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Mialie T. Szymanski

Mialie T. Szymanski
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In addition to her role as a contributing reporter for the Weekly Villager, Mialie T. Szymanski is the creator of the bi-weekly column “Puppy Tails”. This children’s story time column stars Doodle Dog, a floppy-eared puppy who has an optimistic perspective of the world around him. Szymanski's picture book “Doodle Dog Enjoys the Day” chronicles a day in the life of this “paws”itive pup. The upcoming read-aloud anthology “Puppy Tails: Adventures of Doodle Dog” is a collection of the columns and illustrations as seen in The Weekly Villager over the last year.

Newton Falls – It’s a new year and a new  look for one local hometown business that has been around for nearly twenty years. Known for the past decade and a half as Pamida, the one-stop-shop store located just on the outskirts of town on Rt. 534 has fresh paint, updated displays, a more customer-friendly layout, paving upgrades to the parking lot entrance and, most importantly, a new moniker on its bright, glow-in-the-dark sign.

Snowflakes landed one by one outside the office window, each one adding to the smooth blanket of white covering the town like a new cozy comforter keeping the grass warm. But the weather was anything but warm as the snow continued to drift down, some icy flecks floating lazily on a gentle wind before landing on a small pile, while other more menacing tufts sped straight to the ground with a very purposeful thud. Well, with as much “thud” as a soft little snowflake could do, even if it was a tough, menacing one.

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Newton Falls – Ever since the Newton Falls Area Commerce Association announced they would be unable to host this year’s Home 44444 the Holidays due to lack of available volunteers from the community, various local groups have pulled together to plan their own holiday celebrations at the Community Center on Quarry Street. November saw a small gathering of homemade crafters presenting their wares in an attempt to promote a beat-the-shopping-season-rush opportunity for those wishing to avoid the big box stores and inevitable craziness that is the mall environment. This past weekend brought another such event: a Community Christmas festival to keep everyone’s spirits high with the gift-giving day right around the corner.

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Newton Falls – There’s a relatively new trend emerging in the business world called the “3rd Place” and it has nothing to do with bronze medals.

Store owners have recognized the need for a space that people can come to and temporarily “forget” their responsibilities, or at the very least set them aside for a brief time. Typically, in daily life there is the home place and then there is the workplace, both of which harbor duties that need to be done and to-do lists longer than Santa’s delivery notes. The “3rd Place” serves as that middle ground, an in-between rest stop, a limbo of sorts where the sink full of dishes isn’t calling your name or the files on your desk aren’t threatening to bury you under their impending avalanche. Though the concept may seem like nothing novel to the centuries of townsfolk who stopped at the local watering hole for a nightcap or to shoot a game of pool before heading home from a hard day’s work, the modern 3rd Place ideally doesn’t require opening a tab or the upfront admission fee that is a cover charge at the door.

On a beautiful, crisp fall day, several area families joyously celebrated their newest additions. No, it wasn’t at the local hospital. Rather, gathered outside the castle-like Trumbull County Courthouse, holding tightly to brightly-colored balloons drifting in the autumn winds, community children gave thanks for the families that adopted them and new parents and new siblings gave thanks for the little ones that have now officially become a part of their families. 

A sure sign that Thanksgiving is around the corner is not the changing leaves, not the nip in the air, not even the countless advertisements and barrage of notices for Black Friday bottom-bargain-basement sales. Nope. The truest harbinger is that “turkey” suddenly becomes buzzword of the season. And this buzzword was in everyone’s vocabulary at the Newton Falls Fire Department’s Annual Turkey Raffle Friday night.

Newton Township – Did you know that approximately three dozen of Newton Township’s founding fathers never left? They are still here, buried in the cemetery on North Canal Street which is just one of many final resting places currently under the watchful care of the Newton Township Cemetery Association.

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After several months of being closed for construction, the Newton Township bridge recently reopened, and just in time, too, as another Newton Falls Bailey Road fixture is open again for business as well: the pumpkin patch owned by Tom Thomas and his family that presents plenty of pumpkin picking each year is officially open for the 2012 autumn season.
With easily thousands of pumpkins in several varieties, gourds, corn stalks, hay bales, and Indian corn on display, this must-see seasonal stop is a favorite tradition for area residents who know  that although the calendar may have passed September 21st and the colorful leaves may have started separating from the trees, it just isn’t officially fall until they have marked in the season by choosing that first pumpkin – or two or three or a dozen – of the year to decorate their yard (or porch or office cubicle).
Affectionately known to locals as “the pumpkin farm,” the patch is located on the corner of Wood Lenhart and Newton Falls Bailey, on the Lordstown side of that intersection. (Straddle the road and you’ll have one tire in Newton Township and one tire in Lordstown!)  The rows and rows of pre-picked pumpkins are hard to miss as that sea of orange can be spotted even from a fair distance down the road and are neatly arranged in groups according to size, variety, and pricing. Although the heftier pumpkins are $5 each, most of the yard is covered with $1-each options.
Tom estimates that he started growing pumpkins in 1975, which would mean he has been providing pumpkin-perusing pleasure for nearly 40 years. Tom’s wife, Regina, couldn’t quite put a finger on how or why they started in the pumpkin business, but relayed that they “love Halloween, we love fall, we love the kids that come and choose their pumpkins. It’s such a big decision for them to choose one out of all they see.” Tom recalls that the pumpkin growing happened on a bit of a whim as he originally used to have pigs in the barn and there was a lot of manure in the field as a result. A friend told him that pumpkins grow really well in manure and so he tried it. Decades later, that little seed of a thought has sprouted into something great that just keeps growing and growing.
Kindly giving a brief horticulture lesson, Tom explained how each pumpkin seed should be able to produce one pumpkin plant and then that plant will spout out any number of vines which may grow any number of pumpkins. Or maybe none at all! There seems to be quite a science to it, especially with the potential of cross-pollination, which accounts for some of the more interestingly shaped and hued results, but ultimately it’s up to Mother Nature. In addition to growing pumpkins, Tom taught high school biology for many years, so he definitely knows a thing or two about what makes the plants do what they do. Some of the various “results” on display are the more traditional-looking pumpkins, cute little Sugar Pie pumpkins which are better for baking because of their thicker skin and sweeter taste, and “bewitched” pumpkins which boast a bevy of barnacle-like blobs on their skin. By the section of those witchy “wart”-covered veggies, there is a great photo-op corner supplied with hay bales, prop pumpkins (non-warty ones) and a backdrop of cornstalks.
The pumpkin business has turned into quite the family affair for Tom and Regina – their son is the one responsible for growing those artful “bewitched” pumpkins, their daughter helps out with running the storefront and keeping track of the Pumpkin Hauler wagons, and even their little grandchildren love to visit the patch to take part in picking out pumpkins. A highlight of the season is when young students from local schools visit the patch and pile into the hay-lined bed of Tom’s wagon to go out to the field and pick their own very special pumpkins. For many, choosing that just perfect pumpkin is a special experience whether it is your very first one ever or a well-loved yearly tradition. And as a bonus to spread the early autumn joy, children who visit this weekend’s Chili Cook-Off in downtown Newton Falls will be treated to some of Tom’s (and Mother Nature’s) earthy works of art as he has generously donated dozens of the plump produce to be used as canvas for the free pumpkin painting activity.
Another treat awaiting visitors to this pumpkin patch is an array of oversized inflatable creatures guarding the front yard, some of which move very creepily when approached. Imagine a spooky serenade played by the monster on the pipe organ (can you hear it?), watch out for the midnight carriage being pulled by a galloping “night”mare steed, and don’t feel sorry for the haunting Horseman straight out of the classic movie eerily missing his head – he has plenty of new orange, round options to choose from within arm’s reach!

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Newton Falls – After the traditional summer hiatus, the Newton Falls Area Commerce Association reconvened last Tuesday for their September meeting.
Proceeding with business as usual with the financial report and approval of the previous meeting’s minutes, those present then welcomed guest Carrie Anderson, the community liaison of the school district. She spoke briefly about her role in reaching out to the community by assisting at-risk kids, plans to look at the drug and alcohol issue as “prevention has to start somewhere”, other ways to strengthen bonds with the community, the need to address the bullying issue, and intentions of exploring grants to help bring a prevention curriculum to the school.

The beautiful gazebo was quiet now as all the little fairies, imps, nymphs and sprites who had gathered there to hear the princess’s tales went on their way and lived happily ever after. The giant once-white canvas with all the paint tracks – and tail smacks! – made by the floppy-eared puppy and all the other dogs was now hung up for display, the blips and blops of colorful blobs long since dried. And all the different shades of the evening sky, swiped above the earth with nature’s widest paint brush, had made way for a new work of art brought about by the morning’s refreshing light. For having been so busy, so bustling, so filled with the animals and their humans surrounded by so much creative power not so long ago, the little park was now relatively quiet and calm. But as Doodle Dog wandered past the empty gazebo, through what had been the painting area, and around the perching rock that had the best view of the sky, he knew there was still very much a joyful energy left behind. 

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For the love of books! (You know what I’m talking about.)

It isn’t hard to find kind words about those bound hunks of dead trees and ink known as books. Whether you ask a bookseller at your favorite bookstore who recommends a title because she thoroughly enjoyed turning every page (and not simply because she is trying to raise the company’s bottom line) or invite a librarian to chat you up with a book talk on the latest hot item to hit the circulation shelves. For centuries, the art of storytelling has been carefully preserved on pages in books on shelves in libraries, whether for the use of the masses or hidden away in a secret stash of a private residence.

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The glittering red and gold makeshift artifact that has been proudly stored in the Newton Falls fire station for the last year may LOOK like a trophy and may FEEL like a trophy, but it is, in fact, a ping-pong ball, as that is exactly how it has lived its short career.

In 2010, the inaugural Battle for the City between the guns and hoses, the boots and badges, the police department and the fire department (or fire department and police department depending on your loyalties), concluded with the trophy making its home behind the bullet-proof glass of the police station’s half of City Hall. That home was only a temporary rental though, as the next year, in 2011, the first-responders of Squad 43 handily brought the trophy back to their side of the City Hall wall. The contest continues yet again as now, at the conclusion of 2012’s meet-up on the diamond, the trophy left the scene of this incident in the back of a cruiser. 

Doodle Dog scampered through the cool grass and wove in among unusual trees and out among usual trees. He let the green blades tickle the undersides of his round paws as he scampered and wandered and trotted and plodded along his way, not really paying much attention to all that scampering, wandering, trotting and plodding as he continued on because he still had the barking hum or humming bark of the canine choir barking and humming away in his head. In fact, Doodle Dog found himself scampering, wandering, trotting and plodding right along in step with the tune depending on if it was humming or barking or echoing in his mind like the different voices of the animals and their humans had echoed off the usual and unusual trees surrounding the curiously enchanted garden!

Newton Falls – Residents of Newton Falls and recent visitors to the small town may have noticed a lot more orange and black than usual and it’s not because locals are getting into the school spirit a month early. Summer may be almost over, which means football season is right around the corner, but there’s a different reason for the presence of all the extra additions to the color palette: construction, construction and more construction!

Photo: Mialie T. Szymanski

As much as driving through, or completely around, construction can be a well-known hassle, in general construction, construction and more construction is intended to equal improvement, improvement and more improvement, and in this case the end result should be just that.

So, when all the dust settles, what can we expect to see? There are three major projects going on right in the main part of town. First of all, the fire department has been busily remodeling the building across from Arby’s where they used to store extra fire trucks and turning it into a fully operational second fire station. Station #2 is very nearly complete and will feature a live-in environment including kitchen, bathroom with shower, sleeping quarters, common area, and offices for the duty crew. The upgrade was made possible in part by a generous donation of $100,000 from the American Legion Post 236 in Newton Falls. The new facility, which will also house an ambulance, a rescue squad and a fire engine, will be up and running soon!

For another means of improving the safety of the town’s residents and also helping to aid the first-responders in doing their jobs, one only needs to look to the intersections throughout town to see a second project under development. A new traffic light system is being installed at the major intersections throughout the town. Provided by a grant, this more high-tech system will, among other things, be sensitive to the needs of approaching emergency vehicles by recognizing special receivers placed within the vehicles and will adapt the traffic pattern to allow the emergency vehicles a more rapid passage. The installation of the new lights will not be fully completed until at least next year (maybe longer) but progress is well underway.

Neither of these projects has significantly affected the flow of normal traffic, however, one set of ROAD BLOCK signs definitely has and drivers need to be aware, though certainly not surprised. The historic covered bridge, a long-time staple and visitor attraction, is yet again closed for repair due to damage by a passing vehicle. This is at least the third time in as many years that the route through the short bridge has been blocked and there is no definitive word when it will be open to traffic this time around as the city decides on the best course of action for restoring a beam that was broken by a moving truck at the end of July and has been hanging from its truss.

The bridge had been closed for a restoration project lasting two years and was reopened in 2007. The 9’6” clearance is clearly marked at both entrances of the path and large trucks are prohibited. When it is finally back in operation, drivers should use extra caution when approaching the one-lane covered bridge so that passers-by will not find it so quickly out-of-service and needing more repairs yet again in the near future.

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Let me tell you the real story. What REALLY happened at the Battle of Lake Erie. Actually, I would love to do just that, but I can’t since I wasn’t around way back then. But Oliver Hazard Perry can, and that’s exactly what the heroic commodore did last Tuesday night as Perry himself, portrayed by scholar Jeremy Meier, took the stage under a giant red-and-white tent in downtown Warren and told of the tales of his adventures on the water. Dressed in the costume of Perry’s U.S. Navy uniform, Meier walked as Perry and talked as Perry, recounting the incident which many believe won the western frontier of Ohio for America. Perry spoke of the betrayal and intrigue surrounding the event with all the diplomacy and discretion expected of a well-to-do officer and entertained a crowd of over seven hundred spectators – in the lawn space of a tent that holds five hundred – with the harrowing account of defending his squadron of ships from the formidable enemy that was the British.

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The fireworks may have fizzled and the Fourth of July festivities may be finished, but there is still plenty of summer fun left to be had in the 44444 as August wraps up the warm weather months.

Here are just a few highlights of the free activities to be found coming up in Newton Falls:

Doodle Dog would have loved to continue snoozing the day away, turning the quite pleasant, enchanted eve of quiet midsummer night’s dreams into a quite pleasant, enchanted afternoon of quiet midsummer day’s dreams, but as the wide eyes of the man in the moon closed sleepily and the bright-eyed gleam of the morning sun warmed the grassy knoll where a little floppy-eared puppy slept, drifting in and out on the lullabies of pixies and sprites, of fairies and nymphs, guarded by the soft, soothing glow of fireflies and nature’s night lights, he convinced his drowsy eyes to open and his relaxing paws to stretch out over the emerald carpet, squishy with the dawn dew.

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Just a month ago, Trumbull County-based daily newspaper, the Tribune Chronicle celebrated its 200th anniversary of publication. During the Founders’ Day festivities, community members were able to partake in a bit of history – and become a bit of history – as they strolled through Courthouse Square enjoying locally-themed lectures, quilt-making exhibits, and the opportunity to view vehicles from “the olden days” all to the sounds of a “newsie” calling out the day’s headlines in old-fashioned style.

Now residents and visitors are once again invited back in time as the traveling historical group, Ohio Chautauqua, comes to town full of characters and stories of the earliest days of our state. The theme for Ohio Chautauqua 2012 is “When Ohio Was the Western Frontier” and the event will feature a week full of workshops, musical entertainment, and “living history” performances involving some of the key players in Ohio’s beginning formation.