20 years of stories in ink and photos

By: 
Patrick Fisher, The New Prague Times

I was at a recent author visit at the library, Peg Meier, who said, “Everybody has a story.” That is appropriate in that August marks my 20th anniversary of working at The New Prague Times and in that time I have covered many people’s stories. The vast number of stories have covered a wide range of areas, from their hobbies to beginning new jobs or retiring to how they are helping others to their grievances with others to how their family is dealing with disease or small miracles or tragedies.
Thankfully many have been, and it’s probably odd to put it this way, fun to write. Those have been the stories about what a person enjoys doing whether it’s about a calling they have or a kayak trip down the Amazon or continuing a family tradition of building houses for wood ducks. Trying to bring across in words the excitement a person has in taking time off to travel or the simple joy in spotlighting history or the pride as a veteran.
Then there are the stories that can be heart aching to write about. Where it’s the loss of a loved one or a missing family member or the parents desperately trying to find out why their child is sick. Those stories have resulted in me staring at my computer pondering how to let others know about such situations while making sure I treat it with grace and dignity. Sometimes it has taken a deep breath to steady myself, while fighting down the lump in my throat, and continuing on. Other times I’ve waited until I’m home and take a moment to work through the experience.
It’s not just been the written word that I’ve used to cover people’s lives, but also photos. Many have been just about life in the communities of New Prague, Elko New Market, Veseli, Lonsdale, Webster, Union Hill and all points in between. There have those about classes, such as families baking together, or people learning a new skill or someone reading a story. Other times it’s been about continuing a tradition such as the Fire Department’s Dance and Drill, which have both been done for more than a century. When the dance began 131 years ago, the Washington Monument had just opened and the baseball poem “Casey at the Bat” had just been published. Another tradition is the observance of Memorial Day as veterans include visits to area cemeteries.
Other photos have been celebrations such as New Prague’s Dozinky Harvest Festival, when the town seems to double in population for one weekend, as everyone celebrates the community’s agricultural roots and its Czech heritage. Other celebrations are Veseli’s Fourth of July Parade and its Ho-Down and Elko New Market’s Fire Rescue Days. Although when I started covering it, the combined community was still two separate cities.
There have been photos and stories about construction as new homes, businesses, churches, schools, sports fields, parks, senior apartments and other structures went up. I’ve seen areas that were once fields become playgrounds for children or an empty lot transformed into a home where families have built their own memories or traditions.
I’ve seen some structures change. When I arrived the New Prague Library was a much smaller building. The main meeting room and the smaller one were sketches on some architect’s draft plan. At least two concrete columns now in the center of the building were actually on the outside of the structure in 1999. City Hall is another building that has changed. The offices on the south side were once the city council chambers where meetings were held. The garages for the police department and other city vehicles were where the fire department stored their vehicles and equipment. At that time it was a cramped fit as firefighters had to turn rearview mirrors in just to get the fire trucks into the stalls.
That’s a lot of changes, photos and stories. I look forward to covering more in the coming years.

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