Drew Bracken, Correspondent, Newark Advocate
BUCKEYE LAKE – He may be Buckeye Lake’s head cheerleader. Mike Fornataro grew up in the area, lives to this day along the shoreline, and has been the executive director of the Buckeye Lake Region Corporation since its inception in 2017.
“I get a deep satisfaction from giving back to the community,” he explained.
Fornataro’s time at the lake dates back to the days his parents purchased a cottage on Honey Creek.
“My family had a summer cottage on the water,” he remembered, “and growing up around the lake was awesome, spending days skiing, fishing and swimming from the boat. I spent all the time I could on or near the lake.”
“There was a grocery in Thornport I could get to in the boat,” he added. “My folks would go to work and leave a note and some money, and I’d drive the boat to the store. That was pretty stinkin’ cool.”
“The lake,” he continued after a pause, “has been central to so many memories and important moments in my life that I can’t think of one that stands out.”
“It was,” he added, “a fantastic place to grow up.”
Fornataro, now 58, graduated from Newark High School in 1978. After attending OSU, he worked in the newspaper industry for 15 years. At the same time, he was a syndicated automotive journalist. He spent 17 years full-time in the sport of drag racing, 15 of those with the National Hot Rod Association and as general manager of National Trail Raceway.
“I was not drawn to team sports as a kid,” he remembered. “But I loved motor sports. My brother was 10 years older and had all the coolest, fastest muscle cars. My dad owned a few really unusual foreign cars. I always thought I would end up working in the car world in some capacity, and I did for a long time.”
“I really love the sport but after nearly two decades, that was long enough,” he continued. “You can’t do anything that long and not be drawn to it. We’re in the land of opportunity after all. But running a racetrack is not necessarily what people think it is. You’re also running a retail store, food service, an EMS service and so much more. There are many needs that have to be met. It’s actually a very difficult job.”
Now, as the only paid employee of the Buckeye Lake Region Corporation, Fornataro puts on informational presentations and arranges the details of the board and community meetings, among other things.
“I’ve known Mike for a number of years,” said Tim Ryan, president of the Buckeye Lake Region Chamber of Commerce, “and he is quick to help our community and our region. We need more people like that.”
“I’m a little surprised where life has taken me,” Fornataro responded. “I’m very surprised I find myself an advocate for the lake as a paid employee. But I’m happy to be here. I can’t think of anywhere else in Ohio I’d want to live.”
“This,” he concluded, “is a special place.”
For more information about the Buckeye Lake Region Corporation, call 740-964-4520 or log on www.blrc2036.org.
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