David Trinko: The joy of small-town celebrations

The firetrucks blared their sirens again Saturday afternoon going down the main road in Ottawa.

We can hear them from our house, which is about a block off the beaten path. In a town like ours, the sirens seldom mean an actual emergency. It usually means they’re leading a parade for another title won, another cause for celebration for our high school athletes.

This time, it was in honor of Ottawa-Glandorf’s boys basketball team, which won the regional championship and will make its third straight trip to the state semifinals next weekend. It probably should’ve been four, given the success of that team during the coronavirus-shortened 2020 campaign. In all, this will be the Titans’ 10th trip to state, with three state championships (2004, 2008 and 2013).

Last weekend, it was in honor of the girls basketball team coming up just short of a trip to state. The sirens blared for the state swim meet too. They know the routine, with the route plotted along U.S. 224, stopping the bus at the Car-E-It in Ottawa so fans can high-five the players and celebrate with toilet paper tossed into the air.

It’s really something rare to see, even if it’s so commonplace.

I hope my children don’t take it for granted. In their experience, this is just how it works. Your school teams are pretty good, and they advance through the tournament.

It’s a scene played out throughout the region. This year, they’re enjoying themselves in Convoy, Glandorf and Ottawa, as their schools prepare for the state championships.

In my formative years, my alma maters never won anything big. At the small school of Arlington in Hancock County, we were happy to make it to districts. When I got to college, Ohio University was in the midst of the longest losing streak in the country in college football. When they finally won — in a low-scoring game against a bad team that probably shouldn’t have been on the schedule — the students tried to tear down the goalposts, fairly unsuccessfully.

Success is not guaranteed. For every team that wins, there’s a loser from that very same game. I’ve always said I learned a lot more from the losses in my life than the wins, but those might be the consoling words uttered by someone on the losing end a lot.

That makes me appreciate these moments even more.

I ended up in Ottawa thanks to The Lima News. When I came back for my second tour of duty here in 2004, my bosses asked me to live in Ottawa while covering Putnam County. I fell in love here, married here and started a family here. We created a life here. While I’m hopelessly devoted to accurately representing the whole coverage area, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I appreciate the place where my children get to grow up.

Those sirens as the bus returns to town aren’t in recognition of just one day’s work. They recognize all of the hard work throughout the season. They recognize all the hard work in the offseason. They recognize a commitment to excellence and the willingness to do what’s necessary to achieve it.

Their community appreciates it. Their success brings us closer together. You just don’t high-five people as you’re walking down the street, even in a small town. When we’re packed in a gym together, it unites us and reminds us about what we like about living here.

I wish these boys a lot of luck when they’re playing for at the state tournament next weekend. I’m sure they’ll be disappointed if they don’t win, but I’m here to say they’ve already done remarkable things that most schools and communities only dream about, and their supporters heralded them, with a parade led by firetrucks and streamers of toilet paper.


See past columns by David Trinko at LimaOhio.com/tag/trinko.

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David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.