It is with both sadness and gratitude that I say farewell as your community editor/reporter.

It is with both sadness and gratitude that I say farewell as your community editor/reporter.

As of July 1, I'll be reporting for ThisWeek, covering the city of Gahanna in Franklin County.

Although it seems like only yesterday, it was six years ago this month that I moved into the Johnstown Independent office on Main Street. It was an exciting time for me, that summer of 2004. I had recently purchased a cabin in neighboring Knox County, and Johnstown seemed like the perfect fit for this country girl at heart.

It didn't take long to discover the treasures of your community, like the Opera House in the old Town Hall. On Feb. 13, 2006, I had the pleasure of writing about the grand opening of the library the community helped build - the Mary E. Babcock Library. That marked a monumental day for Johnstown. The building is a true gem and what made it even more special was the people behind the Friends of the Johnstown Public Library. That group led a fundraising campaign and offered their time and talents to add special touches like the stain-glassed windows, brick mural and inviting children's area.

And I was just amazed when I first toured the beautiful grounds and facilities of the Hartford Fair. It made me a believer that it truly is "The Biggest Little Fair in the World," from its harness racing tradition to the newly introduced frog jumping contests. I'm so glad I had the chance to help celebrate and report on the fair's Sesquicentennial in 2008. Other memorable events there included the Bull-O-Rama fundraisers and annual Bluegrass Music Festival.

Although I had been reporting for ThisWeek newspapers for 15 years before arriving in the village, Swapper's weekend at Johnstown's Community Sportsman's Club was a new experience for me. The coon dog water races were something I had never witnessed before, and the same can be said for the donkey basketball games put on as Johnstown FFA fundraisers. Both were highly entertaining and enjoyable.

If you had told me six years ago that I'd be helping bale hay with one of your local farmers, I probably wouldn't have believed it. But it was a great, unforgettable learning experience. Attending the 2008 and 2009 Ohio National, a poultry expo, with locals Karl and Linda Harris had to even top baling hay with them. The Ohio Poultry Breeders Association sponsors the event, which packs chickens, ducks, turkeys and every bird imaginable into the Ohio Expo Center.

And I'll never forget when I skeptically listened to someone rambling on and on and on about Johnstown-Monroe High School's Big Red Band and this annual performance called the "Varsity Show." Then I attended one of the performances with smoke billowing around me in the Performing Arts Center and the beat of the music seemed to resonate within my entire body as the band enveloped the audience.

I was moved to tears.

It's something a person really has to experience to fully understand. No words can describe the feeling you get, watching those kids give their all as they dance and play instruments. Covering the band's performance at the Skull Session at the Ohio State University in 2007 and last year's Peach Bowl were a privilege for me. There's no question why the almost 200-strong group is called "The Pride of Johnstown."

Throughout my reporting in the local area, I've also found that there's no better place to be on Memorial Day than Croton. It seems like the entire village comes out to honor veterans, even parading to the cemetery where jets from the Ohio Air National Guard fly over.

In Alexandria, I especially enjoyed Christmas home tours a few years back, as well as special events put on by the Alexandria Museum.

While I could fill the entire paper with fond memories about my experiences here, it's really the people of the community that I'll remember most.

There are just too many people to mention by name and I wouldn't want to leave anyone out. But two locals who define "community servant" in my opinion are Don Jakeway, American Legion first vice commander, and Ruth Krumm, director of the Johnstown Northridge Food Pantry. I admire, respect and appreciate them both.

I've been blessed over the years to be employed doing something I love, reporting about the news, events and people of central Ohio. A couple of times, I've even been given the opportunity to return to the same communities where I've worked in the past.

So for now I say "so long" Johnstown. Thank you for sharing your stories and community with me.


Marla Kuhlman is a 21-year staff writer for ThisWeek Community Newspapers.