Top 10 of 2013

Posted December 31, 2013 at 9:38 am

Readers rank top Express news stories

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PHOTO: Crews watch as the Monticello Carpet & Interiors sign is extracted from the building in September. After the November 2012 downtown fire, buildings were demolished in 2013 to make way for the new Monticello Carpet store and a green space. The demolition was the Express’ top-ranked news story for 2013. (Express file photos) 

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PHOTO: The opening of the Citizens State Bank Youth Development Center in April was our second most popular story in 2013. The facility houses both the ISU Extension and the GJCF offices.


By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

With a plethora of great human-interest features, news stories and area coverage to choose from, the Monticello Express left it up to you, our readers, to pick the top 10 news stories of 2013.

A few weeks ago, we pinpointed 25 of our favorite news stories, asking everyone to offer their thoughts on the top 10. It’s been great receiving your responses and thoughts as to what your favorite Express news stories from 2013 were. (Yes, we are now in 2014.)

We’ve had several businesses open up in the downtown area of Monticello. We saw one block of the downtown take on a new look as buildings damaged by the fire were demolished. Local families made the news due to amazing, life changing events in their lives. Organizations celebrated milestones. The Great Jones County Fair and Food Fest hit an all-time high with top-notch musical entertainment!

So, here is your list, Express readers… The top 10 news stories of 2013!

10. It was a tie: Monticello Fareway celebrates 30 years (May 1, 2013). Jo Campbell-Amsler’s willow basket on display at Smithsonian Museum (Nov. 20, 2013).

In May, the national chain of Fareway Stores celebrated 75 years in business. Our local Monticello Fareway also hit its 30-year anniversary.

The first Fareway ad to appear in the Monticello Express was on Oct. 5, 1983, advertising its grand opening.

The ad read: “We are happy to present to Monticello and this entire area a complete new and modern deluxe food store – your NEW FAREWAY STORE!”

Fareway founder Paul S. Beckwith “envisioned what it would be like to work where happy employees served happy customers.”

Bruce Smith, Monticello Fareway manager, started working in Monticello in 1997 as the assistant manager and is now the store manager.

Monticello Fareway employs about 65 employees from the local community and Jones County.

“We’re a working family,” commented Smith at the time.

Jo Campbell-Amsler certainly has a knack for basket weaving. She even grows her own product, willow, on her property outside of town.

While there are many talented individuals here in Monticello, how many people can say they have a piece of their own work on display at the nation’s most prestigious and known museum in Washington, D.C.?

After 30 years in the basket weaving business, Amsler made the right connections that led to this amazing milestone. Her work is part of the exhibit entitled “A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets” inside the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum.

Amsler was also part of a documentary about several basket weavers from across the U.S. A film crew came to her home here in Monticello in early 2013 to film and interview Amsler and feature her work.

Amsler certainly had a memorable 2013!

9. Missing Camp Courageous camper found. (July 31, 2013)

After 13 hours of searching the area in and around Camp Courageous and the Maquoketa River several miles downstream, a 13-year-old missing camper with severe autism was located in the river near Canton, Iowa.

With the help of hundreds of volunteers including camp counselors, Monticello and Jones County emergency personnel and Paul Elmegreen and Dan Kromminga with the Monticello Regional Airport, the lost boy was found to be safe and sound. The incident could have turned out much worse with an overnight storm that moved into the area.

Camp Director Charlie Becker was thankful for all of the help in locating the boy. He said at the time, “We can’t thank the emergency personnel in Jones County enough. They are a great team of people and we’re fortunate to be here in Jones County with such dedicated people.”

In locating the lost camper from the air, Elmegreen said, “It was nothing heroic.”

8. Nick Sauser retires after 48 years. (June 5, 2013)

On May 31, Nick and Julie Sauser closed up shop at Nick’s Service Center after almost 50 years in the towing and automotive service business.

After several years of working for other local service shops, Nick and his brother Pete Sauser went into business together in 1965. The following year, Nick started his own towing business. In 1976, Nick opened his own service station, where he worked for 37 years.

There were years when business was great, with Nick’s Service Center located right on Highway 151. When the four-lane highway was built, business slowed a bit.

In his retirement, Nick Sauser said he plans to “play a little more golf.”

7. Baked. Cupcake Bakery & Café opens. (April 17, 2013)

Nikki Hughes and Kellie McDermott opened Baked. Cupcake Bakery & Café almost one year ago. The two co-owners have been friends for years.

Opening a unique place liked Baked. in their hometown of Monticello was a dream come true.

Baked. offers a wide variety of sandwiches and salads, soups (perfect in the winter), baked goods like breads and cinnamon rolls and, of course, tasty cupcakes. They bake several flavors of cupcakes daily to give customers a wide selection to choose from.

Their sandwiches have authentic names, too, like “Sally,” “Hank” and “Suzy.” Hughes said the two sat down together and just came up with random names for their sandwiches.

Baked. has certainly catered to everyone’s sweet tooth in town!

6. Airport terminal building dedication. (Sept. 11, 2013)

Postponing the Monticello Regional Airport’s annual summer Fly-in Drive-in Breakfast, the event was held later in September to coincide with the dedication of the new terminal building and remodel of the entire facility.

During the dedication, it was revealed that the new building would be named the David E. Cuckler Terminal Building. Cuckler was a local supporter of aviation and wanted to see good things for the future of the Monticello airport. Paul Elmegreen, airport manager, said the idea for a terminal building was Cuckler’s in the first place.

Many people were recognized during the dedication: John Frasher, in memory of his parents Jack and Janet Frasher. The Frashers sold their land to expand the current Monticello Regional Airport. Stacey Burlage, granddaughter of David Cuckler, accepted the plaque in his memory. Mike Deutmeyer, owner of Weber Stone Co., received a plaque for the company’s donation of stone for the terminal building’s façade. As well as many other community supporters.

5. Deb Sternhagen donates kidney to son, Chase. (Nov. 27, 2013)

Several years ago, 12-year-old Chase Sternhagen was diagnosed with a kidney disease known as Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis. With no cure, the Sternhagens (Ron and Deb) decided to look into a transplant. Deb was the first one tested, and found out she was a perfect match!

In mid-October, Deb and Chase underwent surgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. A month after the surgery, Deb said she was just doing what any mother would do for her child.

Chase was back to normal, playing video games and eating and drinking healthy. He missed his school friends after being away from school for a while during and after the surgery.

During this time, neighbors, friends and family showered the Sternhagen family with food and gifts. The family was very thankful for the outpouring of community support.

4. The Jitney Wine Bar opens. (Jan. 23, 2013).

A unique addition to Monticello’s downtown district, The Jitney has been a nice place to sit and relax while enjoying one of their craft beers, wines and extensive cheese and meat trays.

The Jitney is owned and operated by childhood friends Erin Danneman and Katie Farrowe, and Katie’s husband Angus. Opening their own wine bar in their hometown is a dream come true.

The atmosphere inside is one-of-a-kind. The tables are made out of cross sections of various types of trees. The top of the bar is a scaled-down replica of the railroad system that went through Monticello. The word “jitney” actually refers to the train that traveled through Monticello many years ago.

“It’s a warm and welcoming environment. We want everyone to be able to come and sit down, relax and enjoy a glass of wine or a cold beer or a cocktail,” Katie commented after The Jitney first opened for business.

3. Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Cheryl Crow, Gary Allan, Motley Crue and TobyMac all perform at the Great Jones County Fair. (July 24, 2013)

Yes, all of these major musical acts appeared at this past summer’s GJCF, all in a matter of a few days!

As if Little Big Town was not enough, that night’s concert (July 20) was headlined by country music’s Keith Urban. Up-and-coming performer Dustin Lynch opened the show. This was a record-breaking night for the fair as far as ticket sales and attendance.

Moving into the country music genre, long time pop artist Cheryl Crow performed on July 18, with Gary Allan opening the night.

Rock night featured Tesla and Motley Crue.

Keeping momentum going all the way to the end, Sunday evening’s entertainment was a hit with Christmas rock’s TobyMac, featuring former Monticello resident Tim Rosenau. Many locals took in the concert to see one of their own performing on the grand stage. Also performing that evening were Capital Kings and Jamie Grace.

2. The Citizens State Bank Youth Development Center opened at the fairgrounds. (April 10, 2013)

Jones County’s 4-H youth now have a new home in town. Earlier this spring, the Youth Development Center held a dedication ceremony, which was open to the public. The new building houses the GJCF offices, as well as the ISU Extension offices and 4-H offices for the county.

Prior to the new facility, the Extension office was located in Anamosa. Bringing both the Extension and fair businesses together just made sense.

The new center was utilized for the first time during the 2013 GJCF, with the 4-H food stand moved inside the new kitchen area, as well as moving the 4-H booths inside the expo hall.

Aside from holding youth activities, the center has held other community events such as the Monticello Chamber Banquet, weddings and ag-related speakers.

And… your number one Monticello Express news story for 2013…

1. Buildings affected by the Nov. 28, 2012, downtown fire were demolished. (April and September of 2013)

It didn’t take long after the November fire for Steve Intlekofer to tear down his building in April, which housed the new Tease Salon and several upstairs and downstairs apartments.

In September, the Monticello Carpet & Interiors buildings also came down. With two building lots left open along E. First Street, the face of downtown Monticello took on a completely different look.

After approval from the City Council, Monticello Carpet plans to rebuild in its former footprint. The building that housed Keleher’s Jewelry will be demolished some time this year (in 2014). The space created by the Keleher and Intlekofer lots will be turned into a green space for all to enjoy.

The devastating fire, which started inside Monticello Carpet, affected multiple business owners and apartment dwellers. It’s exciting to think of the possibilities in the new year with the downtown coming back to life!

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PHOTO: Among the many entertainers who took to the stage during the 2013 GJCF were country superstar Keith Urban. The fair’s musical acts ranked number three in our top 10.

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PHOTO: Monticello native Tim Rosenau (left) took to the stage during the TobyMac Christian rock concert Sunday evening at the fair. Many were in attendance to see Rosenau perform on the grand stage.
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PHOTO: In October, Deb Sternhagen donated a kidney to her 12-year-old son Chase, who suffers from a kidney disease known as Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis. There is no cure for this illness. The Sternhagens’ story touched so many people and was ranked in our top five news stories for 2013.