The top story of the year, one that brought international attention to Paris, was months in the making.
A previous attempt, in 2018, to wrest the record from organizers in Greece came close, but failed when some of the riders were discovered to not be riding Harleys and others who set out on a 22-mile trip to the Choctaw Casino and Resort in nearby Grant, Oklahoma, overheated their bikes when the pace of the parade slowed almost to a halt and they were forced to drop out.
Philanthropist and die-hard military supporter Adam Sandoval revived the effort and the new attempt to break the record — 2,404 of the iconic motorcycles — set in 2010, was rescheduled for Oct. 5, 2019.
While Sandoval said his previous attempts to break the record had taken place at different venues, his relationship with the Choctaw Casino and with Paris Harley-Davidson and their proven stances on charitable donations made him decide to try it again in Paris.
With the stated intent to raise $100,000 for Motorcycle Missions, a nonprofit aiding veterans and first responders with post traumatic stress disorder, Sandoval and local organizers went to work, taking to Facebook to invite Harley-Davidson riders from around the world to visit Northeast Texas for the event, and studying the previous attempts to learn how to make the event bigger and better.
On Oct. 5, Sandoval led 3,497 motorcyclists on a 3.5-mile route set out for them on the grounds of Paris’ Cox Field Airport., setting a new Guinness World Record for continuous Harley-Davidson motorcycles on parade, not just for number of riders but for the length of the ride.
In the event, dubbed “Bring it Home 2019,” the $15 per bike registration fee was donated entirely to the nonprofit, with more than 3,400 pre-registrations, according to event organizer Molly Beaudin, who is also a dealer development manager for Paris Harley-Davidson.
“Let’s hear it for America. We officially brought it home,” said Sandoval, who is well-known for his fund-raising efforts for veterans and veterans’ organizations, including the Wounded Warrior Project, Motorcycle Missions, the American Legion and the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.
A family’s prayer for water answered
In late July of 2019, Dennis Dalton Newby III, of Brookston, called The Paris News staff writer Mary Madewell seeking help to publicize the plight of his friend, Markus Starks of Arthur City.
Starks and his family — wife, Michelle and son, Darkius, who is mentally disabled — lived in a home north of Paris with no connection to the county’s water supply. They depended on a well on the property, but for the past two years, the well’s pump had been broken, forcing them to haul water to the house in one- and five-gallon jugs. The cost to repair the pump was out of their reach, as was the fee to have a line installed that would allow them to get water from the county public supply.
To make matters worse, Newby told Madewell, the Starks had been informed by the state that Darkius could be removed from the home — the family homestead for more than 100 years — and placed in a group home because of the lack of running water in their home.
When contacted by The Paris News, the Starks said they would leave their home before allowing that to happen.
Madewell put the story in the paper, and soon began receiving calls and emails from people in all walks of life asking how they could help. Madewell reached out to long-time Lamar County resident and civic and business leader Richard Drake, chairman on the Lamar County Water Supply District board, seeking solutions and even took it upon herself to start a GoFundMe account for the beleaguered family. She wrote about her efforts in her weekly column on the opinion page of the newspaper and online and continued to cover the process of getting the work paid for and done.
By the end of August, readers and friends and family of the Starks had raised the money, about $15,000, to pay for a LCWD line to the property and a local plumber had agreed to contribute materials and labor to pipe water into the house.
Unfortunately, Newby, known as “Heavy D” to those who knew him, never saw the conclusion of what he had started with that phone call. The 65-year-old passed away a few days after contacting Madewell.
In early September, the line was completed and the family was enjoying the benefits of running water in their home. Several other households nearby that had also relied on wells for water had also paid to be connected to the county supply.
“We’ve been trying to get this done for years but just didn’t have the money,” Starks said. “We are just so thankful to everyone who prayed, to all who gave and to all who physically made this happen. My family thanks you for being so generous, kind and concerned about our well-being. With all that is going on today, it’s good to know there are still good people in this world.”
In October, the Starks and their neighbors gathered at the Powderly Fire Department community room for a luncheon to express their appreciation for those that stepped forward to help them and to acknowledge the completion of the DDNIII project, named in honor of Newby.