It’s been a tumultuous year, marked by the global COVID-19 pandemic, protests for racial justice and a hotly-contested election. Our top stories of 2020 reflect that. Many of the stories in this list, based on online readership numbers, cover these topics.
But there’s other stories too, that may remind readers and Record staff that one day, the pandemic will be over. Despite economic shutdowns to curb the virus, local businesses, artists and restaurants forged ahead. Essential workers including health care workers, teachers, construction workers, truck drivers, grocery store clerks and so many more showed up day in and day out. Parents found ways to juggle careers and new teaching responsibilities for their children.
As we head into the new year, the staff at the Snoqualmie Valley Record is both honored and humbled to be able to provide readers crucial information during this trying time. We wish you the best in 2021 and beyond.
The top story the year came over the summer amid protests that blossomed in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin. The killing rocked the nation, and droves of people across the U.S. turned out to protest beginning in late May.
In North Bend, a Mt. Si High School senior decided or organize a protest on June 5. Clashes between left and right wing protesters had been making headlines in Seattle and other major cities around the country. A conspiracy theory blog writer was visiting North Bend from California, and wrote a post fingering two locals as agitators who were going to violently hijack the protest.
While the Snoqualmie Police Department chief wasn’t concerned, it did cause a stir in local social media groups.
The protest ended up going off without a hitch, but this story perhaps serves as a reminder that social media can be used to both educate and spread misinformation.
Dillon Garnes passed away in his sleep on June 7. He was described as a respectful, likeable and jovial teen who was on the school’s football and track teams. He passed away from an undiagnosed heart condition.
An email sent from Mt. Si High School recalled Garnes as someone who “gave 100% and was very inclusive with all of his teammates, inspiring those around him with his positive attitude.”
Antifa made our top stories list again, this time after conspiracy theories sprouted online fingering the left-wing activists for starting wildfires that raged across the West Coast in September. However, police and fire fighting agencies were quick to dispel this myth.
A Washington State Department of Natural Resources spokesperson said in September that there was no evidence that members of political organizations were intentionally lighting wildfires in the state.
Regardless, the narrative that political activists were starting fires for some unspecified political purpose stuck around on social media, before eventually petering out when the fires were finally extinguished.
An outbreak of COVID-19 at Regency North Bend left eight dead by mid-December, and infected most of the residents. The facility responded quickly in early November, when the first positive cases were detected. They notified Seattle & King County Public Health immediately, but a data entry error on the county’s side may have contributed to a delayed response from the county.
Mayor Matt Larson tested positive for the coronavirus on March 22, after being tested the prior week at Snoqualmie Valley Hospital. He underwent more than 10 days of self-isolation at home as he recovered.
“I am fortunate to be healthy and have staved off the serious repercussions that could have required hospitalization,” he wrote at the time.
Since then, he has made a full recovery and resumed his role as mayor.
Last April, in the early days of the pandemic, the governors of all three West Coast states announced they would be working together to reopen their economies and control the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time, it seemed for many in the community that the pandemic would be winding down by summer. However, after summer came and went, a fall surge has hit not only Washington state, but the whole country. Vaccines are being given to health care workers, but today it’s unclear when widespread vaccinations will be distributed.
The Snoqualmie Police Department snagged a hulking mine-resistant armored vehicle from the feds in 2013, as part of the federal government’s plan to offload surplus military gear to local law enforcement agencies.
The acquisition raised some eyebrows in 2014, with a handful of national media outlets wondering why a town of 12,694 at the time needed the vehicle. The vehicle has been used a handful of times for SWAT calls in conjunction with other cities, or to respond to natural disasters.
Is it overkill, or a valuable tool? That’s up to the community to decide.
Mayor Matt Larson landed himself in hot water earlier this year after he sent an email on Jan. 7 testifying in opposition to a bill dealing with exemptions for off-reservation tribal properties.
The issue of contention was the Salish Lodge and Spa and associated undeveloped property, which had been previously purchased by the Snoqualmie Tribe. The tribe plans to conserve the land. Larson wrote in opposition to the proposed bill, saying would have a negative impact on the city’s taxes.
But Robert de los Angeles, chair of the Snoqualmie Tribe, said the “groundless fear-mongering about Native American nations conspiring to remove ‘hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue’ is the sort of panic-stoking rhetoric that would be explicitly called prejudiced if it were directed at any other community of color.”
The full story can be found online.
Who doesn’t love a good barbecue? Buckshot Honey opened this summer to much excitement in the city. The restaurant sits in a two-story brick building downtown, which used to serve as a bank.
Owner David Storm said his menu is inspired by a number of barbecue traditions, including his grandmother’s recipes, and his great aunts, who live in West Virginia. Opening during the pandemic wasn’t a cake walk, but after months of planning, Storm finally opened his door in early August.
Development and water availability have been hot topics in North Bend over the last few years. The city has for decades now had to deal with issues stemming from its overuse of water from the 1980s through the late 1990s. A moratorium on building was declared in the 1999 to 2009, when the Centennial Well came on-line.
However, the city still needs to find a backup mitigation water source, and some in the community are critical of new development in the city until one is found.
Development on a 212-unit housing complex in North Bend was slated to begin in October, despite the parcel not being within the city’s water service area at the time. The city expected the property to be placed into its service area when its water service plan was approved.
The indomitable Danna McCall was hired by the city of North Bend to serve as their spokesperson. She began working for the city in September.
McCall founded the popular community blog Living Snoqualmie in 2010, which has been met with great success in the Valley. As part of her career change, she cut ties with the publication which is now being run independently.
“Now that my children are grown, I’m excited for this new, full-time career opportunity with the city of North Bend,” McCall said in a press release.
Rounding out this list on a feel-good note, North Bend Art and Industry moved a carousel to the city, which will be the centerpiece of a planned arts center along North Bend Way. The carousel arrived in August, and the arts organization is planning on fundraising to buy carved horses for it.
The carousel was originally built in 1927. Daniel Muller created many of the wood carvings, panels and benches. According to Carousel History, Muller was trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His attention to detail and proportions made his work highly sought-after.
It was then bought by the Dentzel Carousel Company, which outfitted it with a motor, gears and decorative plaster. It is believed to be the last carousel to be completed at the Dentzel factory, according to North Bend Art and Industry.
The carousel was donated by the Freels Foundation. But there were challenges getting the massive creation to North Bend. A press release from the organization said last year, when Ernie Jenner joined North Bend Art and Industry, he had the idea and connections to secure the carousel.
For the past three decades, the creation was stored on a pistachio farm in Madera, Calif., some 160 miles southeast of San Francisco. Getting it to Washington state took six weeks and multiple trips.