Town Hall Concert Series

The second performance of the Town Hall Concert Series will be Saturday, March 13th at 8 p.m. on the third floor of the Town Hall.
Bluffton, originally called Shannon, Ohio, is known for the nearby Swiss Mennonite Settlement; however, the town itself was founded by Irish settlers. On March 13, the Village of Bluffton will celebrate its Celtic heritage in honor of St. Patrick’s Day with the second performance in the Town Hall Concert Series.
The Conkers are a family group who have been performing traditional music together for over twenty-five years. Their performances are a weaving of the varied strands of traditional song including: English folk songs, sea shanties, nineteenth and early twentieth century hymns, street cries, and ballads. The common thread in the fabric of their concerts has been the lovely blend of their voices and their imaginative harmonies. Although they accompany themselves on a variety of instruments such as fiddle, Irish whistle, harp, bodrhan, and English concertina, they are best known for their a cappella harmony singing. The individual members of Conkers are Sharon Wildermuth, her husband, Michael, and her sister, Sheila Rowe.
Conkers released their first CD, One-O, in 1999. The recording was reviewed in English Dance and Song, the national magazine of the English Folk Dance and Song Society by the editor, Dave Arthur.
Following the Conkers will be a set by One in a Number: The Bluffton women’s choir. The intergenerational, mostly a cappella group has been in existence for more than 15 years singing in event, church, and coffeehouse settings. For this concert the women’s choir has researched Irish songs of struggle, hope and love to prepare a Celtic treat for their listeners.
Philip Murphy “Bluffton’s Bard,” has long had a tradition of providing a taste of Ireland on St. Patty’s Day in Bluffton. His name betrays his own Irish roots, and his enthusiasm for the genre is contagious.

Groves Bears on Main Street

Since reporting last Thursday that the ceiling in her Main Street store was sagging in the middle due to the weight of rooftop snow, Robin Wilch says she has been waiting to find out what the future holds for the store.

“I have been waiting for news from both the insurance company and a second structural engineer to see what will happen,” said Wilch on Tuesday of this week. “We’re in limbo just waiting to find out what’s going on. No one wants to be the one to make the decision.”

Wilch was told on Friday of last week that her building could be salvaged and that she would be able to reopen for walk-in business as early as this week. She discovered, however, on Monday that she needed to wait for the building to be examined by a second structural engineer before allowing customers into her store.

Wilch is in the process of packing the items from her store and moving them into storage or the time being. Until she can reopen, an assortment of Groves Bears items will be for sale on Ebay or via

Wilch said last Thursday was a frantic and frightening day for her and that she appreciated the efforts of all Bluffton emergency response crews and Village employees involved.

“There are many people in town that I need to thank for their help. I also really appreciate all of the downtown business owners and would like to apologize for the street being closed,” said Wilch.

The status of Groves Bears was also discussed at Monday’s regular town council meeting. Property owner Emerson Basinger attended the meeting and began the discussion of the Main Street store with a question about the status of the building and its relationship to his rental home, located next to Groves Bears. Basinger’s tenant was evacuated Thursday and remain unable to live in the home until the store is evaluated.

Village solicitor, Stephen Chamberlain, said that the village’s main concern and responsibility is the safety of the public and that while the property owners cannot be prohibited from entering the store, the public can be kept out. Bluffton police, EMS and fire chiefs all agreed that the building is unstable.

Police Chief Rick Skilliter said that a meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, February 23, would reveal more about the future of the building. Until then, noted Mayor Rodabaugh, there would not be enough information to make any decisions in regard to the village’s involvement with the store.  

The building that houses Groves Bears was built in 1910. Groves Bears has been occupying the space since 1994.


Bluffton native fulfills dream of owning bridal store

In just a few weeks, longer days filled with sunshine will melt the snow and ice, replacing the winter slush with green. Most of us are eagerly anticipating the spring and summer months, but none so much as brides-to-be. As the end of February approaches, the countdown to wedding season 2010 draws nearer.
The wedding planning process can be stressful for brides and the once in a lifetime experiences associated with the planning process, including dress shopping can seem like a blur. Bluffton native, Jen Romey, says adding a personal touch can tranform the usually nerve-racking experience of wedding planning into a fun and exciting time for brides-to-be and their family and friends.  
Her new bridal boutique, Bella Laccio Bridal, located in Uptown Westerville, Ohio does just that. Romey says she wants to make the dress selection process more personalized. Each bride will receive individualized attention by scheduling fitting appointments at the store.
Special features add to the charm of the small boutique located in a historic shopping district. One such feature is the fitting party, during which the bride and her wedding party can have a private fitting at one time, complete with refreshments.
Bella Laccio Bridal features exclusive designer collections new to the Central Ohio area including bridal, bridesmaid and flower girl collections. Romey and her mother, Amy, also hand-make many pieces in the store’s selection of hairpieces and veils.
The gowns retail between $1,300 and $3,000. Bella Laccio dresses are designer couture and come from four major designers: Matthew Christopher, Robert Bullock, Simone Carvalli, and Alfred Sung. The fabrics are high end and the original designs represent both traditional and modern flare.
“The designers are particularly intricate in their design and attention to intricate detailing,” said Romey.
Opening a bridal store has been a dream of Romey’s since childhood. She took as many courses while in college as she could that would help her as a future bridal boutique owner.
“I was the little girl in the grocery store who wanted bridal magazines while my sister wanted toys or candy,” said Romey.
It took Romey about two months to remodel the interior of her store, which was previously home to a lingerie store.
Jen Romey is the daughter of Michael and Amy Romey, of Bluffton. She is a 2001 graduate of Bluffton High School. In 2005, she graduated from Otterbein College with an undergraduate degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing.  
Romey opened Bella Laccio Bridal, meaning ‘beautiful lace’ in Italian, in early January 2010. She will be hosting a trunk show February 26-28, where brides can take advantage of 15 percent off Matthew Christopher gowns. Also, in the coming months, Romey hopes to use her background in event planning to offer wedding planning services.
Flip to pages B7 and B8 to see the Bluffton News’ 2010 bridal guide! 

Bluffton University and MMH to share $1 million

Former Bluffton residents, James and Frieda Basinger left their estate, estimated to be valued at $1 million, to Bluffton University and Mennonite Home Communities. A joint press conference was held Tuesday, February 9, to announce the donation.

“On behalf of the university and especially our students, I am grateful for the wonderful generosity of two Bluffton alumni and former residents of our local community,” said Dr. James Harder, Bluffton University President. “We look forward to honoring the Basinger’s wish to provide enhanced support for student scholarships for current and future generations of Bluffton students. This legacy gift will make a difference in the Bluffton community for many years to come.”

James and Frieda were both raised in Bluffton, graduated from Bluffton public schools and were members of the Bluffton University class of 1940. James was always very interested in flying and transferred his senior year to Parks College (Illinois), a school specializing in aeronautics. He and Frieda were married in 1940 and he spent time overseas in the service. He taught at Purdue University and then worked in the aeronautics industry in design and research in Los Angeles, California, before returning to teaching at a community college in Douglas, Arizona, for 17 years.

The couple lived in Bisbee, Arizona. James Basinger passed away in 2005. Frieda was a loving wife who enjoyed gardening and nature. She died September 21, 2009.

James and Frieda made what may have been their last visit to Bluffton in 1986 for their 50th high school class reunion. Joanne and the late Dean Niswander, Bluffton University Ambassadors, visited them in Arizona in 1996.

“We thought they were very interesting people,” said Joanne Niswander. “It was the first time we had ever met them, but we had a great conversation.”

Laura Voth, chief executive officer of Mennonite Home Communities, had been in contact with Frieda Basinger over the past few years.

“In her written correspondence over the past four years, Frieda talked about how many of our residents she knew being a hometown girl,” said Voth. “During her life and even after her death, she wanted to do what she could to make the lives of her friends here at Mennonite Home Communities more joyous.”
The donation to Mennonite Home Communities is the largest in their history and will be used to improve the quality of life for the residents.
“Our Fund Board will be meeting to finalize how this money will be used, but I’m sure we will use it to ‘make residents’ lives brighter’ as Frieda often said,” said Voth.
The gift made by James and Frieda Basinger is also one of the largest gifts ever made to Bluffton Univeristy. The University’s Board of Trustees will formally allocate the money, but President Harder said that the gift will have a lasting impact to the Bluffton community and students of the university.
“The Basingers lived most of their lives away from Bluffton, but recognized the value of their formative years here in Bluffton,” said Harder.
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