Year in Review 2017

As the year comes to a close, we take a look back at the stories which dominated the headlines in 2017.

In 2016 national politics, including a stop at the Surf Ballroom by future President Donald Trump, dominated headlines.  In 2017, it was local decisions which made the news.  As we begin 2018, the Mirror-Reporter takes a look back at the stories which provided major headlines in Clear Lake in 2017.

#1 RAGBRAI rolls in

Clear Lake welcomed summer visitors on an extra large scale in July, as for the fourth time in its history the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) named the community as its choice for an overnight stay. A 22-person local Steering Committee, under the direction of Diane Thompson, began work in January organizing the details for cyclists and others to come to Clear Lake to be housed, fed, and entertained during RAGBRAI. The group oversaw plans for 13 hours of entertainment, a 420,000 square foot beverage garden, over 40 vendors, five campgrounds to accommodate 10,000 bikers, eight miles of road exclusively for the bike route,  three shuttle routes to move guests from campgrounds to downtown, medical units at three locations, uniformed officers from Clear Lake, Mason City, Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Department, and the Iowa Highway Patrol, and signage to give direction to all of the above.

Clear Lake was ready when an estimated 10,000 cyclists and 45,000 others descended on the town.

One of the many special moments of the day came when Sarah Banks and Whit Oyler exchanged wedding vows on the beach stage.  The couple had their first experience with RAGBRAI, and with Clear Lake, in 2014. According to Banks, they enjoyed the ride and the town so much that they knew they’d return someday.

The 2017 Clear Lake RAGBRAI Steering Committee did not officially conclude their responsibilities until Dec. 5, when the committee met to determine the disbursal of the $4,503.72 profit from the event.  Three groups were gifted from the 2017 profits: $1,000 given to the Clear Lake School District’s Students and Families in Need of Assistance; $500 to the North Iowa Spin Club; $500 for the Clear Lake High School group traveling to Washington, D.C. in 2018.

#2 Goodbye Barrel Drive-In

After months of speculation, Casey’s General Stores confirmed in November it was in the process of closing on the purchase of the Barrel Drive-In property on Highway 18 West.  The transaction was completed for an undisclosed price later that month.  According to Cerro Gordo County Assessor records, the property sold for $342,500.

Barrel Drive-In owner Seth Thackery closed the business in 2016 after an attempt to rehabilitate and revitalize the historic restaurant.

In July 2014, Thackery went public with the very real challenges he was facing to keep his business open.  He received an overwhelming response from customers and others wanting to help.  The offers provided some sunlight to what had been a gloomy situation, according to Thackery.  During his public appeal for assistance, Thackery received a $75,000 Business Makeover award.  Many with fond memories of the business lent their talents to make necessary repairs, but to no avail.

The Barrel Drive-In was built and opened in 1958 by Jack Christensen.  Edward and Lois Kotz purchased it in 1959.  In 1959 and the early 1960’s, radio station KRIB broadcast live from the booth on the roof of the restaurant.  During those years, the Barrel was a popular “hang-out” spot for teenagers. The original Barrel was a small cement block building.  Carhops went out to cars to take and deliver orders.  The canopy was added in the mid-1960’s and the electronic ordering system in 1970.  The first dining room was built in 1975, and the second dining room was added in 1991.

#3 Boat slip blues

A shortage of places for boat owners to rent boat slips was a topic of discussion throughout much of 2017.  The problem was brought to light in March, when the Clear Lake Parks Board had tabled a request from Jake Kopriva, owner of Lake Time Boat Club, to construct a commercial boat dock at the Beach Drive lake access.

Kopriva, who promised to include five public boat slips among the estimated 30 his commercial dock would accommodate, was asked to resubmit a few different proposals for the next board meeting.  The dock would have slips for Lake Time Boat

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