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BRITT | In trying to determine the top news stories in the area for 2017, we turned to the stories receiving the most views on the Britt News-Tribune website.

The following are excerpts from the top stories, which we, the Britt News-Tribune staff, believe best represent “The year that was 2017 in the Britt area.”

A few of the stories have a brief follow-up since first being published.

Gjerstad gives message to West Hancock grads

Guest speaker Gary Gjerstad had a simple question for the soon-to-be West Hancock graduates during commencement on May 21.

"Have you ever thought about the impact you've had not just on West Hancock, but on the community?" he asked.

The impact the students have had, he said, was significant.

"I don't have to have the visuals to know it," said Gjerstad, who is blind but plays piano with the West Hancock High School Pep Band. 

He said the Class of 2017 "is one of the most extraordinary classes I've been a part of." Extraordinary, he said, because of the students' heartfelt caring for the community and a willingness to give back.

"That has made you the special class that you are," he said.

"As you think about this day, know that as one chapter closes for you, a new and exciting chapter begins," Gjerstad said.

While he can't physically see the students, he has really seen them as people throughout the past couple years.

"I can see you from the heart, mind and spirit," Gjerstad said. "I'm a better person today because I knew you. And my life is all the richer for knowing you."

Golf course has new name, regular restaurant hours 

The Britt Country Club and Golf Course changed its name to the Britt Golf Course in the summer of 2017 to better reflect what it is.

"It's not for certain people," said John Weiland, president of the Britt Golf Course Board of Directors. "It's for everyone."

The restaurant at the clubhouse, which hasn't had consistent hours in the past, is now open year-round, even when the course is closed for the winter. 

The kitchen now serves food from 5 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. 

The clubhouse and restaurant, which also has a party room in the back and a dance floor, is "not just for golfers," Weiland said.

The clubhouse is available for parties, including graduations, wedding receptions, wedding rehearsal dinners and family reunions. 

Chillin' and Grillin' has 'best year so far'

Tents, lawn chairs and smokers dotted Main Avenue South and Veterans Memorial Park in Britt Saturday, Sept. 23, as grillers prepared their meat for the fourth annual Chillin' and Grillin' event.

The event, which featured the Ron Eisenman Britt BBQ competition and a performance from the Kraft Brothers, garnered its largest attendance since it began despite a change in location and uncharacteristically scorching fall weather, said Travis Hagen, event organizer.

“It was our best year so far,” he said. “Every year it's grown a little bit.”

The event kicked off with the two-division barbecue competition, which was in its fourth year as a competition and its third as a memorial event for Ron Eisenman, who died in a grain bin accident in 2014.

Hagen said 14 individuals, or teams, participated in the pork loin competition, and 12 of them competed in the open division that required the cooking of any dish featuring pork.

First-, second- and third-place finishers in each division were selected by separate five-judge panels. Hagen said members of Eisenman’s family judged the pork loin competition, and local celebrities judged the open division.

The barbecue competition and concert has historically been held at City Park, but due to a scheduling conflict with a wedding, the Britt City Council approved the closing of Main Avenue South from First Street Southwest to Second Street Southwest for the event.

The 2018 Chillin’ and Grillin’ event will take place Saturday, Sept. 22, back at its former location in City Park. 

Britt women start clothing ministry

Friends Katie Johnson and Cindy Kumsher have always wanted to do something together.

In the summer of 2017, they found their something.

In August, the women opened Grace Abounds, a Christian ministry housed in the United Methodist Church in Britt. They accept clothing donations and provide them to children and adults in need within the communities of the West Hancock Community School District.

“We have been given the best things,” Johnson said. “People have just been really kind in what they’ve given us. It’s really nice quality things, and we haven’t had very many that we’ve had to get rid of (due to not meeting the ministry's standards).”

Donated clothing is received, stored and displayed in a room previously used by a sewing group at United Methodist Church. 

"The room is very full," Johnson said during a follow-up interview in January. 

She noted the organization has expanded its reach and is now working with Duncan Heights in Garner.

At first Grace Abounds didn't have set hours, but beginning in January it will be open twice a month: once on a Thursday evening and once on a Saturday morning, to be determined each month.

Grace Abounds will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 11 and from 8 a.m. to noon on Jan. 27.

Titanium Lunchbox 2 opens in Kanawha

Customers came Sunday to check out the Titanium Lunchbox 2 on July 9 during the grand opening of the Kanawha location.

Damon and Karin Baker own the original Britt restaurant and now the Kanawha one. Their son, Josh Baker, runs the Kanawha restaurant in the kitchen while their daughter, Heather Bergman, runs the front of the restaurant. 

Nancy Litch, the owner of the former Tall Corn Cafe where Titanium now sits, came to check out the changes on Sunday.

She said the restaurant will help make Kanawha lively as it will be open during the evening hours. The Tall Corn Cafe was only open for breakfast and lunch.

Later in the year Titanium Lunchbox 2 prepared Thanksgiving and Christmas meals that people could pick up on the day of the holiday. They plan to do it again this year. 

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