Another year has now gone by and the 96th Annual Celebration and Award Ceremony was held last Saturday evening at Memorial Auditorium.  This year’s live entertainment was provided by Chuck Haukos and Friends, a music group out of Wichita.  Catering was once again provided by the Dore.  
This year’s Wellington Young Professional Award was awarded to Jessica Yunker. She was one of the original Wellington Young Professionals. She works closely with the Regent Theater. She’s a member of the Corbin Methodist Church. She also works closely with the hospital in Wellington.
The 2018 Business of the Year was awarded to Beehive Quilt Shop and Bee Creative Toys. Annarose White spoke before the crowd as she accepted the award.  
Finally, the 2018 Distinguished Service Award went to on Mike Wilmoth. Quite a few people—friends and family—participated in a tribute video telling stories about his teaching, coaching and officiating over the years.
After he accepted his award, Wilmoth thanked everyone who had supported him over the years. Six and a half years ago, on Sept. 28, 2012, he spoke to us when he was “one of the people called on to officiate NFL games during the labor dispute between the league and the referee’s association.
The National Football League replacement referees have now been replaced with the regular officials. But the memories and experiences lived by those fill-in officials will never be replaced, just ask one of them.
Mike Wilmoth, 54, Social Studies Teacher at Wellington High School, was one of the people called on to officiate NFL games during the labor dispute between the league and the referee’s association.
“It was better than I ever imagined it would be,” Wilmoth said. “The lights were brighter, the grass was greener, they were bigger, they were faster, they were more competitive than you could even imagine.” Wilmoth had a hand in seven games, four the in preseason, and three in the regular season.
His first NFL experience was in Charlotte, North Carolina on Saturday, August 11. The Houston Texans were there to take on the Carolina Panthers. Houston won 26-13.
“Cam Newton [Panthers, QB], he’s a human specimen that is just unbelievable to see in person,” Wilmoth said. Next up, the game was a little closer to home in Denver, Col., on August 18. Peyton Manning, one of the biggest names in all of football was making his first start at his new, home stadium.
“It was unbelievable, loud, and it was exciting,” Wilmoth recalled. This game was also special for the local teacher because everyone in his immediate family got to attend.
On Friday, August 24, Wilmoth was an alternate official for the game in Cleveland, featuring the Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles. The final week of the preseason found Wilmoth in San Francisco, Calif. where the San Diego Chargers were at to take on the 49ers at Candlestick Park.
“The history there, being an old baseball coach- Willie Mayes played there, and of course all the great 49ers teams when I was young,” Wilmoth said. “So that was fun.” Then it was time for the much anticipated week one of the regular season.

Wilmoth was back in Denver, where the Broncos were hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Sunday night, prime-time, NBC, twenty-seven million people watching,” he said. ”...So that was exciting.” Wilmoth stayed in prime-time the following week, this time in Green Bay, Wis. at Lambeau Field for the longest rivalry in the NFL - Packers and Bears.
The last game Wilmoth got to officiate was Sunday, Sept. 23 in Nashville, Tenn., the Titans hosted the Detroit Lions.
“Four the best five plays I’ve ever seen in football was in that game,” Wilmoth said, who has been an official since 1976 at lower levels. “The good thing about that game, the last play of the game is my spot on the quarterback sneak, they review it, I get it right, it was great.” Wilmoth, who was the Head Linesman, and the rest of his crew were never a part of any super, controversial calls during the stint in the NFL.
Replacement officials as a whole did come under a lot of scrutiny throughout the early season. Nothing more scrutinized than the last play of the Monday Night Football game on Sept. 24, Green Bay at Seattle. The play was called as a touchdown, but several camera views suggested Green Bay had intercepted the pass, even after official review, the play stood as a touchdown. The call received a lot of attention, and is believed by many on the national level to be the tipping point for getting the labor issue resolved.
“I’m a pretty sensitive guy, especially when I see injustice being done, and I hurt for those guys,” Wilmoth said. “One of those gentleman on the Green Bay game, I worked a junior college football game with, right here in the state of Kansas.” Wilmoth said the man was from Texas, and spoke highly of him.
“He’s a great young man, he’s got a great future, I hope he survives this,” he said. “I don’t know how you make that right, no matter what you do, half the country thinks your wrong.” As far as getting any flack for a particular call of his....

“A Pittsburgh Steeler fan didn’t like my spot on Ben Roethlisberger, the NFL didn’t like my spot, and my father didn’t like my spot,” Wilmoth laughed. “After I saw it, I didn’t like my spot.” The highest level of football Wilmoth had officiated prior to the last seven weeks was in the MIAA, with colleges like Pittsburg State University, in Pittsburg, Kan. Being on an NFL sideline, WIlmoth said the enormity of the situation was hard to ignore.
“You’re aware of it, when they come to you and say ‘alright, we’ve got 27 cameras on this game,’” he said ”...Until the opening kickoff, then it becomes a football game.” He said football is always just football.
“It’s 99 percent the same at all levels,” Wilmoth explained. “The football field is the same length, it’s four downs, but there’s some little nuances that can really blow up in your face real quick.” He said the training he and the other replacement refs received was top of the line, and now has a great admiration for the NFL.
“What I’m going to take from this, is I’m going to take all that they taught me and be the best high school football official in the state of Kansas that I can be,” he said. “And if i’m the best, great. If I’m not, it’s not because I’m not going to try.” Wilmoth said he only missed about five days of work at the high school during this period with the NFL, and he said the district has been behind him one hundred percent.
“They have been nothing but supportive,” Wilmoth added. ”...We see this as a learning event for our whole school district, we’ve used it as a learning tool and they’ve embraced it.” Wilmoth started teaching at WHS in 1980, and has really truly been ingrained into the fabric of the town.
“One thing that really has shocked me, made my family overjoyed is the support we’ve gotten from Wellington, Kansas, and Iola, Kansas- our hometown,” he said. “Both communities have rallied around and taken us under their wings and been so supportive.” Coming back to Wellington, and getting to share his experience as an NFL ref is something Wilmoth will always hold dear, just ask him.
“I’ve tried to represent Wellington, and I hope I’ve done it well,” he said.