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Courtesy of Times Mail

All for YOUTH

Times-Mail / RICH JANZARUKMITCHELL — Jody Blackburn, left, and Becky Mason have a laugh as they each blame each other for the lopsided distribution of the mayonnaise on a tenderloin sandwich in the Mitchell Varsity Club tent at the Persimmon Festival Wednesday night.

MITCHELL — Volunteers with the Mitchell Varsity Club are still serving up the original hand-dipped corn dog that has greeted Persimmon Festival attendees for nearly 40 years.

“There was a time when we sold 1,200 to 1,500 of those a week during the festival,” said Steve Burton, who is one of the longest active members of the Varsity Club. “I don’t think people are aware we still serve up the same hand-dipped corn dog we always have.”

The Varsity Club operates a food stand in the blue and white striped tent in the northwest corner of Sixth and Main streets during the week-long Persimmon Festival. The menu features hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fried bologna, tenderloins, Monk’s Corn Dogs and the staple persimmon pudding.

All proceeds from the food sold during the Persimmon Festival are used to help children in need in the community.

“We help kids; that’s what we do,” Burton said.

Operating the food stand is hard work with only about 10 active Varsity Club members on the roster. This year, the club is employing the use of Student Council and Art Club members to wait on customers while club volunteers man the kitchen.

“We do it because it means something to us,” said Brad Powell, president and treasurer of the Varsity Club. “We have fun doing it because it’s a good cause. It’s a blessing for all of us to be able to do this for the kids.”

The Varsity Club was started as the Mitchell Exchange Club, then became the Mitchell-Orleans Exchange Club. Members then gave up the Exchange Club charter and morphed the organization into the current Varsity Club format several years ago when they decided they were “just a bunch of guys who just wanted to raise money to help kids,” Burton said.

The group was the first to organize the clothe-a-child effort for Mitchell students, thanks to a vision established by Bob Edwards. And those efforts continue today, only on a smaller scale.

“There were four guys who were the heart of this for many years — Bud Root, Monk Clemons, Skinner Hardwick and Walter Reynolds,” Powell said. “Those were good guys and kept this going all those years. They were a lot of fun, and we miss them.”

“At one time, we’d raise upwards of $12,000 and clothe more than 200 kids,” Burton said.

Today, the Varsity Club takes referrals through the Mitchell schools. If a child needs a coat, shoes or a pair of glasses, the school staff may contact the Varsity Club for assistance.

“All of the money we raise goes to help the kids,” Powell said. “We start each September with a zero balance because we spend what we make. At Christmas, we’ll take 50 to 75 kids shopping, and we’ll spend a great deal of money on each child because they are the heart of what we do.”

The food stand started as a trailer on Main Street in 1980. Food was served out of that trailer until members built a stand in the mid-1990s, Powell said. When the big food tent came open, the club took it, capitalizing on the opportunity to help more children. The food tent is the club’s only fundraiser.

“We have fun,” Powell said. “We are just a bunch of guys who have a lot of fun together, while helping the kids of our community. Not only do we have a blast, but we’re doing this for a good cause. That’s why we do it and will continue to do it.”

Contact Times-Mail Staff Writer Krystal Shetler at 277-7264 or by email at

Queens Crowned

In the three Persimmon Festival pageants for younger girls, the winners were:

Mini Miss: McKenzie Radcliff

Other pageant winners chosen


Miss Congeniality: Marissa Blais

Princesses: Alyviah Haste, Bella Morrow, Cadie Haley, Ellie Maple, Mackenna Tegarden and Sophia McCarty

Little Miss: Riley Ritchison

Other pageant winners chosen

Miss Congeniality: Daisey Blais

Princesses: Abby Brothers, Emily Johnson, Jaida Blais, Lillian Zeeks, Taylar Baker and Thailee Dalton

Junior Miss: Hanna Pugh

Other pageant winners chosen

Miss Congeniality: Ashton Tredway

Princesses: Shelby Pruett, Madison Williams, London Brooking, Callison Blais, Hailey Ritchison and Addison Myers

2014 Queen Candidates!

Bailey Noel Reeder

 ■Bailey Noel Reeder

Parents: Kelly and Brian Lynn

Grade: 12

Age: 17

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: Academic team, Spanish Club, SADD, executive board member, Pep Club, Tri-Hi-Y, Fresh Start peer leader, journalism.

Future goal: “I plan on attending Boston University to pursue a career in film-making. This includes acting, directing and screen-writing.”

Sponsor: Vectren


Mecala Nicole Lester

 ■Mecala Nicole Lester

Parents: Cathy Martin and John Martin

Grade: 11

Age: 16

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: Cheerleading, gymnastics, working as a lifeguard at Big Splash Adventure Indoor Water Park & Resort in French Lick and hanging out with friends.

Future goal: To become an ultrasound technician and later on travel the world.

Sponsor: Brandy Woods, Realtor

Haley Doty

 ■Haley Doty

Parent: Vanie Doty

Grade: 12

Age: 18

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: Basketball, four-wheeler riding, fishing, spending a lot of time with family and enjoying the last year of high school.

Future goal: “I want to be a teacher.”

Sponsor: KFC/A&W

Madison Elizabeth McNeely

 ■Madison Elizabeth McNeely

Parents: Jennifer McNeely and Denver McNeely

Grade: 11

Age: 16

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: Active in cross country and track. Member of Student Council. Class officer for the past two years. Member of the French Club and French Club officer.

Future goal: Wants to attend college out of state and pursue a career in dermatology or possibly a career focused on helping endangered animals.

Sponsor: Phi Beta Psi

Ashley Eager

 ■Ashley Eager

Parents: Marty and Tammy Eager

Grade: 12

Age: 17

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: Basketball, track and field, attending concerts, sports, music and school clubs.

Future goal: To be a teacher.

Sponsor: 4 Seasons Lawncare

Chelsey Terrell

 ■Chelsey Terrell

Parents: Kim and Jason Terrell

Grade: 12

Age: 17

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: “I am currently enrolled in vocational school studying health education 2. I will graduate with my CNA license. I am also currently an active member of Art Club, FACS Club and Pep Club.”

Future goal: “My future goal is to graduate college with a registered nursing degree and later become an emergency flight nurse.”

Sponsor: Arby’s of Mitchell

Taylor Gaines

 ■Taylor Gaines

Parents: Amy Gaines and Dickie Gaines

Grade: 10

Age: 15

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: “My activities include cheerleading, track, gymnastics, running and spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy attending Mitchell First Christian Church on Sundays.”

Future goal: “My future goal is to go to college to be a radiation therapist and treat cancerous growths in patients.”

Sponsor: Scott’s Barber Shop

Christanna Rayhill

 ■Christanna Rayhill

Parents: Sherry and Tony McNeely

Grade: 11

Age: 16

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: “I like to fish, read, play softball, sing, play piano, do hair and nails, show goats at the fair and spend time with my friends and family.”

Future goal: “To open up my own hair salon after college of course.”

Sponsor: Indiana Cosmetology Academy

Audrey Bowers

 ■Audrey Bowers

Parent: Debbie Miller

Grade: 12

Age: 17

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: “Audrey likes music, writing, blogging, drawing, acting and meeting new people. She’s in journalism and is trying to become more involved in events at her school.”

Future goal: “She’d like to follow her dreams of writing, singing and acting. More importantly, however, she’d like to make a positive impact on the world by helping one person at a time.”

Sponsor: Spring Mill Inn

Fiona Schlegel

 ■Fiona Schlegel

Parent: Vicky Schlegel

Grade: 12

Age: 17

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: “I am going into my third year as a MHS Stingerz dance team member. I’m on the Student Council and Tri-Hi-Y executive board, the Key Club treasurer and a member of Pep Club, Art Club, French Club and National Honor Society. Over the summer, I volunteered at the public library.”

Future goal: “I look forward to auditioning for the IU Contemporary Dance Program, getting more dance experience and eventually opening my own studio.”

Sponsor: Insights Optical

Meghan Jade Emberton

 ■Meghan Jade Emberton

Parents: Shane Emberton and Jenny and Mike Hopper

Grade: 11

Age: 16

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: “Sing, dance, listen to music, ride horses, ride four-wheelers and write letters, books and songs, and I like to go camping.”

Future goal: “My future goals are to become a song and story writer, and a country singer and a spokesperson for anti-bullying and speaker and voice of special needs children.”

Sponsor: The Hub

Olivia Varvel

 ■Olivia Varvel

Parents: Tara Leatherman and Trevor Varvel

Grade: 10

Age: 15

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: Varsity cheerleader for Mitchell High School, active in track and gymnastics, member of the Art Club at MHS.

Future goal: “My future goal is to attend Indiana University to study nursing and become a registered nurse.”

Sponsor: Holmes Hardware

Hannah Irwin

 ■Hannah Irwin

Parents: Vanessa Irwin, Ed Clark, Donald Irwin

Grade: 12

Age: 18

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: “I hang with friends in my spare time. Otherwise, I like to sing and play guitar.”

Future goal: “I want to go to college and become a music teacher.”

Sponsor: Tropix

Mattie England

 ■Mattie England

Parents: Matt and Robyn England

Grade: 11

Age: 16

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: “I enjoy cheering, golfing, gymnastics and hanging out with my best friends. I am a varsity cheerleader and golfer at MHS. I also enjoy working at the John Lowery Municipal Pool in the summer as a lifeguard.”

Future goal: “I would like to attend IUPUI or Johnson University and become an oncology nurse at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.”

Sponsor: Flippin’ Out Gymnastics

Anna Louise Kluender

 ■Anna Louise Kluender

Parents: Jill and Andy Kluender

Grade: 11Age: 16

School: Mitchell High School

Activities: SADD, Student Council, Tri-Hi-Y, Key Club, French Club, Fresh Start, Science Club, Art Club, MJHS Spell Bowl assistant coach, member of Calvary Lutheran Church.

Future goal: “I plan to attend college to study chemistry with a minor in French.”

Sponsor: Tri Kappa

Meet the 2014 Persimmon Festival Queen Candidates!