and a N.C. man pulled over in Galax with his wife’s body in his truck.
Bones of a different — but equally, and equinely, mysterious — sort were found in Hillsville. A 12,000- to 14,000-year-old fossil, determined to be that of a prehistoric horse, was inexplicably found in the McDonald’s parking lot near Interstate 77. Researchers from the Smithsonian, who determined it was a relic of Carroll County’s  Pleistocene Era, get to keep the coveted Ice Age Happy Meal toy (sabre-tooth tiger nuggets not included).
The “Nose Knows” award goes to Galax’s police dog, whose educated sniffer can tell difference between ganja and java. The crafty K9 sniffed out marijuana hidden in bags of coffee in a suspect’s car, but could he have sniffed out the synthetic marijuana — sorry, “herbal incense” — that hit the area this year? The illegal substance produces a high similar to pot, but with unwanted and dangerous side effects. We wonder: does fake pot give you the munchies for food with artificial flavors?
The Galax Police Department hired its first bilingual officer this year, which is a bueno idea for serving the Hispanic community, and proved very interested in improving communications of all types. With the increase of social media, Galax police harnessed everyone’s new drug of choice — Facebook — and are now using its powers for good. To help capture shoplifters and other criminals, the department started posting suspects’ mug shots and photos taken directly from security cameras on their Facebook page. To the locals who aided in the capture of several suspects this year, we present the “I Spy With My Little Eye” award.
Local law enforcement agencies increased their presence at local schools after the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings left our entire nation in shock. After hearing about such an unthinkable act of violence, parents all over the country were hesitant to send their children to school in the days following the grisly news reports — a feeling officers anticipated. For giving families an added sense of comfort and support, we present police departments with the “Emotional Band-Aid” award.
Musician Tara Linhardt put the town of Galax in the Guinness Book of World Records when she and a team of more than 300 mandolin players broke the world record of the largest mandolin ensemble. Linhardt earns the “Song of the South” award for such an amazing achievement. They even played in tune! (Mostly.)
Phone scams abounded in 2012, with most seeking to cheat people out of money. In June, several locals experienced a moment pulled straight out of the movie “Scream” when a prankster claiming to represent the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office called and claimed that an escaped serial killer had been tracked to the person’s house. We present the caller the “Is Your Refrigerator Running?” award.
Another joke that wasn’t funny — much like these awards, right? — was a fake “kidnapping” note left at a Hillsville hotel that sparked an investigation that involved local and state police, the FBI, Interpol and even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The teen who did it gets the “Girl Who Cried Wolf” award, and our sincere hope that, if ever abducted for real, someone will still believe you.
Some youths have more positive hobbies than causing international incidents. Six-year-old Ashton Cooley kept his presence of mind when mom collapsed and called his dad, ensuring mom would get the attention she needed. Then there were scout Michael Rose with his Christmas food drive project; Blake Hughes with his reforestation plantings near Beaver Dam Trail; and Austin Lumpkin, who undertook a disc golf course in Felts Park. Not to forget a whole phalanx of Carroll County students who came out to speak out for funding for school programs, including JROTC cadets and Gladesboro students. They all deserve the “Community Spirit” award.
Galax became the backdrop for Russell Moore & Illrd Tyme Out’s “Pretty Little Girl From Galax” music video. We present the band the “Saying Our Name Right” award, and here’s hoping that other media, such as the pre-movie ads at the theater, will start pronouncing “Galax” correctly.
(It’s gay-lacks, not gal-ucks, ya’ll.)
Business was booming in the Galax area this year, with brand new businesses on Main Street, such as All in One, Needful Things & More and High Maintenance setting up shop, along with a re-openings of other shops and restaurants. Bogeys, in particular, earns the “Good Taste” award for making their comeback sizzle by hiring both chef Karl Berzins and manager Mechelle O’Neal onto the team. Our taste buds salute you.
Other happenings moved much farther into the surreal, like the idea to turn the Bottle House into a Hillsville tourist attraction becoming a controversy before it even got publicly discussed, the doors to the Carroll County administrator’s office suite being locked after an employee requested a protective order against an elected official and a local venue getting cited by Virginia ABC for naked mud wrestling.
Other accolades include:
• the “Call of Booty” award for the police department employee who helped cops lure an amorous advertiser into a sting, leading to an arrest for running an ad soliciting sex. (Not in The Gazette, by the way. We have standards. Why are you laughing?)
• the “Art Attack” award to the low-down thieves who stole paintings from a student art show in Hillsville. Where does an thief fence macaroni art, anyway?
• the “Special Delivery” award to Fries grandmother Angie Crowder, who delivered her own grandchild at home while waiting on an ambulance to arrive.
• the “Delayed Gratification" award to Gov. Bob McDonnell, who hopes to open the state’s mothballed prison in Independence by 2014. But will the funding survive the state legislature? The suspense is killing us — and the local economy. Open it, already!
• the “Buyer Beware” award goes to a local man who bought a (possibly) live 155 mm artillery round and then — wisely — decided it might be dangerous. It was turned in to police, and eventually given to the U.S. Army to dispose of.
Whew... that was a lot to catch up on.
See what you miss when you ride out Armageddon in a smelly backyard bunker?
Teach us to trust the Mayans.
Say... you got any more of those Pork-N-Beanz, or maybe a fossilized horse bone?