The Fayette County Chamber of Commerce held its 10th-annual Groundhog Day breakfast early Thursday morning with nearly 200 guests in attendance for the event.
Dan Roberts, former superintendent at Miami Trace Local Schools, was the master of ceremonies for this event.
“I’m grateful to be in this position as the master of ceremonies because I know what it is like to be in that position,” Roberts chuckled while pointing to the groundhog in the back of the room.
Each year, the Chamber of Commerce selects a mystery guest to dress up in a groundhog costume and mingle with the attendees while clues about the identity of the groundhog are on display.
The groundhog for this year’s breakfast was revealed to be Doug Saunders, CEO of the Fayette County Family YMCA.
Kristy Bowers, Chamber president, welcomed everyone, and Mikki Hunter-Smith led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Phil Spriggs, lead pastor at Heritage Church, said a prayer before attendees were dismissed by table to eat.
Roberts later introduced the guest speaker for the event, Mark Rea.
Rea is the author of the 2009 book: The Die-Hard Fan’s Guide to Buckeye Football, followed in 2014 with: The Legends: Ohio State Buckeyes-The Men, The Deeds, The Consequences, and his newest book published in 2022: The Legends, Volume II: Ohio State Buckeyes – The Men, The Deeds, The Consequences.
A native of Washington Court House, Rea has more than 40 years’ experience as a writer, journalist, editor, and columnist, beginning his career at his hometown newspaper, the Record-Herald. He is currently the Managing Editor Emeritus of Columbus Sports Publications, a Columbus-based firm that publishes sports-related fan newspapers, including Buckeye Sports Bulletin, and manages the internet website www.BuckeyeSports.com.
Throughout the course of his career, Rea has won a variety of writing awards, including several national first-place honors from McGraw-Hill in 2002 and 2003, as well as national awards for feature writing and for column writing from the Football Writers Association of America. He’s appeared on both radio and television for College Football Now and the NFL Network, and has also been a voting member for the Heisman Trophy Award.
Rea introduced himself to the crowd.
“I’m the youngest of three sons of Hugh and Dixie Rea, who were schoolteachers. They taught more than a generation of kids in Washington Court House and Fayette County. Even though they’ve been gone for a long time, people still come up to me and tell me how much they respected my dad and how much my mom was their favorite teacher, and that means a lot to me. I’m sure they would have liked for me to follow in their footsteps of being a school teacher. They always talked about that as the family business, but I was a little more than stubborn. My youngest aspirations were to be either a lawyer, or center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds. I later discovered that being an attorney, you had to read a whole lot and you had to go to school for a million years, and to be a center fielder for the Reds, you had to be able to hit a curveball, which I couldn’t do. So, I decided upon a career that seemed to be the next best thing, and that was sports writing. I’ve been in this business for more than 40 years. My first ever byline on a newspaper story appeared when I was a sophomore in high school. It was a basketball game story in the November 23rd, 1973 edition of the Record-Herald. If your math is the same as mine, that means this is my 50th year in journalism.”
He continued, “Over those 50 years, my byline has appeared in newspapers or magazines roughly 15,000 times. Approximately three years after that first byline appeared, I was hired as sports editor at the Record-Herald. At the age of 18, I became the youngest full-time sports editor at a weekly newspaper in the United States. My career has taken me to newspapers in Naples, Florida, and Killeen, Texas, as well as a construction magazine in Dallas. I’ve also taken short sabbaticals from my writing career to own a mobile home dealership in Killeen, and a tavern nearby in Greenfield. I have always come back to writing though, specifically sports writing, because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve had the good fortune for the past 35 years to be associated with Columbus Sports Publications, which has published Buckeye Sports Bulletins since 1981. I spent eight years from 1988 to 1995 covering the John Cooper era. I then returned as managing editor in 2002, near the beginning of Jim Tressel’s tenure as head coach. Throughout its history, Buckeye Sports Bulletin has always been among the top three fan publications in the country, when there were literally hundreds of similar publications. It’s among only a handful of its kind remaining.”
Rea spoke more about Buckeye Sports Bulletin.
“BSP annually prints 24 issues, each of them at least 40 pages in volume, containing stories and features written solely by a small staff of writers. We have no wire service stories, we don’t have any camp features, and that often leads to a grueling work schedule during football season. BSP staffers typically put in 70-hour work weeks during football season due to the fact that we cover a football game every Saturday, and the publication must go to press no later than 3 a.m. on Monday morning. That’s in order to get it to the Postal Service to be delivered to subscribers before the next game. While the typical fan can stay home and watch as many as three or four college games on a Saturday, get a good night’s sleep, get up and go to church, then settle down for three NFL games, we’re transcribing, writing, and editing stories well into the wee hours of Sunday morning. We get three or four hours of sleep and then put in another 16 to 18 hours.”
Rea stated that the Buckeye Sports Bulletin covers every sport that Ohio State offers, not just football. He then shared some insight on the current state of college football, told some Ohio State stories from his newest book, and finished with a Q&A session.