By Sherwin Hughes Columnist Published Dec 21, 2016 at 1:06 PM

Tis the season for Milwaukee merriment and BMO Harris Bank is bringing you happy holiday stories all season long.

Merriam-Webster recently selected "surreal" as the 2016 word of the year. I think that sounds about right.

From pop culture to politics, from the unprecedented to the unbelievable, the events of this calendar year kept us on our toes and even put tears in our eyes. Other than the looming presidential election, we weren’t provided many clues of what was in store for the next 12 months.

Many of these outcomes will solidify 2016 as a year most of us will never forget (and some of us would love to forget). These 10 stories were not only monumental at the time, but I believe they will be significant for many years to come.

10. The Cubs win!

America’s most lovable losers ended the curse of the Billy Goat and defeated the Cleveland Indians, 8-7, in an astonishing 10-inning contest. The Chicago Cubs hadn’t won a World Series in 108 years. With their come from behind series victory in Game 7, the Cubbies ended the longest championship drought of any major American sports team.

9. The Games of the XXXI Olympiad

The medal count wasn’t even close. The United States claimed a total of 121 medals with 46 being gold. The second-place country, China, finished with 70 total podium trips and 26 gold respectively. However, the sheer number of team and individual victories isn’t what places the Rio Olympics on this list.

Of the 46 gold medals collected by the U.S., a whopping 24 were won by black women. If your name just happened to be Simone, you broke records. Simone Biles, the 4'8" powerhouse gymnast, added five golds to her collection, while swimmer Simone Manuel can proudly drape four first place medals around her neck. The decoration is particularly sweet for Manuel, as she is the first African-American woman to win an individual gold medal in the pool. Just one generation ago, many public pools didn’t allow black swimmers at all – including Milwaukee’s own Eagle’s Club. These distinguished athletes of color didn’t win these medals specifically for black America. They won these medals for the United States of America, in which we as a nation can share in the pride of victory.

8. The year of the celebrity death

The list crisscrosses every genre of entertainment. Perhaps there is some deep foreshadowing to be noted: Whatever is in store for us in 2017, these beloved figures didn’t stick around long enough to find out. Here’s just a partial list of those whom we lost in 2016.

  • Milwaukee’s native son, Gene Wilder
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Prince
  • David Bowie
  • Glenn Frey
  • Garry Shandling
  • Nancy Reagan
  • Florence Henderson  
  • John Glenn
  • Alan Thicke
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor

7. Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando

It was Saturday, June 12, when Omar Mateen murdered 49 people and wounded 53 others in the most egregious mass shooting in American history. This shooting was the deadliest day of terror on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. The attack was a hate crime by any definition. After a multi-hour standoff, Mateen, age 29, was eventually felled by police gunfire.

6. Mass shootings of Baton Rouge police officers

On July 18, two Baton Rouge police officers and a sheriff’s deputy were ambushed and murdered by Gavin Long. The gunman also wounded two other officers. Long, a U.S. Marine, was discharged from the corps with the rank of sergeant in 2010. The attack was carried out on the shooter’s 29th birthday.

5. Mass shootings of Dallas police officers

On July 7, Micah Xavier Johnson shot and killed five Dallas police officers. Nine other policemen sustained non-life threatening injuries. Two civilians were hurt in the incident.

4. Legalized marijuana

Cheech nor Chong could have imagined this one. 28 states, plus the District of Columbia, allowed for the legal (state law) use of marijuana. On Nov. 8, four more states joined Alaska, Oregon, Washington State and Colorado in the recreational movement. California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine also passed ballot measures that allowed pot possession for recreational use.

3. The rise of the Alternative Right

Deemed racist, anti-Semitic and ethnocentric, this ultra-right-wing subset of the American body politic intentionally throws any semblance of political correctness out the window. Fearing that the white identity is being lost to an open border and increasing numbers of racial and ethnic minorities, this cohort used social media expansively to spread their message. The combined evolution of the "Silent Majority" and the Tea Party, the Alternative Right thoroughly rejects mainstream media, status-quo conservatism and general decorum in their discourse. 2016 welcomed a new era of Republican voter.

2. The fall of the Clinton Dynasty

Wife of the 42nd president of the United States, 2016 was supposed to be her year. Hillary Clinton was a former U.S. senator representing New York and served as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state. She had been preparing herself for this endeavor since she was the first lady of Arkansas. Considered the heir apparent, Hillary was next in line to the American political throne. Her election would have paved the way for Chelsea, just like George H.W. Bush laid the foundation for George W. An unexpected and verified defeat in the upper Midwest left Mrs. Clinton short of 270 electoral votes. Now, like many others, she fades into the annals of presidential candidate history.

1. The election of Donald J. Trump

The brash billionaire businessman, considered the brains behind the birther movement, accomplished the impossible. One of 17 Republicans vying for the coveted party nomination, Donald J. Trump defeated establishment GOP candidates in one primary contest after another. Trump even ousted some hopefuls in their own home states. The residuals in the field quit voluntarily – including Wisconsin governor Scott Walker early on in the race. Offensive comments about women, people of color and refusing to publicly release his tax returns weren't disqualifiers. Dozens of open lawsuits against him, support from racist organizations, allegations of sexual assault and suspected help from Vladimir Putin made the election Donald J. Trump the most significant news story of 2016. 

Sherwin Hughes Columnist

A year 2000 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Sherwin Hughes began his professional career as a community organizer with the YMCA Community Development Corporation. In 2002, Hughes was offered a position as field representative for Congressman Tom Barrett (WI-5). In 2004, Hughes was hired as a statewide constituency director for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. After the presidential race of '04, Hughes was brought on as a business analyst in mayor Tom Barrett's department of administration-where he certified minority businesses for participation on city contracts.

In 2005, Hughes was appointed as Governor James Doyle's sole designee on the Wisconsin State Elections Board. In 2007, he would become chair. Sherwin was the only African American in state history to serve in the administrations of both an incumbent mayor and governor simultaneously In 2006, Hughes incorporated STH & Associates, LLC a political consulting firm. In 2008, Hughes became communications director for Wisconsin state senator Lena C. Taylor. In 2010, Hughes became Wisconsin state field director for Democrats for Education Reform. July 2012, Hughes became the host of "The Forum," a political talk show on WNOV in Milwaukee.