First in a Series

JR looks back at 2020


At the conclusion of each year, the Journal Review regularly publishes a recount of the top local stories, and this year is no different.

Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic was, and remains, the top story of 2020, but there were other local stories that picqued our readers’ interest. With the help of Google analytics, the Journal Review has identified our Most Read News Stories of 2020.

In the coming days, we will revisit these stories and provide updates, when necessary.

This is the first installment.


Local venue featured on Netflix wedding show

In July, a local venue was featured on a new Netflix series where couples tie the knot in surpriseweddings.

When the producers of “Say, I Do,” which premiered July 1, went hunting to find a setting for a Broad Ripple pair to exchange vows, they saw an online ad for Stone Creek Lodge. In the show, eight couples receive dream weddings created by interior design, fashion and food experts in less than a week.

With autumn leaves still on the trees, the crew scouted out Stone Creek’s wooded surroundings for a winter wonderland-themed ceremony, a nod to one of the groom’s love for Christmas.

“We really just opened the doors them and they came in and made themselves at home, which is fine,” said Stone Creek owner Julie Slavens, who along with everyone else involved with the episode had to sign non-disclosure agreements barring her from talking publicly about the show until it debuted.

“At first, you wanted to tell everybody, you know, but we could only tell the people that were involved with the event,” Slavens added. “So it was really tricky because there’d be certain times where you were like, ‘Oh, I want to show you this from this wedding, but I can’t show you that.’”

The couple, Jason and Jonathan VanHorn, who met online, got engaged in 2015 — not long before Jason was diagnosed with stage-four cancer. Jason, who was in remission when the episode was shot and helped plan the surprise wedding, told his fiancé they were being filmed for a one-year cancer-free party.

Stone Creek, which is the setting for episode six of the series, was transformed into a winter landscape of lighted trees, faux woodland animals and fake snow.

“They really just kind of went to town, and we just sat back and watched. It was crazy,” Slavens said after watching the show, marveling at the amount of footage shot for the 50-minute episode. “I thought it turned out really well, it’s a beautiful story.”

Stone Creek’s name isn’t mentioned in the episode, except for the credits, but Slavens said she hoped word-of-mouth from the couple and their guests puts the venue on other event-planner’s radar.


Long-time firefighter paramedic seriously injured

Darren Forman, a long-time firefighter and community paramedic with the Crawfordsville Fire Department, was seriously injured in an accident on private property in Coal Creek Township in July.

Forman, 52, was off duty at the time of the accident.

He celebrated 20 years with the CFD in August. He also serves as the Montgomery County Coroner and has been in that role or deputy coroner for much of the last 20 years. He was re-elected in November to continue serving as county coroner. In January, he took over as chief of Coal Creek Volunteer Fire.

Since it began in April 2018, Forman has led CFD’s Project Swaddle as part of the department’s Community Paramedicine program. Project Swaddle assists expecting mothers during high-risk pregnancies.

Forman was awarded Paramedic Hero of the Year in May of 2019 from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and Indiana Fire Chief’s Association. He received the Child Safety Advocate Award in June 2019 from the Indiana University School of Medicine Automotive Safety Program. In 2016, he was recognized by the Montgomery County Youth Service Bureau for Excellence in Service.

“Darren is known for giving to others through the various roles in which he serves, and he touches many lives in a profoundly positive way,” said Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton. “He works tirelessly on behalf of others and I am certain he will bring the same fight and passion into recovering from this setback.”

Forman also serves on the Crawfordsville Fire Department Honor Guard. He was past president of Crawfordsville Professional Firefighters Local 4143 and was a long-time volunteer with Madison Township Volunteer Fire. He is owner of Forman Blasters Pyrotechnics LLC, which provides fireworks each Fourth of July to communities including the City of Crawfordsville, Town of Waynetown and Lake Holiday.

Various fundraisers were conducted for him and his family during the fall.

Forman continues to recover and has since returned to work.


Fire destroys auto dealership

An overnight fire destroyed an auto dealership on the city’s north side Oct. 21.

The Crawfordsville Fire Department responded shortly after 3 a.m. to reports that Affordable Auto Sales at 905 Lafayette Ave. was engulfed in flames.

“It was fully involved upon our arrival,” Battalion Chief and C-shift Captain Nate Patton said, noting crews arrived within minutes of the initial report. “We sent a first initial armed assignment — two engines, a ladder truck, a medic truck and a battalion chief. Chief (Scott) Busenbark also responded.”

The fire was extinguished quickly, Patton said, with one exception.

“We did have an issue with a small gas fire that was ongoing that we couldn’t resolve until Vectren got on scene and was able to shut the gas off,” Patton said. “We were here until about 6 this morning.”

Investigators from the office of the state fire marshal were on scene Wednesday to determine the cause of the fire, CFD Chief of Code Enforcement Brian Bechtel said.

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, crews from Vectren gas company were still on scene, attempting to stop an ongoing gas leak. Bechtel said electricity to neighboring buildings at the base of Oak Hill Road was shut off to reduce the risk of complications.

Sections of Lafayette and Oak Hill roads were temporarily closed overnight to allow crews access to hydrants.

The building was unoccupied at the time of the fire, Patton said. No injuries to firefighters or Vectren crews were reported.


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