Mason looks in the mirror after a summer of national protests

Paul Kato has spent the last 20 years of his life as the media and information teacher at Mason High School and has dedicated his life to teaching Mason students. He was the only Black  teacher on staff when he was hired in 2000, and remains the only black teacher in the school district despite the demographic shift that has taken place in Mason over the past two decades. As the nation has become engulfed with protests following George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, a conversation has sparked within Mason as well. Mason has the fastest-growing minority population in Ingham County according to the U.S. Census, but Kato said he believes that Mason has a long way to go before the town is fully accepting of minorities. Paul Kato is the only Black teacher at Mason High School.

Mason businesses face the reality of mask mandates

For his entire life, Ed Reeser has been adamant about individual rights. Reeser said he believes the government should not have a say over what people can and cannot do in their personal lives, but he is adamant that the executive order requiring masks is a great decision,  

On July 13 a state-wide mandate requiring masks in public was put into effect by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. In Mason, citizens and businesses are adjusting once again to a new normal because of COVID-19. Throughout the summer, businesses in Mason have had the ability to choose if masks are required and. Business managers, like Craig Wieferich, general manager of the Eldorado Golf Course in Mason, were put in a tough position regarding masks.

Mason families face difficult decision on education for fall

On July 8, Mason Public Schools announced its hybrid learning program for the upcoming school year, Bulldog Academy. Students and their parents will have the opportunity to choose between online learning or in-person learning with social distancing restrictions. School COVID restrictions

The families of Mason had until Aug. 1 to make a decision about Bulldog Academy. According to the Ingham County Intermediate School District (ISD) office spokesperson, Mason will make decisions about the online curriculum and requirements for social distancing once the results for Bulldog Academy come in.

Mason farmers hope for a return to normal

Image Credit- Dennis Fanson

Dave Fogle spent most days in March and April walking aimlessly around his farm, spending the free time from quarantine with his cows. He was uncertain about the future of his dairy farm because of the national pandemic, so he spent time with his animals because they kept him relaxed about the world around him. Just like many farmers in the U.S., farmers in Mason had to deal with fewer sales due to restaurants being closed, as well as because of disruptions in the distribution lines for common products such as meat and milk. Fogle Farms was no different. During the height of COVID-19, the farmers experienced difficulty distributing their product and had excess milk because they could not sell milk to local restaurants.

Summer event cancellations hurt small businesses in Mason

Mason becomes a small hub of tourism in mid-Michigan during August thanks to events such as the Sundried Music Festival and the Ingham County Fair. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Mason officials to pivot away from these iconic annual events. Image Credit- Jared Ramsey

“The safety of the residents of Mason is the most important thing for me in all of this,” said Mason Mayor Pro Tem Marlon Brown. “We do not want to open Mason up to become a hub of travel in Michigan with the disease spreading so rapidly.”

Mason is the county seat for Ingham County, meaning it must host the county’s fair year in and year out. The fair Mason’s largest draw to outsiders throughout the year, as they can visit and see animals up for auction as well as ride on small amusement park rides and eat greasy food.

Protesters and counter-protesters connect at BLM event

Paul Kato with Counter-Protester

When Joshua Ray Bell drove from Stockbridge to Mason, he did not envision himself having the biggest impact at the Black Lives Matter protest. He did not picture receiving a standing ovation from the hundreds in attendance because of the words he spoke to the lone counter-protester. However, Bell did all of this and educated a young mind about the lessons of racial tolerance in the process. A 19-year-old Mason resident showed up to the Black Lives Matter protest waving a Confederate flag from the back of his white Chevy Impala. His presence was largely ignored by the crowd peacefully protesting.

Mason retailers ready for business, again

Teresa Wren spent her days of quarantine inside her business, Kean’s, wondering if they were going to be able to open their doors ever again. Kean’s has been a part of Mason’s downtown landscape since 1928 and was under risk of closing for good.  

For many of the family-owned businesses in Mason, the pandemic only shut their doors temporarily, not permanently, thanks to the support of the Mason community. Many businesses had to reshape the structure of their business model to accommodate customers while their doors were closed as well. Wren said that the support from the local community is the main reason why Kean’s doors remain open.