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Happy Anniversary!

January 22, 2003, we published the first issue of Webb Weekly. As you can see on the cover, our cover story that was about the upcoming Super Bowl.

Man, have we covered a lot since then. Going back through and looking at past issues this week has been a trip, to say the least.

The people, places, events, and more that we have covered over the years are impressive.

I am so proud to be a part of an organization that cares so much about the people and places in our community.

So, in honor of our 20th Anniversary, here are some stories that stuck out to me each year. You may remember others; these were the ones that stood out to me as I flipped through the old issues.

2003 – I know you would expect me to say that our first issue was the highlight of 2003, and it was special for sure, but I actually have a funny (now) story about an article that ran in the May 28th edition. See, back then, the executive chef at the Williamsport Country Club, Roger Fink, used to provide recipes for the paper. At the time, I was basically our ‘staff photographer.’ I would go each week and photograph whatever recipe was going to be published the following week, and Roger was always kind enough to box up the food for me to take with me. One particular week he made Spider Maki or soft-shelled crab sushi. I had never had sushi before but was willing to try it. I ate it that day for lunch and even tried the weird green spicy stuff — which I would later figure out was wasabi. It turns out I am very allergic to wasabi. I ended up suffering the whole weekend, dosing myself with Benadryl until I could get to the doctor on Monday! It was crazy! My whole face swelled up like a blowfish! I learned a valuable lesson, but I still love sushi to this day — I just say no thanks to the wasabi!

2004 – It wasn’t a particular story that caught my attention, just some things that I noticed. The first is the price of everything! It’s crazy what a difference 20 years can make! Imagine buying a new Ram 1500 for less than $30k! Or buy an entire living room set for less than $500! Insanity!

The other interesting part of 2004 was the transition Webb Weekly itself made. It was the year that Mike Rafferty took over as editor, and we really found our look and design that year. Mr. Webb found his home on page 2; the sports, outdoors, and classifieds all made their way to their current home at the end of the paper, and we also started the consistent use of headshots for our columnists. We’ve made tweaks and adjustments since then, but for the most part, we are holding true to that aesthetic. I was lucky to learn a TON from Mike, and I still carry a lot of that information with me today and am thankful for it!

2005 – March 23rd brought us a cover story about Nessie Whaley. Minister, businesswoman, speaker, fisherwoman, and more, Mrs. Whaley was breaking gender stereotypes and doing whatever made her happy before it was cool. Plus, her hats were amazing!

2006 – Ahhh, yes. 2006. March 29, 2006, brought us what is probably the most popular Webb Weekly article to have ever been printed. Yes, I am talking about that famous April Fool’s joke that had folks thinking there really was a shark caught in the Susquehanna. Brought to you courtesy of China Neal and Ken Hunter, I still hear about this story today, and I’m fairly sure Helmrich’s is still getting phone calls.

2007 – The issue date was October 31, 2007, but the adventure had happened the week before. One of my favorite articles that I have written for the paper was when I got to be a ‘firefighter’ for a day. The Williamsport Bureau of Fire invited local politicians and members of the media to a day-long event where we got to learn CPR, how to use the jaws of life, and the use of other safety equipment. It finally culminated in actually being able to go into a controlled ‘burning building’ in full turnout gear to put out a fire.

2008 – In 2008, Mardi Gras was still a huge event in downtown Williamsport. We had several articles, along with a ton of ads, to celebrate the activities. I sure do miss those days when downtown streets were shut down and packed with people to laissez le bon temps rouler!

In April of 2008, Gerry Ayer answered the question, ‘What if G, had a Million Dollars,’ he concluded that he would need at least a billion dollars. I can’t imagine he ever thought that the Powerball would actually hit that number! He also was kind enough to include several quotes from one of my favorite Bare Naked Ladies songs! (Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?)

2009 – On February 11, 2009, we celebrated Loyalsock Athletic Director and (West Branch and PA Hall of Fame member) Coach Ron ‘CI’ Insinger’s 700th basketball win. We would later go on to celebrate his 800th win and his selection to the PA State Hall of Fame. We’ve also celebrated his 900th win and his 1,000th. I also discovered that this year will be the 50th year of CI’s famous basketball camp!

2010 – One of the more surprising Webb Weekly pieces appeared on the cover of the February 24, 2010 edition. This piece, written by Karen Shaffer, discussed the emerging (and now ongoing) problem of female bullies. Nicknamed “Lip Gloss Bullies,” Karen discussed the non-violent but equally damaging ways girls bully each other in a world fueled by online victimization and verbal threats.

2011 – July 29, 2011, Saw Ken Hunter foreshadowing the future. That week he wrote an article featuring then-18-year-old ‘Top Gun’ Morgan Craft. The third to last sentence noted that Craft’s ultimate goal was to represent the US in the Olympics. In 2016 Morgan, along with fellow Sullivan County Native Josh Richmond, would head to Rio to compete in the Summer Olympic Games.

2012 – There is not much more to say about 2012 than this is the year we lost Mr. Webb. He was the patriarch of our Webb Weekly family, and we miss him dearly. We are all thankful for the opportunity he gave us with the paper, and we all do our best to make him proud each and every week.

2013 – We were a little late, but February 27, 2013, brought us our 10th Anniversary special. Much like this issue, it was filled with memories and nice words from our advertisers.

This was also the year that Mike Rafferty retired. I was fortunate enough to take what I had spent years learning from Raff and take over at Editor. Hopefully, I’m doing him justice.

2014 – March 19, 2014, kicked off our series of stories on the heroin epidemic in our area. We talked about the issue with several local experts, including police officers, the DA, the coroner, the mayor, local judges, and more. Each gave a unique perspective on the problem, and each had solutions that would hopefully stem the flow of heroin into the area. Unfortunately, the heroin issue is still rampant in the county and surrounding areas today. Still, hopefully, we can continue to work together as a community, city, state, and country to stop heroin.

2015 & 2016 – I am going to cheat a little bit here and cover two years with one extended story. In July 2015, Jimmy set out to save Chief Woapalanne, beloved protector of Brandon Park. See, Chief ‘Knock-a-Homer,’ as Jimmy likes to call him, had deteriorated to the point of being dangerous and had been removed from his post at the top of the park. Jimmy knew he had to do something and started a looooong chain of phone calls to save the Chief. Thanks to his connections and the hard work of Brian Flynn and Dave Stably from Penn College, along with assistance from everyone from Vince Matteo, Bill Nichols, and more, the Chief was able to be restored and find a new, permanent home behind the new Trade and Transit Center downtown. We featured the Chief’s big reveal on September 14, 2016, cover. Since I have the opportunity and I’m saving myself a year, let me go ahead and add this. I have heard some complaints about the Chief’s location. Given, his location may not be as prominent as it once was, but remember a couple of things. One, he is safe and protected from the elements and easily accessible to anyone who wants to see him. Two, given that the alternative for the Chief was a literal woodchipper, I think we should all be thankful for the hard work volunteered by all to make sure we still have this amazing piece of art history in our city.

2017 – Since by now we all know that I love to tout all of the things that are happening in our great area, I think my favorite pieces of 2017 were the back-to-back April 26th/May 3rd issues covering the histories, presents, and futures of the Pajama Factory and First Friday in the City. There is so much art, culture, music, and fun to be had at both, and it was nice to be able to give each the recognition they deserve.

2018 – Back on the local sports scene, you can’t mention 2018 without mentioning Alize Johnson. 2018 was the year he realized his NBA aspirations. Since then, he’s done a lot for our community, especially when it comes to young athletes. Whether it’s keeping kids geared up or installing basketball courts for local kids, he’s done a lot of good for the young set in Williamsport.

2019 – As mentioned earlier, 2019 brought us Ron ‘CI’ Insinger’s 1000th win! What an incredible career CI has had. I’m happy that we were able to help celebrate each milestone along the way!

2020 – What else can you say about 2020, other than COVID? I am incredibly proud of our work to try and support as many local businesses as possible. And to provide as much information about the whats, whens, and hows regarding the ever-changing environment surrounding the pandemic.

2021 – I absolutely love to celebrate the amazing kids in our area that are doing things to help our community, and the March 31st edition brought us one of those great stories. Noah Kriger is on a mission to clean up our community, and we got the share the story of Noah’s first Earth Day clean-up.

2022 – June of 2022 brought us one of the most exciting sports stories our area has seen. The Montgomery High School girls’ softball team brought home a State Championship! This was huge for Montgomery as it was the school’s very first state championship.

As you can see, we have covered a lot of ground over the years, and we continue to do our best to bring you all of the things that are happening in the area and the fantastic people who live here.

While we reflect on the past of Webb Weekly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the members of the Webb Weekly family we have lost through the years. Of course, our founder Jim Webb Sr., Louise Ulmer, Rosemary Neidig, Tom Paternostro, Gerry Ayers, Tony Cillo, Jeff Federowicz, and Bill Byham were all welcome contributors to Webb through the years. They each offered a unique voice to paper. We appreciate all that they did for the paper and will always consider them Webb Weekly Family.

Thank you to our readers and advertisers for sticking with us through the years and always supporting us.

I also want to say a huge thank you to Jimmy. I would certainly not be where I am today without his support, and the paper’s continued success has been achieved through Jimmy’s hard work, and dedication, and his unending belief in the possibilities of Webb Weekly.

Here’s to 20 years of Webb Weekly, and here’s to 50 more.